Texas and other states ease COVID-19 rules despite warnings
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let their guard down.
The Lone Star State will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock.
The governors of Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana likewise eased up on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
A year into the crisis, politicians and ordinary Americans alike have grown tired of rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over a half-million people in the U.S. Some places are lifting infection-control measures; in other places, people are ignoring them.
Top health officials have responded by begging people
not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the outbreak is in sight.
U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January.
But the two curves have
leveled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations.
“We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday.
Bunny Wailer, a reggae luminary who was the last surviving founding member of the iconic group The Wailers, died on Tuesday in his native Jamaica. He was 73.
Wailer, a baritone singer whose birth name was Neville Livingston, formed The Wailers in 1963 with late superstars Bob Marley and Peter Tosh when they lived in a slum in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. They catapulted to international fame with the album, “Catch a Fire” and also helped popularize Rastafarian culture among betteroff Jamaicans starting in the 1970s.
“Jah-B was a vanguard, always pushing the boundaries of expression, whether in song, in style or in spoken word,” said Brian Paul Welsh, a local reggae musician known as Blvk H3ro. “There was and can only ever be one Neville Livingston.”
Wailer died at Andrews Memorial Hospital in St. Andrew Parish of complications from a stroke in July, manager Maxine Stowe told The Associated Press.
His death was mourned worldwide as people shared music, memories and pictures of the renowned artist.
“The passing of Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailers, brings to a close the most vibrant period of Jamaica’s musical experience,” wrote Jamaican politician Peter Phillips in a Facebook post. “Bunny was a good, conscious Jamaican brethren.”
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness called Wailer “a respected elder statesman of the Jamaican music scene.”
“This is a great loss for Jamaica and for Reggae, undoubtedly Bunny Wailer will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and
Jamaica’s culture,” he tweeted.
While Wailer toured the world, he was more at home in Jamaica’s mountains and he enjoyed farming while writing and recording songs on his label, Solomonic.
“I think I love the country actually a little bit more than the city,” Wailer told The Associated Press in 1989. “It has more to do with life, health and strength. The city takes that away sometimes. The country is good for meditation. It has fresh food and fresh atmosphere — that keeps you going.”
A year before, in 1988, he had chartered a jet and flew to Jamaica with food to help those affected by Hurricane Gilbert.
“Sometimes people pay less attention to those things (food), but they turn out to be the most important things. I am a farmer,” he told the AP.
He was the third and last remaining Wailer. Marley died in 1981 of a brain tumor at 36 years old and Tosh was fatally shot in Jamaica in 1987 at 42 years old.