Hoffman's Houston
not so primitive

Ken Hoffman on why Texas could actually use some 'Neanderthal thinking'

Hoffman on why Texas could actually use some 'Neanderthal thinking'

Texas Gov Greg Aboott Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant Lubbock
Abbott ended Texas' mask mandate during a speech Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock. Gov.texas.gov

Absolutely, it was insulting for President Joe Biden to call Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to open Texas businesses to 100 percent capacity and rescind the state’s mask mandate “Neanderthal thinking.”

Insulting to Neanderthals.

According to studies by the University of Liverpool and the University of Adelaide, Neanderthal man found and used primitive forms of aspirin, penicillin, and antibiotics to treat and prevent illness. Neanderthals lived between 40,000 and 400,000 years ago. They barely walked upright. Yet they used tools and developed a simple verbal language.

Here’s one: Neanderthals may have been the first “people” to kiss as a way of showing affection. Most important, they trusted science — and believed in medicine.

Gov. Abbott does not trust science. He is not guided by professional health experts. We’d all be better off if Abbott actually did practice “Neanderthal thinking.” His directive to rescind the mask mandate goes against the advice of epidemiologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fred Flintstone cared more about the health of citizens of Bedrock than Greg Abbott cares about Texans.

Last week, Abbott announced that Texas will be “100-percent open” with no mask requirement starting Wednesday, March 10. After his decision was widely denounced by health officials, Abbott explained that, despite his order, he believes that Texans should continue wearing masks and observing social distancing.

"We are still urging people to continue to wear the mask, to continue to use the safe practices that they have mastered over the past year," Abbott said in an interview with ABC13. "They know the right thing to do."

So, if Texans “know the right thing to do,” why do we have speed limits on our highways? Why don’t we just trust people to drive at a safe speed? Why do we have a seatbelt law? Why do we have any laws?

Texas currently has a COVID positivity rate of about 12 percent, the 44th worst rate among states. Harris County’s rate is even higher, around 13 percent. The goal is to get our positivity rate below 5 percent, which 32 states have achieved.

Abbott trusts people to continue to wear masks and practice safety precautions to protect their fellow Texans. For example, last week Picos Mexican restaurant in Houston announced that it will defy Abbott’s order, as it can as a private business, and continue to require customers to wear masks, at least until they are seated at tables. Now some people on social media are threatening to call immigration officials (ICE) on Picos unless the restaurant drops its demand that customers wear masks upon entering.

Public health is being blackmailed.

As for trusting Texans to make smart decisions regarding mask-wearing and social distancing, look out, spring break is right around the corner.

Spring break, when common sense and good decisions rule the day.

Of course, some restaurants, bars and most large supermarket chains will be brave and continue to require staff and customers to wear face coverings. Most major colleges will continue to require mask-wearing. These places should put a sign in their front window: “No shoes, no shirts, no masks, no service.” Safety is good for business. For the next few months, we may see two Houstons – one where businesses require masks and one where businesses don’t. 

I am on Team Mask. And we win because Costco will require all customers to wear a face covering. I don't particularly like wearing a mask, but I do it, and I will continue to do for as long as it takes to eventually not wear a mask. 

With the FDA’s emergency approval of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, plus the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in full swing, we are close to getting coronavirus under control in Texas and the U.S. Herd immunity may be possible by early summer.

Now is not the time to quit doing the things necessary to win the battle. Now is not the time for foolish decisions based on politics. Texas dropping its mask mandate is the political equivalent of a football player running back a kickoff 99 yards and foolishly dropping the ball on the 1-yard line.

Remember last year when Abbott opened bars back up too early, COVID cases spiked and Abbott had to re-close bars? He admitted that was his biggest mistake during the pandemic. He may have topped himself this time. Public safety shouldn’t have a blooper reel.

Why would Texas rescind the mask mandate now, when better days are coming if we keep our guard up for a couple more months?

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner nailed it: “It doesn’t make any sense, unless the governor is trying to deflect from what happened a little more than two weeks ago with the winter storm.”

“Every time we start moving in the right direction the governor steps in and sets us back and makes all of our jobs harder. He minimizes the sacrifices of people and businesses. I just don’t get it.”