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With 16 states to soon have no mask mandate, Virginians appear split on the topic

Current restrictions in Virginia do not have an expiration date

10 News reporter McKinley Strother toured the Roanoke Valley to get people's opinions on whether states should keep mask restrictions.

ROANOKE, Va. – Texas will become one of 16 states without a statewide order mandating masks in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus, under a new executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott.

Since that announcement, social media has been a firestorm over whether other states should follow suit.

[Texas becomes biggest US state to lift COVID-19 mask mandate]

Here are the opinions of several Roanoke Valley residents.

“I think you should absolutely be wearing a mask,” said Robert Bolling.

“The mask is like 50% taking care of us and 50% it’s not,” said Hattie Kelly. “The mask is not protecting us fully, but it’s something.”

“I personally don’t believe it should be a requirement,” said John Nichols. “I think if you respect each other’s individual space, keep a distance and follow common sense practice then everything is good.”

“They’re paper. You can blow through them. Smoke through them. What’s gonna go in is gonna come out,” stated Ralph Hise. “I’ve been out here since all of this started around everybody. I half the time don’t wear a mask.”

Clearly, people are divided.

The division is in part rooted in political belief.

“Some of it is partisan liberal ideology, but some of it is also taking a look at what’s on the ground and who is demanding that the mask mandates be lifted,” said Virginia Tech political science professor Dr. Karen Hult.

Several states with Republican leadership like Massachusetts, Ohio, and West Virginia have statewide mask mandates in place.

Some of the division is based on your experience with COVID-19 and other factors.

“I’m a victim of COVID also and I took all the precautions before that, so I’m like I don’t know if these masks are doing anything. It’s literally a piece of fabric,” said Ann Artist.

“It’s really difficult for people on the ground to tell what’s safer and what’s not necessary anymore, especially with all of the vaccines becoming available. So, I think this is a time of great uncertainty and great debate about what the important next steps are,” said Hult. “It’s probably also worth noting that eliminated a mask mandate does not necessarily mean that businesses of various kind, colleges, schools, and other places won’t keep mask mandates in place. That’s already happening in Texas, for example. I think it does reflect the different ideologies in the sense of whether it’s appropriate for the government to step in and mandate these kind of activities.”

Gov. Ralph Northam extended coronavirus restrictions and mandates in late February. They do not have an expiration date.

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.