San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich continuously shook his head in disbelief.
He has often called spoken out on social issues. So it was not surprising Popovich had a strong opinion on Texas Governor Greg Abbott announcing he would lift mask mandates. Popovich called the decision “pretty mystifying” considering the coronavirus pandemic remains a problem both with infections, deaths and vaccine distribution.
“It puts a lot of businesses in a tough spot,” Popovich said Tuesday before the Spurs played the New York Knicks. “They’re trying to do a good job of keeping everybody safe. Of course they want to open up. But getting rid of masks just seems ignorant to me. We have to have instant gratification and act like the pandemic is over? We already went through this once, and now we’re going to do it again?”
Abbott said that he would issue the new executive order to take effect on March 10 because of increased vaccine distribution and decreased infection and death rates. But CDC director Dr. Rochele Walensky warned states that “now is not the time” to loosen restrictions given the fragile nature on how it could reverse recent progress.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (left) was critical of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift the state's mask mandate. (Photo: The Associated Press)
“When you go into those restaurants, you take those masks off anyway when you’re eating. So how hard can it be?," Popovich said. "Now they’re going to have to talk to people that come in. And the people that didn’t want to wear masks in the first place, how do the businesses get them to wear masks? Well, now they don’t have to, so now there will be infections, one would think. But when all of a sudden we act like it’s over with and all of the science tells us the opposite, you’re basically saying, ‘You get infected and you die? That’s the way it goes. We have to open up!’ That’s not the way to do it. This is really ridiculous.”
Despite Texas loosening its mask mandate, the Spurs, Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks are under the NBA’s health and safety protocols that require daily COVID-19 testing as well as mask wearing on the sidelines, in the locker room and in public meetings.
The Spurs also plan to allow up to 3,200 fans to attend home games beginning on March 12. But those fans are required to wear masks other than to eat or drink, have to pass a temperature check upon arrival and have to follow social distancing guidelines. The Spurs have pledged to keep AT&T Center sanitized and have upgraded their purification and filtration systems.
“I’m worried about the people in our state. That’s a pretty mystifying decision considering the situation that we’re all in,” Popovich said. “But as far as the players go, we listen to the NBA, not Governor Abbott.”
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