Texas Gov. Abbott ENDS statewide mask mandate and lifts all restrictions on businesses
On Tuesday, Mar. 2, Gov. Greg Abbott ended Texas's statewide Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) mask mandate
. Alongside this, Abbot also allowed all of the state's businesses to fully reopen.
Texas is committed to going against the wishes
of federal and public health officials, who have urged states to not abandon their COVID-19 restrictions.
"With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus. We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent," said Abbott during an address at a gathering with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce in Lubbock County, West Texas. (Related: Texas doctor fired after administering 10 doses of coronavirus vaccine that were about to expire to family, acquaintances and strangers
Abbott signed the state's mask mandate executive order in July 2020. It required masks to be worn in public spaces in most counties, with some exceptions in place such as for children younger than 10 years old.
"Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19," said the governor at the time.
Now, he feels that Texas is ready to join around a dozen other states that have either rescinded their mask mandates or have not had a mandate for a while, including neighboring Oklahoma. Once the mask mandate is fully rolled back, Texas will be the most populous state in the country to not have one.
On Tuesday, Abbott talked about how nearly 2.5 million Texans have been confirmed through testing to have recovered from the coronavirus. He also mentioned how state health officials believe the actual number of recoveries is four to five times the official number. Abbott believes that this means maybe 10 million Texans or more – out of a population of nearly 29 million – have recovered from COVID-19.
The governor is also putting his hopes on the more than 5.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine
that have already been administered in the state. This is on top of the many more doses Texans are expected to receive in the near future thanks to the rapid increase in vaccine production
"With the vaccine increasing so rapidly, Texas will soon expand the categories of people who are able to get them, and some medical professionals say within a few months, every Texan who wants a vaccine shot will be able to get one."
But Abbott was quick to remind Texans that getting rid of the mask mandate "does not end personal responsibility."
"Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain COVID," he said. "It's just that now state mandates are no longer needed."
Abbott also orders the Texan economy to reopen "100 percent"
Along with the rolling back of the statewide mask mandate, Abbott also signed an executive order, which will take effect on Mar. 10, lifting restrictions imposed on businesses operating in the state.
"Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. Today's announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny."
If hospitalizations in any of Texas' 22 hospital regions rise above 15 percent of hospital bed capacity for seven straight days, a county judge within that region will be allowed to impose "mitigation strategies" on businesses within the county. But these county judges will not be allowed to reinstate mask mandates nor reduce business capacity to below 50 percent.
"Under no circumstances can a county judge put anyone in jail for not following COVID-19 orders and no penalties can be imposed for failing to wear a face mask," said Abbott. "Today's announcement ensures Texans can tap into their own self-reliance to seize the opportunities our state has to offer."
"If businesses want to limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols they have the right to do so," added the governor. "It is their business and they get to choose how to operate their business the way they want to. Businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate."
"Once again, the governor is striking the right balance by removing the heavy hand of government and allowing businesses to operate as they see fit," wrote Texas Association of Business CEO Glenn Hamer, who praised Abbott's decision. "One year into COVID-19, organizations understand what protocols they must implement to function safely, and TAB knows Texas companies will operate responsibly."
"Today's decision will unleash the full might of the Texas economy and create more and better-paying jobs for hardworking Texans."
Health officials against Abbott's reopening plan
Many health officials in Texas and all over the country are against any kind of plan to reopen the economy, seeing it as happening far too quickly.
"It's still too early," said Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
"We would love to be able to get back to normal, but with all the variables that are out there, we still have a lot more people that need to be vaccinated. It's not the time to relax."
"Please hear me clearly," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) on Monday. "At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."
"These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress," she added. "Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close."
claims that health data shows Texas still has a worrying number of coronavirus-related hospital admissions and new cases of COVID-19. It is one of three states that have been flagged for exhibiting concerning test positivity data, along with Oklahoma and New Hampshire.
Even the White House was quick to weigh in on Texas's decision. Senior Advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator Andy Slavitt said that Texas was doing this at a very bad time.
"The president has been very clear that we will save a lot of lives if the first 100 days – 50,000 lives, that's the estimate – if everybody wears a mask," said Slavitt during an appearance on MSNBC
Learn more about how Texas and other states in the U.S. are responding to the coronavirus by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news