Story at a glance
- “I’m ending the statewide mask mandate,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
- Abbott stressed that removing the restrictions does not end the personal responsibility of residents to adhere to public health guidance to slow the spread of the virus.
- He said businesses are free to limit capacity or implement COVID-19 protocols if they choose to do so.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday announced Texans will no longer be required by the state to wear face masks in public to curb the spread of the coronavirus and businesses can reopen to full capacity starting next week.
“For nearly a half a year, most businesses have been open either 75 percent or 50 percent and during that time too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Abbott said during a news conference Tuesday.
“So today, I am issuing a new executive order that rescinds most of the earlier executive orders...effective next Wednesday, all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100 percent,” he said.
“Also, I’m ending the statewide mask mandate,” he added.
The governor touted increasing vaccination rates, treatments, testing and a low positivity rate as justification for rolling back the restrictions. More than 5.7 million doses have been administered in the state with 7 million expected by next Wednesday. Abbott said the state set a record Tuesday, administering 216,000 vaccines in one day. He said by next week more than half of the state’s seniors will have received the shot, and by the end of this month, every senior who wants the vaccine will be able to get it.
Abbott stressed that removing the restrictions does not end the personal responsibility of residents to adhere to public health guidance to slow the spread of the virus. He said businesses are free to limit capacity or implement COVID-19 protocols if they choose to do so.
The governor noted, however, that if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospitals in the state rise about 15 percent of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven days, a county judge may put mitigation strategies in place. The judges cannot impose jail time or penalties for failure to follow restrictions or limit businesses to less than 50 percent.
The move comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has stalled around 70,000 per day following a steep decline.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday said she was concerned about the stall in the decline as states are rolling back restrictions and new variants are spreading.
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing Monday.
“Please hear me clearly: 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 said.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CORONAVIRUS RIGHT NOW