Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an order lifting all pandemic capacity restrictions on businesses and facilities and getting rid of the state’s mask mandate, effective Wednesday, March 10.
Also on Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves in a tweet said that state’s mask mandate and capacity limits would end Wednesday.
The moves run counter to advice from the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday strongly cautioned against such rollbacks.
Abbott, in an address to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce at Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock, issued an executive border on both restrictions and masks.
“With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” Abbott said. “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%.”
About 43,266 people have died from COVID-19 in the state as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
Abbott said Texans should not abandon safe practices.
“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,” he said.
“It is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others,” the governor said. “With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”
Abbott said nearly 5.7 million COVID-19 vaccine shots had been administered to Texans and by the end of March “every senior who wants a vaccine should be able to get one.”
The executive order rescinded most of the governor’s earlier executive orders related to COVID-19.
“Businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion,” the governor’s office said.
The office also said that if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a county judge, or top county official, in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
The Texas governor said county judges “may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask.”
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