AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that effective March 10, he would be issuing a new executive order that will undo statewide coronavirus restrictions such as business capacity limitations and face mask mandates.
Texas is not the first state to lift its statewide mandates on masking. As of March 1, according to the AARP, the following states also do not have face mask orders in place:
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Gov. Abbott first announced the statewide mask mandate on July 2, meaning Texans were required to wear masks in public for a total of about eight months during the pandemic, which began in the state in March 2020.
"For a year now, Texans have wrestled with COVID and they have learned best how to conduct their own lives," Abbott said on Tuesday. "For example, if businesses want to limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols, they have the right to do so – it is their business, and they get to choose to operate their business the way they want to. At this time, however, people and businesses don't need the State telling them how to operate."
Prior to the governor's press conference on Tuesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown penned a letter asking him to keep the mask mandate in place.
"Supported by our public health professionals, we believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose widespread adoption of this preventative measure," the letter reads. "Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that the widespread wearing of facemasks slows down the spread of the virus. Public health organizations around the world, including our own public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have documented how the combination of wearing facemasks, keeping the physical distance of at least 6 feet and frequent hand washing are most effective at reducing the spread of disease."
Austin Public Health last week also issued a statement on the matter:
"Despite the tireless work from our many staff and volunteers administering vaccines, our community is still months away from reaching herd immunity. While we diligently work to vaccinate everyone over the coming weeks and months, it continues to remain incredibly important to keep wearing your mask, watching your distance and washing your hands. Austin Public Health remains committed to protecting the health of our community, but doing so requires community involvement and cooperation. Our residents have done a great job of keeping our cases comparatively low, and that was not by accident or luck, but by following public health recommendations and guidance."
On Tuesday, Gov. Abbott said his executive order will address their concerns.
"If COVID 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, then a county judge in that region may use COVID mitigation strategies in their county," he said. "However, under no circumstance can a county judge put anybody in jail for not following COVID orders and no penalties can be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. Also, if restrictions are imposed at the county level, all entities must be allowed to operate at least a 50% capacity."
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: