AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is lifting statewide coronavirus restrictions and ending the Texas mask mandate. Effective Wednesday, March 10, all businesses are allowed to reopen 100% and Texans will no longer be required by law to wear masks in public spaces.
However, there are several orders from both President Joe Biden and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that require that masks still be worn in certain places.
To clear up confusion, KVUE broke down the masking guidance for some major public spaces.
On Jan. 20, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring that masks be worn by anyone present at any federal building or federal lands.
"To protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines," the order says in part.
On Jan. 29, the CDC issued an order requiring masks to be worn by travelers and operators on public transportation including airplanes, subways, buses and ride-shares.
"Conveyance operators must also require all persons on board to wear masks when boarding, disembarking and for the duration of travel," the CDC said. "Operators of transportation hubs must require all persons to wear a mask when entering or on the premise of a transportation hub."
On Tuesday, Capital Metro in Austin issued a statement saying that it will continue to maintain the federal requirements to wear face masks on its vehicles and at its facilities. Also on Tuesday, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said it will also continue to require masking under the federal requirements.
On Wednesday, the TEA said it has updated its Public Health Guidance to say a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards will have full authority to determine their local mask policy. The TEA has also made updates related to surface cleaning requirements.
Austin ISD said first that it was awaiting guidance from the TEA, stating, "Until we receive that guidance, we will continue to adhere to our current safety protocols." On Tuesday night, AISD elaborated, saying in part, "We want to let you know that Austin ISD will continue to require all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks on district property and at district events. Our decisions have been and will continue to be based on guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics."
Meanwhile, Lockhart ISD said in part, "Moving forward, Lockhart ISD will continue to require everyone to wear masks, and we will maintain the safety measures and protocols we have followed this school year." And Leander ISD said, "We will still enforce our existing mask protocols and social distancing requirements."
Eanes ISD said: "As we have all year, we will continue to be cautious in determining appropriate options once we receive further information. Until further notice, Eanes ISD's current safety protocols and procedures will continue to be followed."
Round Rock ISD said it has no plans to change its mask requirement in schools and facilities at this time. Georgetown ISD said its safety protocols will also remain unchanged, with masks still required for all students, staff and visitors to its facilities.
Hays CISD said its mask requirement remains in effect as it awaits info from the TEA. San Marcos CISD said it is also waiting on further guidance from the TEA but in the meantime, students and staff will continue following the district's current safety protocols, including wearing masks.
Del Valle ISD said it will continue the same protocols it has had in place, including requiring masks for all students, staff and visitors. Hutto ISD and Taylor ISD both also said they will continue following their current protocols.
Masks were never required during religious services under Texas' statewide mask mandate.
Businesses and service providers
The executive order announced Tuesday rescinds most of the governor's earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. It says that effective Wednesday, March 10, all businesses may open to 100% capacity and the statewide mask mandate will no longer be enforced.
However, businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols – including requiring masks – at their own discretion. Businesses also reserve the right to refuse service to any patrons who do not follow stated protocols.
Several Austin businesses have already said they intend to keep their mask requirements. Meanwhile, H-E-B said it will require all of its partners and vendors to wear masks while at work but it is only urging that customers do the same.
Meals on Wheels of Central Texas said its staff and volunteers "will continue with mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing – in accordance with the recommendations of public health officials – to protect the vulnerable older adults we serve."
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