Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday Texas is lifting its mask mandate making it the largest state to end an order intended to prevent the coronavirus spread that has killed more than 42000 Texans.
He lifted most of the nation’s epidemic restrictions, allowing the reopening of businesses at full capacity as of the coming week and telling the residents that masks were no longer required.
Abbott announced at a restaurant in Lubbock that Texas would also do away with limits on the number of diners that businesses can serve indoors,
Only New York and California have reported more coronavirus deaths than Texas. Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium that the fact things are in the right direction does not mean we have succeeded in eliminating the risk.
Moreover, she said the recent deadly winter freeze in Texas that left millions of people without power, forcing families to shelter closely with others who still had heat, could amplify transmission of the virus in the weeks ahead. Although, it remains too early to say.
Mr. Abbott imposed the nationwide mask mandate in July during a deadly summer wave. But the enforcement was spotty at best, and some sheriffs refused to police any restrictions. And as the epidemic dragged on, Abbott ruled out a return to tough COVID rules and regulations, arguing that lock-downs don’t work.
Politically, the restrictions elevated tensions between Mr. Abbott and his party, with the head of the Texas GOP at one point leading a protest outside the governor’s mansion. Meanwhile, mayors in Texas’ biggest cities argued that Abbott wasn’t doing enough.
At least 37 states requiring face-masks to some extent
Most of the nation has lived under mask mandates during the COVID pandemic, with at least 37 states requiring face coverings to some extent. But those orders are increasingly falling by the wayside. In recent weeks, North Dakota, Montana, and Iowa have also lifted face-mask orders.
Mr. Abbott stated at a press conference held in a restaurant that it is now the time to open Texas 100%.
The Democratic legislators urged Abbott to reconsider ahead of the repeal in Texas.
On Monday, Rep. Richard Pena Raymond told Abbott in a letter that Texas will experience more COVID cases, more hospitalizations, and even more deaths.
Raymond said that elected by the people, their most ultimate obligation is their safety and health. He requested not to abrogate their duty.
Mask mandate removal receives sharp criticism
The Republican Gov. has faced sharp disapproval from his party over the mandate, which was imposed eight months ago, and other COVID restrictions. It was only ever lightly enforced, even during the worst outbreaks of the epidemic.
The White House COVID adviser Andy Slavitt told CNN that he hopes Mr. Abbott will reconsider the decision to lift the mask mandate. Gov. California, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted in response to the statement ‘Absolutely reckless.’
The choice comes as governors across America have been easing COVID-19 restrictions, despite signals from medical experts that the epidemic is far from over. Like the rest of the nation, Texas has seen a large number of cases and death tolls. Since October, hospitalizations are at the lowest levels, and the 7-day rolling average of positive tests has dropped to about 7600 cases, down from more than 10000 in mid-February.
Laredo, whose population is predominately Latino, has endured some of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic, running out of beds in Hospital ICUs as of January. The global trade hub has been among Texas’ most aggressive cities in trying to blunt the virus spread, taking measures that have included curfews.
Dr. Ancel Meyers stated face-masks are one of the most effective strategies to curb the COVID-19 spread.