USA – Texas lifts mandate on wearing masks despite warnings from public health officials
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will soon lift the state’s mask mandate, even as federal officials have urged states not to abandon Covid 19 precautions and have noted a slowing drop in cases nationwide.
The governor’s executive order, which will take effect on March 10, also lifts capacity restrictions imposed on the state’s businesses. Local officials can still impose “mitigation strategies” if hospitalizations in their area surge, but are banned from punishing residents who defy mask guidance and cannot limit business capacity to less than 50%.
“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%,” he said.
Texas is the largest US state to end its mask mandate. Mr Abbott has faced criticism from his party over the measure, which was imposed last July. He said that with increased vaccinations and improved treatment for Covid-19, the state was “in a far better position now”.
Restaurant owners began confronting whether they, too, would relax COVID-19 safeguards in their dining rooms that were already allowed to be almost fully open. School administrators scrambled to figure out the ramifications for the state’s 5 million public school students.
Only California and New York have reported more COVID-19 deaths than Texas.