Mar. 3, 2021 -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday that immediately lifted the statewide face mask mandate and rolled back other statewide COVID-19 restrictions next week.
Starting March 10, all businesses will be allowed to open 100% with no capacity limits. Texans will be able to decide for themselves which precautionary measures to follow to limit the spread of the virus, Abbott said.
“Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for your family members, caring for your friends and caring for others in your community,” Abbott said during a Chamber of Commerce event in Lubbock.
Now that Texas has personal protective equipment, as well as COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, business restrictions should be lifted, he added.
“People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate,” he said.
Although COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped from the highs seen in early January, public health officials have said that relaxing restrictions could lead to another surge. Texas is averaging about 7,600 new cases daily and is among the top 10 states in recent virus spread by population, according to The New York Times.
Abbott said his new executive order should address concerns around reopening the state again. If COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state’s 22 hospital regions surpass 15% of the hospital bed capacity for 7 days in a row, then a county judge can use COVID-19 mitigation strategies in that region, he said.
However, a judge can’t impose penalties, such as fines or jail time, for not following COVID-19 orders, Abbott said, including not wearing a face mask. In addition, if restrictions are imposed at the county level, all businesses must be allowed to operate at 50% capacity or more.
“Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain COVID,” Abbott said. “It’s just that now, state mandates are no longer needed.”