LUBBOCK, TX — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday he is issuing an executive order to lift the state’s mask mandate and reopen businesses to full capacity beginning next week.
Speaking at the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, Abbott’s announcement comes eight months after he first issued a mask mandate in a majority of Texas counties. He also announced businesses would be allowed to reopen at full capacity in one week’s time.
“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Abbott said. “Covid has not suddenly disappeared but state mandates are no longer needed.”
Abbott said his executive order would rescind “most” of his prior COVID-19 executive orders. If COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above 15 percent for seven straight days in any hospital region, only then will county judges be allowed to possibly impose stricter COVID-19 restrictions but cannot mask restrictions or fines.
The news comes just a day after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky cautioned now is not the time to lift restrictions despite cases trending downward nationwide.
“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19,” she said on Monday. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained.”
The end of the mask mandate in Texas makes it the largest state to end the rule put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Abbott also claimed millions of Texans who caught and recovered from the virus are now able to beat the disease.
“It is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.
Moments after Abbott’s announcement, the Texas Democratic Party released a statement to slam the move.
“On this Texas Independence Day, once again Abbott’s actions are made independent of logic or reason,” Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “From leaving Texans to literally freeze to death, to letting a deadly virus have an open season on our residents, Governor Abbott has proven many times over that he neither understands the struggles of everyday Texans, nor does he care about doing his basic duty to protect them.”
As of Feb. 28, just 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Tribune. Meanwhile, the scientists and experts have said Texas is nowhere close to reaching herd immunity.
Following Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced he would also be lifting his state’s mask mandate, effective Wednesday of this week.
“Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed,” Reeves tweeted. “It is time!”
Speaking at a White House event announcing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, President Joe Biden repeated his own calls for Americans to remain patient and continue to wear a mask to stop the spread of the virus.
“We’ve asked the country to wear masks for my first 100 days in office,” Biden said. “Now’s not the time to let our guard down. People’s lives are at stake.”