Texas is dropping its Covid-19 restrictions on businesses and ending its statewide mask mandate, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday, the latest in a string of states that have relaxed or dropped restrictions as cases have fallen nationwide despite public health officials strongly urging against it.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“It is time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said at a press conference Tuesday.
“All businesses, of any type” can fully open as of next Wednesday, Abbott said, saying increased Covid-19 testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines put the state in a “far better position” than when orders were first issued, and “Texans have mastered the daily habits to avoid getting Covid.”
The statewide mask mandate first went into effect in July and has faced pushback from Republicans, and Abbott had suggested last week he was reviewing the order and other restrictions.
Though less stringent than some other states, Texas does have social distancing restrictions in place for now for many businesses, such as a 75% capacity limit on indoor dining and gyms and a 50% capacity limit on bars, as well as an order for them to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m.
Texas is the largest state so far to entirely drop its Covid-19 restrictions, but follows Florida and other Republican-led states that have taken similar measures.
“Everybody who wants to work should have that opportunity,” Abbott said Tuesday. “Every business that wants to be open should be open.”
“Abbott removing a statewide mandate while preaching personal responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID is an abdication of his own personal and professional responsibility to keep Texans safe,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement Tuesday. “By removing all previous state mandates and opening the state to 100 percent, Governor Abbott, who has never taken this pandemic seriously, is doing what he does best: leaving Texans to fend for themselves.”
A growing number of states have taken steps to loosen or walk back some Covid-19 restrictions in recent weeks as cases and other metrics dropped in February following a holiday season surge. Michigan became the latest state to increase capacity on indoor dining Tuesday, for instance, while Massachusetts and Arkansas recently dropped its occupancy limits on restaurants altogether. A few states have also recently repealed their mask mandates, including Montana, Iowa and North Dakota. The dropped restrictions have taken place over the objections of public health officials, who warn that the recent decline in cases is now plateauing as more transmissible coronavirus variants take hold. Texas health officials had also cautioned prior to Tuesday’s announcement it would be “too soon” to lift the mask mandate, given vaccination rates are still too low to achieve herd immunity in the state.
Abbott’s announcement took place on Texas Independence Day.
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