Edinburg, Texas (KVEO)— Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday he is lifting its mask mandate, making it the largest state to end an order intended to reduce the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans.
“It’s time to reopen Texas 100%,” Abbott said. “Everybody who wants to work should have that opportunity. Every business that wants to be open, should be open.”
Abbott announced a new executive order effective next Wednesday that will allow any business to open at 100% capacity if they choose to. Saying that statewide mandates are “no longer necessary,” he also announced the end of the mandatory mask mandate effective March 10.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez responded to Gov. Abbott’s announcement with the following statement:
“I appreciate Governor Abbott’s desire to return to normalcy, but I remain concerned that, at least in Hidalgo County, we may be moving too quickly. We only fell below the high hospitalization threshold a week ago, which suggests we are on the right path in combating the spread of this disease, but I would hate to see a rise in case numbers if people begin to relax caution – particularly as it relates to the removal of the mask mandate.”
Local 23 Anchor Clara Benitez complete interview with Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez
Abbott explained that under the new order, a county judge may impose certain mitigation ordinances if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions of Texas rise above 15% of bed capacity for seven straight days. But even if countywide recommendations are enacted, Abbott said residents will not be able to be jailed for refusing to follow county judge recommendations.
Moreover, even if hospital beds do rise above capacity for a week, businesses will still be able to operate at a 50% capacity minimum.
Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said the Governor’s orders are “too much, and too quick.”
“I am all for opening up and more liberal on what we can do,” said Dr. Melendez. “But, I think there are steps you take, the removal of the mask mandate should be the last thing.”
“We are getting truckloads of vaccines coming,” said Dr. Melendez. “We have Johnson and Johnson the third vaccine coming in, our numbers are going down, absolutely a great time, but let’s keep the mask on.”
Dr. Melendez reminds the public to be vigilant.
“The Rio Grande Valley is different, our hospitals at one point were packed, we are different,” said Melendez. “We are different specifically now because all of the migrants that are coming in, 900 a week, and potential tourists coming in,” said Melendez.
As of March 1st, Hidalgo County has a total of 50,791 COVID-19 cases and a total of 2,302 COVID-19 related deaths.
CBS4 Anchor Faith Woodard complete interview with Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez: