HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott announced he was reopening Texas and ending the state-wide mask mandate. Rio Grande Valley health officials shared their concerns on that decision and what it could mean for the area.
During a press conference in Lubbock, Gov. Abbott discussed the state’s progress with COVID-19 and made the following statement.
“Effective next Wednesday, all businesses –of any type– are allowed to open 100 percent.”
His statement brought a round of cheers in the restaurant he was holding the press conference.
The governor praised the efforts of Texans for the past month to lower the number of hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases.
According to the New York Times’ data, Texas had a seven-day average of 7,693 new COVID-19 cases the week before Governor Abbott’s press conference. That was down from a peak of just under 23,000 new cases a day in mid-January.
Governor Abbott said it was those efforts and the increase in the number of vaccinations that helped him decide to fully reopen Texas. Local health officials are calling the move premature.
“If we’re having to implement restrictions again, it means that people are dying because of reopening,” said Dr. James Castillo, Cameron County Health Authority. “We saw that already the first time. We’ve got Spring Break coming up in March, and I think the timing is not optimal here.”
Governor Abbott followed up the announcement that he was reopening the state by adding he was “ending the statewide mask mandate.”
A decision that concerns health officials the most.
Hidalgo County health authority Dr. Ivan Melendez says the moves by Governor Abbott are too much too quickly.
“I’m all for being more liberal in what we can do but I think that there’s a step that we can take not even baby steps but regular steps — but I believe the ending of the mask mandate should be the last thing, not the first thing.”
The governor did urge people to continue following CDC guidelines and listen to the instructions of health professionals. He added businesses could reduce their own capacity and require customers to wear a mask.
“It is their business, so they get to choose to operate their business the way they want to. At this time, however, people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate,” Abbott said.