Harlingen, Texas (KVEO) — Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday he is lifting Texas’ 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.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement in response to the governor’s decision.
“What Abbott is doing is extraordinarily dangerous. He is the worst Governor in modern Texas history. This will kill Texans. Our country’s infectious disease specialists have warned that we should not put our guard down even as we make progress towards vaccinations. Abbott doesn’t care.”
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.
“What Abbott calls pro-business is anti-people. Make no mistake: opening Texas prematurely will only lead to faster COVID spread, more sickness and overcrowding in our hospitals, and unnecessary deaths. There is no economic recovery without beating the coronavirus pandemic. This will set us back, not move us forward.”