Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that all Texas businesses can reopen at 100% capacity next week, and he is ending the statewide mask mandate.
In a speech in Lubbock, Abbott said he is rescinding most of his previous COVID-19 executive orders, effective March 10. He said that with cases falling and vaccinations continuing, it was time to fully reopen the state.
Abbott also said that removing these mandates “does not remove personal responsibility,” but “state mandates are no longer needed.” He encouraged everyone to continue to follow medical advice about how to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Across the state, coronavirus cases and deaths are starting to trend downward from a peak in January, though they are still substantial. Last week, the state averaged more than 200 COVID-19 deaths per day, and while Abbott has voiced optimism that vaccinations will accelerate soon, less than 7% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of this weekend.
Businesses are free to limit their capacity and to keep safety precautions in place — such as requiring masks to be worn in their stores, but “at this time, however, people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”
Abbott said that if a hospital region surpasses the 15% coronavirus hospitalization threshold for seven straight days, county judges in those regions may impose mitigation strategies to help reduce the spread of the virus. However, Abbott said county judges may not impose penalties for not wearing a mask, nor may they jail someone for violating a restriction, and businesses must be allowed to operate at least at 50% capacity. Abbott was optimistic that as vaccinations continue to be administered, such regional restrictions won’t be necessary.
Lewisville, Denton, Argyle and Northwest ISDs released statements Tuesday afternoon saying that they will continue to enforce mask requirements as they evaluate the situation, some saying they’re awaiting further guidance from the Texas Education Agency.