Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 he will end Texas' statewide mask mandate next week and will allow all businesses to operate at full capacity.
“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said from a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock, arguing that Texas has fought the coronavirus pandemic to the point that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate” any longer.
Abbott said he was rescinding “most of the earlier executive orders” he has issued over the past year to stem the spread of the virus. He said starting March 10, “all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100%.”
A spokesperson later confirmed that includes sporting events, concerts and similar events. Masks will no longer be required in public for the first time since last summer.
Meanwhile, the spread of the virus remains substantial across the state, with Texas averaging more than 200 reported deaths a day over the last week. And while Abbott has voiced optimism that vaccinations will accelerate soon, less than 7% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of the previous weekend.
Texans and Americans of color have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. More than half of the deaths due to COVID-19 have been Black or Hispanic people, and advocates have reported that these communities have fallen behind in the vaccination efforts in Texas. More than 40,000 people have died in from the virus in Texas since the pandemic began.
Texas will become the most populous state in the country not to have a mask mandate. More than 30 states currently have one in place.
Abbott urged Texans to still exercise "personal vigilance" in navigating the pandemic. "It's just that now state mandates are no longer needed," he said.
Currently, most businesses are permitted to operate at 75% capacity unless their region is seeing a jump in COVID-19 hospitalizations. While he was allowing businesses to fully reopen, Abbott said that people still have the right to operate how they want and can "limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols."
Abbott's executive order said there was nothing stopping businesses from requiring employees or customers to wear masks. But soon after the announcement, the grocery chain H-E-B indicated in a statement that it won't require customers to wear masks.
Acknowledging some local leaders remain concerned about the spread of the virus in their communities, Abbott laid out a strategy that allows them to...