Texas Drops COVID Restrictions ‘100%’ Despite Second Highest Number Of Cases In US
Texas is among a number of US states dropping coronavirus restrictions despite public health officials strongly encouraging the measures stay in place.
Governor Greg Abbott made the announcement during a Lubbock Chamber of Commerce event on Tuesday, March 2, where he issued an executive order rescinding most of his earlier executive orders, including a mask mandate.
Abbott also announced that businesses of any type will be allowed to open with no restrictions from March 10.
The governor justified the move by stating that ‘too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities’ and that ‘too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills.’
He commented: ‘This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%.’
The move comes amid a drop in coronavirus cases across the US, though Texas has suffered badly throughout the pandemic and has recorded more than 2.6 million cases; the second-highest number of cases in the country. California has recorded the highest number of cases with 3,577,497, according to The New York Times.
Abbott claimed Texans had ‘mastered the daily habits to avoid getting COVID’ in the last year, and noted that 5.7 million vaccine shots had been administered in the state as of Tuesday.
The governor also pointed out there is a surplus of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ’10 million Texans have recovered from COVID.’
He stressed that ‘removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility and caring for your family members, friends and others in your community,’, though added: ‘People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.’
Abbott has said county judges can impose local restrictions if hospitalisations in the state rise to more than 15% of the region’s hospital bed capacity for seven days straight, however they cannot impose occupancy restrictions of less than 50%, or impose penalties against people who don’t wear masks.
In spite of Abbott’s announcement, the mayors of Mission, Houston and Dallas have all said they would continue to encourage mask wearing or require masks in their respective city buildings, CBS 58 reports.
Responding to the news on Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Abbott’s decision ‘really undermines all of the sacrifices that have been made by medical professionals, doctors, nurses, EMS workers, firefighters, police officers, municipal workers, people in the community.’
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa has also hit back at the move, claiming that the decision to remove the statewide mandate while ‘preaching personal responsibility’ is an ‘an abdication of [Abbott’s] own personal and professional responsibility to keep Texans safe.’
Hinojosa continued: ‘By removing all previous state mandates and opening the state to 100%, Governor Abbott, who has never taken this pandemic seriously, is doing what he does best: leaving Texans to fend for themselves.’
Speaking to CNN, Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, stressed: ‘This is not a time to relax restrictions – especially the governors who are all high-fiving themselves saying we’re out of this. We’re not.’
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves also announced on Tuesday that all county mask mandates would end in the state and that business can reopen at 100% capacity. Similar steps have also been taken in Florida, despite the warnings from health officials.
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