Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that the state will end its covid-19 mask mandate and allow all businesses to fully re-open, despite an admission that “covid has not, like, suddenly disappeared.” This, after 8,000 new cases were reported in the state on Monday.
Courthouse News reports that Abbott’s executive order takes effect on March 10, ending a slew of statewide restrictions. This includes a rule requiring people to wear masks in public spaces, which has been in effect since July 2020. Texas is officially the largest state to end its mask mandate.
“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Abbot said during a speech at a Lubbock, Texas Tex-Mex restaurant. “Every business that wants to be open should be open.”
This was met with applause, and there are certainly some reasons to cheer: covid-19 hospitalizations have dropped from 14,000 to 5,000 from late January to late February, and covid-19 vaccines are rolling out. But as of Monday, 12.8 percent of its population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, falling slightly behind other large populated states like California and New York. The deadly winter storm that ravaged the state two weeks ago was responsible for a dip in vaccination numbers, which has since rebounded. Additionally, covid-19 cases have experienced a sudden spike in the state. This, along with the news of alarming covid-19 varients cropping up across the country, makes Abbott’s decision appear all the more hasty.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pleading with local officials to leave safety protocols in place.
From Courthouse News:
“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people,” [CDC Director Rochelle] Walensky, said during a virtual White House press briefing. “We cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths.”
Walensky called the coronavirus variants a “very real threat” to the nation’s progress battling the pandemic.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread,” Walensky said. “Not when we are so close.”
But Abbott’s confidence in the vaccine rollout supersedes his concerns of transmission. He vowed that any and all seniors will be able to receive a vaccine by the end of March, and said that eligibility will expand “soon.” He also said that if hospitals hit a 15 percent bed capacity threshold in a given region for seven straight days, local officials can re-implement covid-19 safety protocols... but only if they want to.
What could go wrong?