Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced in a news conference in Lubbock earlier today his decision to end Texas’ mask mandate and allow businesses to open to 100% capacity effective March 10.
“Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small businesses have struggled to pay their bills. This must end.” Abbott stated in a press conference. “This must end.”
The Texas Governor has faced intense scrutiny from some of his fellow Republicans for the mandate imposed last July along with other COVID-19 restrictions during a surge in cases. In October last year, Republican Party Chair Allen West led a protest outside the governor’s mansion to protest business closures and mask mandates.
Abbott has simultaneously attracted criticism from mayors in Texas’ biggest cities for his consistently lax approach to restriction enforcement.
In today’s news conference, Abbott described Texans as having “mastered the habits to keep from getting COVID” and cited the administration of a predicted 7 million vaccine shots across the state by next Wednesday.
“Today’s announcement doesn’t abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year,” the governor tweeted. “Instead, it’s a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety & the safety of others.”
Democratic lawmakers across the state have attacked Abbott’s decision and urged the governor to reconsider. Abbott’s decision makes Texas the largest state to roll back orders, despite warnings from health experts that the pandemic is far from over. While Texas has seen a decline in cases and deaths, the pandemic has already killed over 42,000 Texans, matched only by California and New York. Furthermore, Texas’ vaccine distribution has undergone significant disruption after last month’s devastating winter storm and experts say Texas is a long way from reaching herd immunity.