Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued an executive order to lift the state’s mask mandate and give all businesses the green light to reopen, making it the largest state to cast off restrictions meant to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent,” the Republican governor said in a statement announcing the executive order, which will take effect March 10.
Abbott’s announcement comes at a time when coronavirus cases and deaths have plateaued in the U.S., after hitting record numbers in January.
“Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.
However, health officials warned against states taking too much action to loosen their restrictions or eliminate them altogether, as coronavirus variants continue to spread globally.
Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday that she was “deeply concerned” that the recent decline in cases had seemed to stall as daily cases are still around the 70,000 mark.
“Seventy thousand cases a day seemed good compared to where we were just a few months ago,” she said at a press briefing. “But we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths.”
“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she continued. “These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”