Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that the statewide mask mandate imposed eight months ago will be lifted on March 10.
The Lone Star State, which is still grappling with the widespread issues due to winter storms, is the largest state in the US to lift its mask mandate amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Texas businesses will also be able to operate at 100% capacity, including bars and restaurants.
Shortly after the announcement by Abbott, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves made a similar announcement for his state.
The Governors of their respective states decided to defy warnings from federal health officials about the need to stay vigilant. The CDC and health officials still advise that people wear a mask and avoid crowds to reduce transmission of the virus.
On Monday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned states that “now is not the time” to remove Coronavirus restrictions, citing a reversal in the decline in new cases and deaths of recent weeks.
Dr. Walensky said that in the last week, the average number of infections and deaths had increased by about 2%. The spread of virus variants has stalled progress despite the expanding vaccination program.
“Please hear me clearly,” she said. “At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”
Abbott disagrees with Dr. Walensky’s stance and reversed his executive orders.
“Texas is in a far better position now than when I issued my last executive order back in October,” Abbott said, referring to his order allowing bars to reopen under certain conditions. Cases spiked after he eased business restrictions in the fall.
Abbott said Texans have learned to avoid COVID-19 and “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves echoed Abbott’s rebuke of the CDC’s guidelines. He tweeted that, starting Wednesday, all county mask mandates will be lifted and businesses will be allowed to operate at full capacity.
The federal government has crossed the 100 million mark for vaccine distribution, and more than 78 million of them have been administered, the CDC said Tuesday.