Texas has become the largest state in the country to end the mask orders and other COVID-related mandates, hopefully setting a trend toward restoring constitutional freedoms for other states to follow.
After sharp criticism from Republicans in the state over the mask mandate implemented eight months ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced this week the state will be lifting the order. Abbott also announced Texas will be doing away with capacity limitations on all businesses, effective March 10.
“It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” Governor Abbott said on Tuesday at Montelongo’s Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” Abbott added. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
Abbott said his new executive order will end “most” of his COVID-related executive orders, NBC News reports, observing that Texas is in “a completely different position” than it was at the start of the pandemic.
“We now have vaccines,” Abbott said, noting Texas’ one-day record of vaccine administration on Tuesday. Approximately 5.7 million Texans have received the vaccine as of last week, Breitbart News reports.
“By next Wednesday, about 7 million shots will have been administered in Texas and over half of seniors in Texas will have received a vaccine shot. By the end of March, every senior who wants a vaccine should be able to get one,” he continued. “The vaccine supply continues to increase so rapidly that more and more Texans will soon be eligible to receive a vaccine.”
Abbott also notes millions of Texans have proven “the ability to beat this disease.”
“Covid still exists,” Abbott said, “but it is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed.”
According to Fox 8 News, enforcement of the mandates was “spotty at best,” with some liberty-minded sheriffs refusing to enforce the orders. Abbott himself was not wholly committed to strict COVID policies, having asserted on numerous occasions his view that lockdowns do not work, an assertion supported by at least three studies. Likewise, the only two states in the country to report more COVID-19 deaths than Texas are California and New York, both of which have implemented draconian measures, including strict lockdowns. Instead, Texas opted to “heal those who have COVID, get them out of hospitals quickly, [and] make sure they get back to their normal lives.”
Likewise, the implementation of the mandates caused “elevated tensions” between Abbott and his party, Fox News 8 notes, with the head of the Texas GOP going so far as to lead a protest outside of the governor’s mansion.
Governor Abbott stated that local governments can continue to take action should counties see spikes in COVID cases, but local officials cannot impose penalties or jail time on individuals who are out of compliance.
Following Abbott’s announcement on the mandates, the Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District — the second-fastest growing school district in the state, according to its website — announced it would also be rescinding the district’s mandate, effective March 10.
The district’s statement reads, in part:
As of Wednesday, March 10, order GA-29 is rescinded, and the State of Texas will no longer require individuals to wear facial coverings. Accordingly, Lubbock-Cooper ISD will no longer require individuals to wear facial coverings. Students and staff members who wish to continue wearing facial coverings are certainly permitted to do so.
Meanwhile, shortly after Abbott’s announcement to end the state’s mandates, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves made a similar declaration.
“Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed,” Reeves tweeted. “It is time!”
“Executive orders that interfered with peoples’ lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year,” Reeves said. “Now, we are putting our focus towards rapid vaccine distribution. We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do.”
Predictably, the announcements have prompted backlash from officials who have beaten the drum on the strict COVID mandates, despite evidence that they offer no health benefits while simultaneously hurting the economy and increasing a swath of other physical and mental health issues.
But many in Texas are applauding Abbott’s decision.
Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said, “Today’s action marks an important step in the reopening of Texas, improving the mental health of our students, increasing the reporting of domestic violence and child abuse, and revitalizing our business climate.”
Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Texas Business Association, said Abbott’s decision will “lead to a full economic recovery not only for our state, but the entire country.”