Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that he is ending Texas’ statewide mask mandate and will soon allow all businesses to open at full capacity.
“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said from a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock, arguing that Texas has fought the coronavirus pandemic to the point that “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate” any longer.
Abbott said he was rescinding “most of the earlier executive orders” he has issued over the past year to stem the spread of the virus. He said starting next Wednesday, “all businesses of any type are allowed to open 100%.” It was not immediately clear when the elimination of the mask order will go into effect. Abbott first instituted the mask requirement last summer.
The news comes as the spread of the virus remains substantial across the state. Texas is averaging more than 200 reported deaths a day in the last week.
Still, the move is not entirely surprising. Abbott said Thursday that his office was looking at when it could lift all statewide coronavirus orders and that he would have announcements “pretty soon.” Texas will be the most populous state in the country not to have a mask mandate. More than 30 states currently have one in place.
The current trajectory of the virus has been difficult to measure in recent days due last month’s winter storm, which forced many large counties to close their testing centers and not report any cases. Daily confirmed cases and deaths are clearly down compared to a statewide peak in January. Hospitalization data has been less disrupted, though, and has shown a consistent decline since late January.