Texas Gov. Greg Abbott introduced he’s lifting statewide govt orders that restrict occupancy for companies and require Texans to put on masks in public areas.

“Efficient subsequent Wednesday, all companies of any kind are allowed to open 100%,” Abbott stated.

The governor stated companies can restrict capability or “implement extra security protocols” if they want and that counties can limit occupancy if Covid-related hospitalization charges rise above 15 % for seven straight days.

Nonetheless, Abbott stated, officers can’t “impose a penalty of any variety” on Texans for refusing to put on a masks or on companies for failing to “mandate prospects or staff put on face coverings.”

“Below no circumstance can a county choose put anyone in jail for not following Covid orders and no penalties can (be) imposed for failing to put on a face masks,” he stated.

The governor stated county judges could place caps on companies if Covid hospitalizations rise above that 15 % threshold, however that occupancy limits for companies could not go beneath 50 %.

“At the moment … folks and companies don’t want the state telling them the best way to function,” he stated.

Whereas the state has seen a drop-off in new instances and deaths in latest weeks, Texas remains to be far behind in vaccination efforts. Texas is at the moment 53rd among all states, territories and protectorates within the share of vaccinated residents. Simply over 12 % of the general inhabitants has obtained one dose of a vaccine, whereas 6 % have obtained each doses, in keeping with the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

Last week, the Division of State Well being Companies introduced it had obtained its largest cargo of vaccines in 12 weeks and that the state has up to now administered greater than 5 million doses.

Metropolis and county leaders throughout Texas are cautious Abbott’s order may result in one other spike in Covid instances and deaths, as was the case after he rescinded some limitations on companies final October.

Simply earlier than Abbott’s announcement, Austin’s high physician stated eradicating the masks mandate may result in a “substantial surge.”

“The hazard that we face by decreasing a few of these restrictions – significantly, (a) masking mandate … actually has the potential to provoke a surge in the meanwhile when we’ve the potential to actually drive the numbers into the bottom,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim medical director for Austin Public Well being, stated.

Travis County Choose Andy Brown and Austin Mayor Steve Adler released a letter forward of Abbott’s information convention urging him to proceed the mandate.

Dallas County Choose Clay Jenkins urged folks to proceed sporting masks in public, tweeting that Texans “ought to deal with what docs, information and science say is protected; not on what gov. says is authorized.”

Harris County Choose Lina Hidalgo reiterated the call for Texans to proceed sporting masks, saying “that is all on us now.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg additionally decried the governor’s determination, suggesting it wasn’t backed by science and that it was a “huge mistake.”

Austin-area Democratic state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez stated the choice served as a “harmful distraction” from criticism over the state’s response to final month’s crippling winter storm.

“I believe it’s method untimely. I believe individuals are doubtlessly going to die due to it,” he stated. “I believe we’re going to see surges in Covid instances, and as normal, low-income folks and other people of shade are going to be struggling due to it.”

Whereas the state’s new orders preempt metropolis and county restrictions, masks mandates on federal property and on public transit are nonetheless in impact. Capital Metro says it’s going to proceed to follow federal guidelines and require passengers to put on masks.

Read the governor’s order.

Editor’s Be aware: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Basis, the mother or father nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

This story was produced as a part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made potential by donations from the group. Although our reporting covers donors infrequently, we’re cautious to maintain enterprise and editorial efforts separate whereas sustaining transparency. An entire checklist of donors is offered here, and our code of ethics is defined here.

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