Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted a state mask mandate and said he was authorising businesses restricted because of the coronavirus pandemic to open “100 percent.”
“For nearly half a year, most businesses have been open either 75 percent or 50 percent and during that time, too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities,” Abbott said on Tuesday.
“Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills,” the Republican governor said in a speech to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
“This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100 percent,” he said to cheers and applause from his audience.
“Every business that wants to be open should be open.”
Abbott said he was lifting the restrictions because of the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines, and better testing and treatments.
“Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” he said.
Abbott imposed a mask mandate in the second most populous US state eight months ago.
He said an executive order rescinding his previous Covid-19 orders and restrictions would take effect on Wednesday.
Abbott’s move lifting restrictions came despite a warning on Monday by Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19,” Walensky said.
“I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,” she said.
“Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19,” the CDC director said.
“Continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.”