Texas Lifts Masking Requirement, Restores Business Capacity in Elimination of Pandemic Measures

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Wide receiver Terrell Owens #81 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates his third touchdown against the Houston Texans on October 15, 2006 at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. Texas Governor Greg Abbott removed the state’s masking requirement and business capacity restrictions from his administration’s pandemic measures on Tuesday, Mar. 2

The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, issued an executive order removing some of his state’s most significant pandemic measures to fight against the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus on Tuesday, Mar. 2. 

Abbott made the announcement at Montelongo’s Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock during an address to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, stating that the state’s masking requirement would be eliminated and business capacity would return 100 percent. He reasoned that with the advance of drug therapies and vaccination, Texas now can protect citizens without resorting to restrictions on personal liberties and business operations. 

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” Abbott said.

Texas SARS-CoV-2 case and fatality data. (Source: Texas Health and Human Services)

Texas’s citizens urged to take responsibility

The Governor reminded his citizens “each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others,” but that his administration wishes to ensure “all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”

According to the Texas Health and Human Services website’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, new confirmed cases in the state have fallen from a peak of more than 25,000 per day in early January to between 3,000 and 8,000 per day since mid-February. Meanwhile, daily fatalities fell from more than 300 per day in early January to fewer than 75 per day in mid-February. 

Texas fatality data from Feb. 16 forward is marked as “incomplete” on the state’s data tracker. 

Texas SARS-CoV-2 case and fatality data. (Source: Texas Health and Human Services)

Texas had 75,451 confirmed cases as of Feb. 26, the last day the tracker was updated. The majority of the confirmed cases are in the 29-59 years age bracket. Sixty-five percent are male, and 33, 36, and 16 percent of cases are divided among Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks. 

The State of Texas has endured a total of just under 2.3 million total confirmed cases and 44,000 deaths since the pandemic began last year. While Texas currently has 5,644 hospitalized patients with a covid positive lab test, it has almost 12,000 available beds and 962 available ICU beds. 

Texas splits its testing methodology between PCR and antigen testing at a less than 3:1 ratio. In early January, when the case and death count were highest, Texas performed approximately 130,000 tests per day, which has since fallen to about 55,000 per day. Testing levels began to fall at roughly the same time as the positive case count began falling.

Abbott boasted in the press release issued by his office that 5.7 million vaccines have been administered in his state out of a population of 29 million, with the current pace being an additional million shots per week. 

The Governor’s press release issued a caveat, however, “If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.”

The mitigation strategies for County Judges were, however, limited to means other than jail time, and no penalties could be imposed for not wearing a mask. The order also said County-level restrictions were limited to capacity restrictions of 50 percent or more.

According to an ABC article, Target says it will still enforce mandatory masking on its property. In contrast, Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, says he has no plans to increase seating at games beyond the current levels of 3000 per game. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom Tweeted his dissent to Texas’s decision: “Absolutely reckless.”

Abbott’s Executive Order takes effect on Mar. 10. 

Mississippi’s Republican Governor Tate Reeves announced his state would eliminate masking requirements and restore business capacity to full as well in a tweet the same day, “Executive orders that interfered with peoples’ lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year.

Reeves said his state would be shifting focus toward “rapid vaccine distribution.”

“We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” said Reeves. 

“We need to recognize that none of these orders, in any state, are anything short of unprecedented. They have to end at the earliest possible moment. This is that moment for Mississippi.”

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  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.