Governor Abbott lifts mask mandates, expands business capacity to 100%
By LYNETTE SOWELL
On today, March 2, Texas Independence Day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he was issuing Executive Order GA-34, which lifts the statewide mask mandate and also permits businesses to open to 100 percent effective Wednesday, March 10.
Locally, the Copperas Cove Independent School District made its own announcement late Tuesday afternoon in response to the governor’s new executive order.
CCISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Burns said district staff will be meeting to discuss the Executive Order and its implications for students and staff.
“As a result of the Governor’s Executive Order, Copperas Cove ISD is receiving questions from families and employees regarding what this means for students and staff in the district,” said Burns. “TEA Commissioner Mike Morath is revising public health guidance this week and will hold a TEA COVID-19 call this Thursday, March 4, to inform superintendents of the updated state guidelines. Once released, CCISD will share the information with our families and the community.”
H-E-B also issued its own statement regarding its stores and the status of face coverings and other practices. Face coverings won’t be rquired in stores, but “strongly encouraged.”
“Although Governor Abbott has lifted the mandatory statewide mask order, the H-E-B Medical Team advises that masks should be worn in public spaces at least until May based on the rate our population is vaccinated. H-E-B continues to strongly believe in the use of masks and requires it for all Partners and vendors. As an essential service provider during the pandemic, H-E-B is focused on the health and safety of our Partners and communities.
“To protect our Partners and our communities, H-E-B strongly encourages the use of masks and requires it for all Partners and vendors. While we will not deny entrance into the store, we will actively ask customers to wear their masks. H-E-B strongly encourages customers by role modeling, using in-store messaging, and signs at the front doors.”
The governor’s executive order does not prevent businesses for requiring the use of face coverings on premises, however, so businesses still have that option.
Also, county judges do have the option to restrict business capacity in the future, should COVID-19 hospitalizations exceed 15 percent in the local Trauma Service Area for seven consescutive days, but judges cannot restrict business capacity to lower than 50 percent.
Gov. Abbott said that the decision to open up Texas was due to the medical advancements of vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, as well as decreased hospitalizations statewide.
"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. Today's announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny."
During his remarks, Gov. Abbott said that nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered in Texas, and that the nearly 1,000,000 shots are being administered per week. He also said that 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.
“More than 2.5 million Texans who were lab confirmed for COVID-19 have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic, and experts note the total number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19 is likely 4-5 times that amount. The number of active COVID-19 cases is the lowest since November—meaning more Texans are recovering from COVID-19 than contracting it,” his office announced in a statement Tuesday afternoon.