Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued the most comprehensive restoration of coronavirus restrictions in any U.S. state on Tuesday, taking up a worm mandate, saying most companies can open at full capacity next week.
Abbott’s executive order comes as many U.S. states and major cities see a sharp decline in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations begin to ease the unsurpassed barriers introduced a year ago.
“It’s time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott, a longtime Republican, told a news conference. He said the order would take effect on March 10.
The order raises all mask requirements across the country and prohibits local authorities from punishing residents who do not wear face protection. It removes all restrictions for companies in counties without a large number of hospital stays.
Local officials can still apply limits to companies where hospital stays remain high, according to the order, but were forbidden to mandate that they work with less than 50% capacity.
The governor said he could lift the restrictions because Texas, the third most populous US state, had administered nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots to its 29 million residents.
According to Abbott’s office, every senior who wants a vaccine at the end of March could get one.
The decision puts Texas in conflict with US President Joe Biden, a Democrat who has urged Americans to continue taking COVID-19 precautions, including wearing masks, until vaccinations have completely trampled the virus.
In remarks in the White House about efforts to increase vaccine production, Biden did not mention Texas. But the president seemed to be referring to Abbott’s executive order when he urged Americans to continue wearing face protection. “It’s not time to let go,” he said. “I have asked the country to wear masks during my first 100 days in the office. It is not time to let our guard go down. People’s lives are at stake.”
Referring to Abbott’s order for masks, White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told CNN: “I hope the governor thinks about this. Only a small piece of cloth is needed. I do not think it will affect the state’s economy.”
As of Tuesday, 35 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, still have a mandate for residents to wear face masks in public. The Mississippi also raised its face protection on Tuesday.
More than 51 million Americans, or 15% of the total U.S. population, have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden said on Tuesday that through an agreement with Merck & Co Inc. to make rival Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, his administration had secured enough for every adult in the United States to be inoculated by the end of May.
COVID-19 infections have declined in recent weeks in large parts of the world, including the United States.
According to a Reuters report, approximately 68,240 new cases have been reported on average every day this week, or 27% of the maximum daily average reached on 7 January. The United States has recorded 28,681,793 infections and 513,721 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic. began.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said bars, restaurants and other businesses could increase immediately to 50% and stay open until 6 p.m.
“We have made incredible progress in recent weeks and months, and I thank our business community for their continued commitment to saving lives,” Lightfoot said in a written statement.