As of Wednesday, March 10, Texans will no longer be required to wear face coverings to protect against COVID-19 and businesses will be allowed to open up 100 percent, announced Gov. Gregg Abbott at a Lubbock Chamber of Commerce luncheon March 2, Texas Independence Day.
“It is now time to open Texas up 100 percent,” Abbott said to a round of applause from the Lubbock business and community leaders in attendance.
Immediately following the announcement, superintendents from Marble Falls and Burnet school districts issued a joint statement that schools would await further guidance from the governor and the Texas Education Agency before lifting the mask mandate for students and staff.
While COVID-19 is not gone, Abbott said, in the past year, Texans have learned how to best prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease as well as care for those with it. He left in the guidelines a stipulation that if COVID-19-related hospitalization rates hit 15 percent or higher for seven consecutive days in a hospital region, then the county judge within that region can institute mitigation procedures. Businesses would be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity and there could be no confinement for someone who violated those county-applied rules.
Abbott estimated about 10 million Texans are recovered from COVID-19.
The biggest change, the governor said, is the development of effective vaccinations. He pointed out that Texas healthcare providers are administering about 1 million doses a week, with March 2 having the highest daily number at 216,000. By next week, more than half of the population of Texans ages 65 and older will have received at least one shot. All seniors who want to be vaccinated should be taken care of by the end of March.
With the new Janssen Pharmaceuticals one-dose vaccination now on the scene, the governor said state health officials will begin to expand the categories of people eligible to receive COVID-19 protection in the near future.
“The number of vaccines will continue to rise,” he said.
Removing the state mandates doesn’t remove personal responsibility, the governor said. He reminded Texans that they should still follow medical experts’ advice to prevent the spread of the virus just as they have been since March 2020; they just don’t need the state to tell them to do it anymore.