States of Texas y Mississippi announced on Tuesday their decision to lift their respective orders at the state level to wear a mask to protect themselves from COVID-19 and allow businesses to operate at the top of their capacity, despite warnings from medical authorities amid the pandemic.
The announcement by the governor of Texas, Republican Greg Abbott, will make that territory the first great state in the United States to eliminate the requirement to wear a mask, when his order takes effect on March 10.
“Too many Texans have been turned away from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have suffered to pay their bills. This has to stop. It is time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said. “In addition, I put an end to the order of the mask,” he added at a press conference from Lubbock (Texas), in which he confirmed that all establishments will be able to open without any type of restriction. The mask order had been in effect in the state for 8 months.
Abbott justified its decision by the good rate of vaccination, noting that by next week more than 7 million vaccines will have been administered. However, he asked for “personal responsibility” and to follow medical advice.
Texas, the second most populous state in the US with 30 million inhabitants, is the third, behind New York and California, with the highest number of deaths from the pandemic with more than 40,000 deaths.
Texas thus joined others twelve states, out of the 50 in the US, that have lifted their mandatory mask use mandate or that never imposed it, like Florida Arizona.
Shortly after Abbott’s announcement, the governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, also announced that from this same Wednesday the 3rd the order to wear a mask will be lifted in all counties of that southern state, and the companies will be able to operate “with full capacity”, without any restriction to guarantee social distance.
“Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being distributed rapidly. The time has come!” Reeves, also a Republican, wrote when making the announcement on his Twitter account.
Although in recent days the daily average of new cases has dropped notably in the US, to below 70,000 daily, compared to nearly 300,000 at the beginning of the year, the authorities continue to warn of the existing danger, especially due to the appearance of new strains.
“Now is not the time to relax restrictions,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a news conference Friday. “Although we have seen large declines in cases and hospital admissions in the past six weeks, these declines come after the largest spike we have ever recorded in the pandemic,” warned Walensky.
The United States, the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the world, already has more than 28.7 million cases and more than 515,000 deaths, according to the latest independent count from Johns Hopkins University.