Sunday, May 16

Texas lifts mask order today: what we know

(CNN) — Starting Wednesday, Texans will no longer be under the state mandate to wear masks in public, but they shouldn’t be in a rush to ditch their face coverings.

In the past week, Governor Greg Abbott announced that he would relax restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of covid-19. This includes removing the mask order and allowing all businesses to reopen 100%, as active coronavirus cases and hospitalizations fell to levels not seen in months.

“Too many Texans have been sidelined from job opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. Now is the time to open Texas 100%, “he said.

Critics of the decision said it was too early, as only a small percentage of the state’s population had been vaccinated, less than 7% at the time, and the aggressive spread of virus variants may lead to another explosion of cases.

And several of the state’s major cities, including the capital Austin, as well as several counties and businesses have said they will continue to require the use of masks when Abbott’s term is lifted.

Here’s what we know about what’s happening in the lone star state as the mask-wearing mandate is lifted across the state.

Some cities and companies will continue to require the use of a mask

Austin Medical Director Dr. Mark Escott announced Tuesday that masks will continue to be required in the city when the state mandate is lifted.

“In Austin, we are committed to saving lives, period,” said Council Member Greg Casar. “If state officials don’t want to do their job to protect people from the virus, we will.”

The Austin City Council passed an ordinance last year that allows the health authority to establish public health mandates, and Texas state law allows cities to create their own health rules, according to Tara Pohlmeyer, Casar’s director of communications.

The city’s mask-wearing mandate and other health rules will remain in effect until April 15, when they could be extended.

Other cities have said masks must still be worn on city properties and facilities, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso.

“People are still getting infected and still dying from the virus,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday. “Currently, the City of Houston’s positivity rate is 13.1%, which is higher than last week. So instead of going down, go up again.

And retail stores, grocery chains, pharmacies and automakers – such as Target, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, Best Buy, Macy’s, JCPenney, Toyota, GM and others – say that both employees and customers should continue to wear masks on their shops and facilities.

Of course, masks will continue to be required in federal facilities in Texas, something President Joe Biden made mandatory in January, as well as on public transportation.

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Planned celebrations and mask burning

Even after the mask-wearing mandate is removed, Abbott encouraged residents to “continue to practice safe practices that will ensure everyone can get back to work with Texas and continue to lead the United States in economic growth and job creation. ».

Some may have missed that message.

Members of a conservative group plan to gather Wednesday night to celebrate the first day of the reopening with a bonfire and the option for attendees to throw their masks into the flames, according to event organizer Benji Gershon, president of the Conservatives group. Jews of Dallas.

The event, which will take place outside a private residence in the Dallas suburb of Parker, will feature live music, drinks and conservative speakers, including Shelley Luther, the owner of a Dallas beauty salon turned a Conservative icon after spending last spring in jail for refusing to shut down his business during lockdown.

The event is not an “anti-mask event,” according to Gershon, who said he has lost family and friends to COVID-19. It’s about ‘celebrating the fact that we can make decisions for ourselves. We don’t have to depend on the government to make our own decisions, ”he said.

“It’s about taking off the shackles of governments and telling them, listen, I can make my own decisions for myself,” he said. “It is not necessary for the government to tell us how to live our lives.”

The part about the burning of masks is a “purely symbolic” gesture to celebrate personal freedom, he said. Organizers plan to observe a moment of silence to remember those who died, he said.

As of Monday night, about 300 guests were registered to attend, according to Gershon.

The Dallas Jewish Conservatives group partnered with other conservative groups in the area to organize the event, he said.

In Houston, a “no mask” party planned for Wednesday night at the Concrete Cowboy bar has been canceled, Mayor Turner said.

That came after civic leaders gathered at a press conference on Sunday to urge the bar not to go ahead.

Turner read an email from the owner that said, “It was never our intention to host a party where we encouraged customers not to wear a mask.”

“We will always put health and safety ahead of profit,” the email read, according to Turner, and “we will not only cancel the party, but we will also not open Concrete Cowboy on Wednesday night, to avoid any exposure to covid- 19 ».

CNN has reached out to the venue multiple times seeking comment on its plans for Wednesday night, but has not received a response.

Turner acknowledged that when the mask-wearing mandate runs out, companies will face a tough decision.

“The order that the governor issued puts them in a bad position because now it puts the responsibility on them to try, how can I say, monitor and protect their clients and guests from contracting the virus,” Turner said. “It puts them in a very bad and difficult situation, I understand that.”

CNN’s Keith Allen, Deanna Hackney, and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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