AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas is scrapping its mask mandate, Governor Greg Abbott said on Tuesday, making it the largest state to suspend a coronavirus that has killed more than 42,000 Texans.
The Republican governor has been widely criticized for limiting his party’s mandate COVID-19 eight months ago. It has only been used sparingly, even during the worst outbreaks of the epidemic.
Texas will also remove restrictions on the number of meals a business can serve inside, said Abbott, who announced this at a Lubbock restaurant.
The decision came after US governors eased restrictions on the coronavirus, despite warnings from health experts that the epidemic was not over. Like the rest of the country, Texas has seen a drop in the number of deaths. Hospitalizations are at an all-time low since October, with the seven-day moving average dropping to around 7,600, up from more than 10,000 in mid-February.
Only California և New York reported more COVID-19 deaths than Texas.
“Just because everything is going in the right direction does not mean we have been able to eradicate the risk,” said Dr. Laurent Ansel Meyers, Professor of Integration Biology and director of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas.
He said a recent deadly winter frost in Texas that left millions without electricity, forcing families to take refuge with others who still had a fever, could boost the spread of the virus in the coming weeks, though it is too early to say. According to him, masks are one of the most effective strategies to curb the spread.
Abbott imposed a nationwide mask mandate in July during a deadly summer wave. But enforcement was variegated at best, and some sheriffs waived police restrictions altogether. And as the epidemic dragged on, Abbott ruled out a return to strict COVID-19 rules, arguing that the blockade would not work.
Political restrictions have exacerbated tensions between Abbott and his “party” as the head of the Texas Air Force rallied for a moment outside the governor’s mansion. At the same time, the mayors of the largest cities in Texas insisted that Abbott was not doing enough.
Most of the country lived under masked mandates during the epidemic, with at least 37 states requiring some face cover. But those orders are falling more and more on the side of the road. North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have also canceled orders for masks in recent weeks.
Democrat lawmakers in Texas urged Abbott to reconsider before repealing them.
“Texas will have more cases, more hospitalizations, more deaths,” Richard Pena Raymond, Democrat of Abbott State, from the border town of Laredo, wrote to Abbott on Monday.
Laredo, whose population is mainly Latin, withstood the worst outbreaks of the epidemic. Beds in hospital intensive care units have been closed since January. The International Trade Center has been one of Texas’ most aggressive cities, trying to prevent the spread of the virus by taking measures that included curfews.
“Your most important commitment to the elected people is their health and safety. “Please do not relinquish your responsibility,” Raymond said.