Texas rescinded its mask mandate and lifted limits on commercial capacity linked to the pandemic, even as officials in the Biden administration called on US states not to reverse rules to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Greg Abbott, Republican governor of the state, acted as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continued to decline in Texas, reflecting improving trends in most other parts of the United States after a surge in the fall and early winter.
“Now is the time to open up Texas 100%,” Abbott said in issuing an order lifting the restrictions, effective March 10.
His decision was criticized by prominent Texas Democrats, including Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, who said he was “disgusted” by the decision and that he would seek ways to maintain a mask mandate in his city. .
Abbott’s action also came just a day after Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that “recent declines [in coronavirus cases] seem to stall ”.
“With these new statistics, I am really worried about reports that more and more states are reversing the exact public health measures that we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19,” she said during the meeting. ‘a White House briefing.
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The governors of Iowa and Montana ended mask requirements last month, while Arkansas was set to end its mask tenure at the end of March if the positivity rates of tests remain weak. States like Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, the third largest in terms of population, did not impose a statewide mask mandate during the pandemic.
Several states have also relaxed other Covid-19 rules. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, on Tuesday authorized an increase in restaurant and retail capacity indoors and the resumption of small gatherings indoors.
The United States on Monday reported less than 50,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time since mid-October. Hospitalizations, which have fallen daily since Jan. 13, have fallen to their lowest level in four months, according to a Financial Times analysis of data from the Covid Tracking Project.
Vaccinations also took new milestones this week, fueling optimism that the United States is taking a step forward in its fight against the virus.
The CDC said vaccine shipments exceeded 100 million doses on Tuesday, a day after figures showed more than 50 million Americans had received at least one vaccine since the rollout began until the end of the year. ‘last year.
Texas – the second most populous state in the United States – has administered nearly 6 million doses of the vaccine, with 3.7 million people having received at least one vaccine, according to the CDC. The state expects more than half of its seniors to have received at least one dose by the middle of next week, the governor’s office said.
Under Abbott’s order, counties in Texas may implement certain mitigation strategies if coronavirus-related hospitalizations in their area exceed 15% of bed capacity for seven consecutive days. Counties would be able to limit trading capacity in such cases.
The order said residents were always “strongly encouraged” to wear face covers when social distancing was not possible. Companies can also limit their capacity or require additional security measures on their own.
“Make no mistake, Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, but it’s clear from recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and the safe practices Texans use that state warrants are not. more needed, “Abbott said in a statement.
Turner, the mayor of Houston, accused Abbott of lifting the mask’s mandate to deflect intense criticism of his handling of a winter storm last month that left millions of Texans behind. without electricity or heat amid freezing temperatures.
Eric Johnson, mayor of Dallas, said it was “not time to let our guard down” as cases remain high and new variants spread.