Roughly a year ago, businesses and governments across the U.S. began implementing various mask-related mandates and rules as an ostensibly short-term approach to limiting the spread of COVID-19.
As weeks and months turned into a year, however, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott revealed this week his decision to fully reopen the state, including a repeal of its mask mandate.
“The safe practices Texans are using”
In true “Don’t Mess With Texas” fashion, Abbott announced on Tuesday that all services and businesses interested in reopening at full capacity may do so.
The governor signed an executive order that will strike down the existing statewide mask mandate and return businesses to 100% capacity, garnering a significant dose of both praise and criticism.
He made clear in his announcement that a mixture of increasing vaccinations and a decreasing infection rate led him to the determination that it is now safe to return to normalcy across the Lone Star State.
“COVID still exists in Texas, the United States and across the globe, but it is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from the safe practices Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” Abbott said.
His executive order does provide county-level judges the authority to reinstitute mitigation measures — including lockdowns or decreased occupancies — if the hospitalization rate rises to 15% above capacity for at least a week.
“Texas businesses will operate responsibly”
Abbott noted, however, that even if mitigation measures are instituted, no Texan will face criminal prosecution for violating them.
While plenty of residents celebrated the news, the GOP governor was widely criticized by Democrats, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called the announcement “absolutely reckless.”
He attracted opprobrium from leftist celebrities, too. Actor George Takei tweeted that Abbott’s order amounted to a “criminal, racist death sentence” that “will disproportionately impact and kill minorities” working in essential jobs.
Another particularly harsh assessment came from actress Chelsea Handler, who argued that only “another white man could figure out a way to become a worse person than [Republican Texas U.S. Sen.] Ted Cruz.”
The Texas Association of Businesses echoed the praise of many in the state’s business community, though. In a statement, CEO Glenn Hamer said: “Throughout the pandemic, Governor Abbott has implemented measures that protect our communities, while ensuring Texans still have the ability to earn a paycheck and put food on their tables. Once again, the Governor is striking the right balance by removing the heavy hand of government and allowing businesses to operate as they see fit. One year into dealing with COVID-19, organizations understand what protocols they must implement to function safely, and TAB knows Texas companies will operate responsibly.”