Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has rescinded all COVID-19 restrictions, giving the okay for businesses across the state to reopen to 100 percent capacity and removing the state mandate requiring masks.
Presiding over a press conference at Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock on March 2, Abbott said that Texas is in a better position now than it was when he previously issued restrictions, and that the state no longer needs to tell residents or businesses what to do.
"COVID has not suddenly disappeared, it still exists, but it is clear from the recovery that state mandates are no longer needed," he said. "That's why I'm issuing a new executive order that rescinds most of the executive orders we had in place."
The new order goes into place Wednesday, March 10.
"All businesses of any type are allowed to open 100 percent — any type of industry," he said. "I'm also ending the statewide mask mandate. This does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for your family and friends. [You still need] personal vigilance to follow safe standards but state mandates are no longer needed."
"Texans have wrestled with COVID and learned how to conduct their own lives," he said. "If businesses want to limit capacity, it is their business. They get to operate their business the way they want to. At this time, people and businesses don't need state telling them how to operate."
Abbott cited factors that included a recent drop in cases, a drop in hospitalizations, a capacity to do a large number of tests, and the arrival of more than one vaccine.
"We now have the ability to do well over 100,000 tests per day," he said. "We have antibiotic therapeutic drugs to keep people out of hospitals. And now in Texas and across the country, we have vaccines with the ability to give a million shots per week."
His other rationale was the number of people who've contracted the virus and recovered.
"More than 2.5 million people were lab-tested as having recovered, and typically the real number is 4 to 5 times that number, which means that approximately 10 million or more have recovered from COVID and have proven the ability to beat the disease."
Abbott said that county officials could apply their own restrictions if cases began to climb, but restricted them from enforcement.
"If hospitals in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas rise above 15 percent in that region for seven straight days, then a county judge may use COVID mitigation strategies in their county," he said. "But under no circumstances can a county judge put anyone in jail for not following mandates, and there can be no penalties for not wearing a mask."
"We must restore livelihoods, and it's a reminder that each person has their own role to play in their own personal safety, with individual responsibility rather than a government mandate," he said.
Statewide, according to latest numbers, Texas shows 5,611 active cases in hospitals. As of March 1, some 734,371 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Houston at Texas Medical Center facilities, with 348,367 locals receiving the second injection. Meanwhile, the 14-day average positivity rate in Harris County is 12.8 percent.