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Texas Governor Signs Executive Order To Reopen All Businesses At 100%, Drops Face Mask Mandate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that the state will allow all businesses in Texas to reopen at 100% capacity next week, ending nearly a year of emergency restrictions and occupancy limits across the state.

Abbott signed an executive order that would allow all entities in Texas to fully reopen on Wednesday, March 10. The executive order also lifts the statewide mask mandate, stating that no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear a face covering, though they are “strongly encouraged” to do so.

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%,” Abbott said during an address to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. “Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed.” 

The lifting of restrictions doesn’t apply to areas with high levels of hospitalizations, or where the number of COVID patients in area hospitals tops 15% of total capacity for seven consecutive days, according to the executive order.

Business owners may still require masks for entry and may ask authorities to remove patrons who refuse to comply. 

Nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered to Texans, and the state is now administering almost 1 million shots each week, according to a press release from Abbott’s office. 

In October, Abbott signed Executive Order GA 30, which adjusted occupancy levels for businesses to no more than 75%, and in areas with COVID-19 hospitalizations higher than 15% of all patients, occupancy was limited at 50%. A face-covering executive order has been in place since July. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a joint statement prior to the press conference, urging the governor to keep the statewide requirements for wearing a mask in place.

“Supported by our public health professionals, we believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose widespread adoption of this preventative measure,” the public officials said in the statement.

Houston is the first major U.S. city to record every major variant of the coronavirus, many of which are more contagious than the original strain, according to a study by Houston Methodist Hospital researchers released Monday.

The Texas Restaurant Association welcomed the announcement, noting that what was originally planned as a two-week closure had become nearly a full year of unprecedented challenges.

“For the thousands of local restaurants on the brink of closure and the 167,000 Texans that remain unemployed in our industry alone, there’s finally a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel,” the organization said in a statement.

About 11,000 Texas restaurants have closed permanently since March 2020, Texas Restaurant Association CEO Emily Williams Knight said during a press conference on Tuesday.

UPDATE, MARCH 2, 8:15 P.M. CT: The story has been updated to include comments from the Texas Restaurant Association.