Texas, Mississippi Drop Mask Mandates

WEDNESDAY, March 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Texas has lifted its mask mandate and all businesses can reopen next Wednesday with no seating limits, Gov. Gregg Abbott announced Tuesday.

Abbott's moves came as federal health officials have cautioned governors against easing restrictions because nationwide progress against the COVID-19 pandemic has plateaued in the last week, The New York Times reported.

"To be clear, COVID has not, like, suddenly disappeared," Abbott acknowledged. "COVID still exists in Texas and the United States and across the globe."

However, "state mandates are no longer needed," because better treatments are now available for COVID-19 patients, the state can conduct large numbers of tests each day and Texans have already received 5.7 million vaccine shots, according to Abbott, theTimes reported.

While saying that most state restrictions would be lifted, Abbott did not specify which mandates would remain in place. He said Texans could decide for themselves what precautionary measures they want to take to limit the spread of the virus and that top elected officials in each county could reimpose restrictions if hospital capacities passed 15 percent, the Times reported.

"At this time, however, people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate," he said, the Times reported.

Shortly after Abbott's announcement, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that he would end Mississippi's statewide mask mandate, effective Wednesday, NBC News reported.

On Monday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky strongly cautioned against the rollbacks that Abbott and Reeves were about to announce.

"I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19," Walensky said during a White House briefing, NBC News reported.

"Please hear me clearly," Walensky said. "At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

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