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This evolving story will be updated soon.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will end Texas’ mandate for a mask next week and will soon allow all businesses to open at full capacity.
“Now is the time to open Texas 100%,” said Abbott of a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock, arguing that Texas has battled the coronavirus pandemic to such an extent that “people and businesses don̵
Abbott said he was revoking “most of the earlier enforcement orders” he had issued in the past year to stop the virus from spreading. He said that from next Wednesday “all companies of all kinds have the right to open 100%” and the masks will no longer be required in public.
The news comes as the spread of the virus remains significant across the country. Texas has averaged more than 200 reported deaths a day in the past week.
Still, the move is not entirely surprising. Abbott said Thursday that his office is considering when it can revoke all coronavirus orders nationwide and that there will be reports “soon enough.” Texas will be the most populous state in the country without a mandate. Currently, more than 30 countries have one.
The current trajectory of the virus has been difficult to measure in recent days due to last month’s winter storm, which forced many large counties to close their testing centers and not report cases. Daily confirmed cases and deaths are clearly declining compared to the peak in January for the whole country. However, the data on hospitalization are less disturbed and show a steady decline since the end of January.
But only 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated since Sunday, although Abbott is optimistic that the rate will increase as more vaccines are provided to Texas.
Experts say Texas is far from achieving herd immunity. Achieving the level of 70% to 80%, which many believe is necessary, would mean vaccinating about 22 million people, or nearly 100% of the state’s adults, according to the census. Vaccines are currently not approved for children under the age of 16, who make up about 23% of the population.
Scientists still do not know for sure whether or how well vaccines prevent the spread of the virus, although some preliminary studies suggest that some vaccines may do so to some extent.
Centers for Disease Control recommends that people who have received two doses of the vaccine continue to avoid crowds, stay at least 6 feet away from people who live outside their households, and wear masks to cover their noses and mouths.
Dr. Anthony Foci, the country’s best infectious disease doctor, has repeatedly said he does not know when Americans will be able to return to normal, but they may still need to continue wearing face masks until 2022. .
Chris Esig contributed to the reporting.