Texas Covid: Why is Texas relaxing Covid mask rules? When?

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Texas will become one of the first states in the US to relax its Covid mask mandate in a split from scientific advice. Governor Greg Abbott made the decision today (March 3), with officials from Mississippi opting to do the same. He has lifted his state’s mask mandate and allowed all businesses to open to full capacity.

Why is Texas relaxing its Covid rules?

Texas’s decision was mirrored in Mississippi, as the state’s governor Tate Reeves announced he would do the same.

Their respective moves diverge significantly from the scientific consensus and could prove dangerous amid steadily increasing case rates.

Speaking at the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, Mr Abbott said his decision came thanks to reassurance in his state’s ability to handle the pandemic.

He said: “With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus.

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent.

“Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalisations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed.”

Mr Abbott said his order would give Texas families “the freedom to determine their own destiny.”

Mr Reeves’ reasoning was much the same and came from faith in Mississippi’s case rate and vaccine programme.

He said in a tweet: “Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.

“Our hospitalisations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed.”

While many locals will have welcomed the decisions, lawmakers and scientists have expressed grave concerns.

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Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, one of the worst-hit states in the US, branded Texas’s decision “absolutely reckless”.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner added not enough people have yet received the vaccine.

He wrote on Twitter: “Texas keeps making national news for the wrong reasons: an electric grid that failed systemwide throughout the state and rolling back the mask order when 88 percent of Texans are not vaccinated.”

He added: “We are better than this. Leadership matters.”

Dr Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, said the US is still struggling to beat the epidemic.

She added while cases have declined, they aren’t low, as they followed a significant peak.

Dr Walensky said: “Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions.

“Although we have been experiencing large declines in cases and hospital admissions over the past six weeks, these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic.”

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