Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday lifting all COVID-19 restrictions in the state, including mask mandates and occupancy limits. The order rescinds previous executive orders and supersedes any inconsistent local orders. Businesses may still require face coverings and additional hygiene measures for employees and customers.
The announcement comes as new variants of the virus are spreading through Texas. Houston is the first major city to record all five new variants. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the new variants could reverse recent declines in cases. On the day the executive order was issued, Texas had 7,240 new COVID-19 cases and at least 275 deaths. Around 13 percent of Texans have been vaccinated against the virus, which is below the national average of 15 percent.
The CDC recommends face coverings to help reduce the spread of the virus. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in late January requiring face coverings for domestic and international travel. In his executive order, Abbott strongly encouraged face coverings.
Abbott’s executive order comes just weeks after Texas requested an emergency declaration in response to winter storms that left millions without power. And, shortly after a federal judge in the state declared the CDC’s eviction moratorium unconstitutional.