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Texas becomes biggest US state to lift COVID-19 mask mandate

Texas is lifting its mask mandate, Governor Greg Abbott mentioned on Tuesday, making it the biggest state to finish an order supposed to stop the unfold of the coronavirus that has killed greater than 42,000 Texans.

The Republican governor has confronted sharp criticism from his occasion over the mandate, which was imposed eight months in the past, and different COVID-19 restrictions. It was solely ever calmly enforced, even throughout the worst outbreaks of the pandemic.

Texas can even get rid of limits on the variety of diners that companies can serve indoors, mentioned Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. He mentioned the brand new guidelines would take impact March 10.

“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” mentioned Mr. Abbott, talking from a crowded eating room the place lots of these surrounding him weren’t carrying masks.

“It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed,” he mentioned.

The resolution comes as governors throughout the US have been easing coronavirus restrictions, regardless of warnings from well being specialists that the pandemic is much from over.

Like the remainder of the nation, Texas has seen the variety of instances and deaths plunge. Hospitalizations are on the lowest ranges since October, and the seven-day rolling common of constructive checks has dropped to about 7,600 instances, down from greater than 10,000 in mid-February.

Only California and New York have reported extra COVID-19 deaths than Texas.

“The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk,” mentioned Dr Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

She mentioned the latest lethal winter freeze in Texas that left thousands and thousands of individuals with out energy — forcing households to shelter intently with others who nonetheless had warmth — might amplify transmission of the virus within the weeks forward, though it stays too early to inform. Masks, she mentioned, are some of the efficient methods to curb the unfold.

Mr. Abbott imposed the statewide mask mandate in July throughout a lethal summer time surge. But enforcement was spotty at finest, and a few sheriffs refused to police the restrictions in any respect. And because the pandemic dragged on, Mr. Abbott dominated out a return to powerful COVID-19 guidelines, arguing that lockdowns don’t work.

Politically, the restrictions elevated tensions between Abbott and his personal occasion, with the top of the Texas GOP at one level main a protest outdoors the governor’s mansion. Meanwhile, mayors in Texas’ biggest cities argued that Mr. Abbott wasn’t doing sufficient.

Most of the nation has lived underneath mask mandates throughout the pandemic, with not less than 37 states requiring face coverings to a point. But these orders are more and more chucking up the sponge: North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have additionally lifted mask orders in latest weeks.

Ahead of the repeal in Texas, Democratic lawmakers urged Mr. Abbott to rethink.

“Texas will experience more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths,” state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, a Democrat from the border metropolis of Laredo, informed Mr. Abbott in a letter Monday.

Laredo, whose inhabitants is predominately Latino, has endured a few of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic, operating out of beds in hospital intensive care items as not too long ago as January. The worldwide commerce hub has been amongst Texas’ most aggressive cities in attempting to blunt the unfold of the virus, taking measures which have included curfews.

“Elected by the people, your most fundamental obligation is their health and safety. Please do not abrogate your duty,” Mr. Raymond mentioned.

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