Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that he plans to end the state’s mask tenure and allow all businesses to fully reopen, even though the state is behind on vaccinations amid of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Now is the time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said at a press conference at a restaurant in Lubbock. “Any business that wants to be open must be.”
Texas on Monday reported 7,778 new cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 212 deaths; a sharp drop from the peak of the virus in early January, when the seven-day average of cases regularly exceeded 20,000, according to The New York Times.
However, the state’s high rate of positive tests – an upward trend – could indicate that not enough people are being tested, according to Johns Hopkins University. Of the 50 states, only Georgia and Utah rank behind Texas in terms of the percentage of residents who have received at least one coronavirus vaccine, according to Times The data.
“I am really concerned about reports that more and more states are reversing the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the White House briefing on Monday. “Now is not the time to relax critical safeguards which we know could stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Nonetheless, businesses would be allowed to reopen from next Wednesday, Abbott said, adding that he would expand the state’s vaccine eligibility categories. Currently, the state allows people over the age of 65, healthcare workers and adults with underlying illnesses to be vaccinated.
Abbott did not provide details on what such an expansion would look like during its press conference on Tuesday.
He said he expected the state to receive an influx of shipments of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, adding to the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, which was first used in the State Tuesday, Abbott said.
“To be clear: COVID did not suddenly disappear. COVID still exists, ”Abbott said, as the mic touched lightly. “But it is clear … that state mandates are no longer necessary.”
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