TYLER, Texas — At midnight, March 10, Governor Gregg Abbott's Executive Order G-34 goes into effect, eliminating the statewide mask mandate and opening businesses at 100% capacity.
"What it means is that we no longer need government running your lives," Abbott said. "Instead, everybody must continue to assume their own individual responsibility to take the action that they've already mastered to make sure that they will not be contracting COVID-19."
Attractions in East Texas such as the Caldwell Zoo say while their guests have the option to wear or not wear a mask they may expect to see employees of the zoo wearing facial coverings.
"We will continue to encourage our guest to wear masks, we will keep our current mask policy in place for our staff at the zoo," Scott Maddox, assistant director of Caldwell Zoo, said.
Maddox says since the zoo is an outdoor attraction it's a big reason the mask mandate is optional.
"We’re just looking forward to folks coming to the zoo and having a good time," he said. "Whether it's feeding giraffes, seeing animals or taking advantage of great food in the café."
Local businesses in East Texas say whether or not they will require their customers to wear a facial covering will depend on the comfortability of its customer.
"At the end of the day we only want our guests to feel relaxed and comfortable in the salon," Haley Cox, owner of Prism Beauty Bar Hair Salon, said. "If us wearing a mask makes them comfortable or if them continuing to wear a mask makes them comfortable then that's all we want."
Beginning Wednesday, businesses may open back up at 100% capacity.
Cox says this means changing out their policies, allowing additional people into the salon, such as the customer and a guests, as well as providing services such as complimentary beverages.
"We're able to piggyback our clients now and that means as one client is processing we can take on another client at the same time," she said. "That really means more income for us. We can go back to making that stable paycheck pre-covid."
Cox says although they will be allowing additional people into the salon it doesn't compromise or change their sanitary procedures.
"Hairstylist we do extensive sanitary measures before and after our clients," she said. "We will absolutely be continuing our sanitation and our disinfecting between clients; all of our chairs, utensils, and shampoo bowls."
While some businesses prepare for full capacity the Caldwell Zoo will continue to limit its capacity and encourages guests to purchase tickets online where they may select time slots.
"If folks can decide ahead of time when they will want to come to the zoo and buy their tickets online, they are more likely to be able to get in at the exact time they want to," Maddox said.
Below are a few major retailers in East Texas that have provided guidance on face masks moving forward.
According to an Aldi spokesperson:
We are aware of the mask mandate lifts in Texas where we have store locations. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic we have been following CDC guidelines, and we do not plan to make any adjustments to our safety measures at this time. For the health and well-being of the communities we serve and for the protection of our employees, we will maintain our current nationwide policy requiring all employees and customers to wear a face covering when shopping in our stores. We will continue to assess any new guidelines issued by the CDC, and will keep our customers informed of any future changes.
Sprouts maintains a companywide policy for facial coverings across all stores. Please refer to details found under the FAQs.
“We serve millions of Americans every week and believe our policy of requiring associates and customers to wear masks in our stores has helped protect them during the pandemic, and we’re not lifting those measures at this time. We are constantly evaluating our COVID-related health and safety protocols, including state executive orders and other mandate changes. We will continue to do so, keeping CDC guidance and local COVID statistics in mind.”
For more information on the governor's executive order, click here.