LUBBOCK, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued Executive Order GA-34 lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing the capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100%.
Gov. Abbott made the announcement at Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock in an address to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
"With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” said Governor Abbott. "We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. Today's announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny."
This executive order rescinds most of the governor's earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. Effective Wednesday, March 10, all businesses of any type may open to 100% capacity. Additionally, this order ends the statewide mask mandate in Texas. Businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion.
If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a county judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, county judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a county level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity.
The mask mandate was issued in July 2020 by Executive Order and required all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.
The initial mandate stated following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation. However, many local law enforcement agencies refused to enforce the order.
According to the Texas Tribune, as of Tuesday, Feb. 28, only 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated..