Texas lifts its coronavirus mask mandate as vaccine eligibility may expand soon

Texas to fully reopen businesses, end mask mandate

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick R-Tx., joins ‘Fox Report’ to discuss his state’s decision to end coronavirus restrictions.

Texas’s coronavirus mask mandate is no more. 

For the first time since July of last year, residents in the state with the second-highest number of coronavirus infections are no longer being told by their government to wear face-coverings to protect against its spread.  

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent,” Gov. Greg Abbott said last week while announcing the controversial decision to roll back his state’s mask mandate and capacity limits for businesses. “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.” 

Visitors wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic as they travel along the River Walk on March 3 in San Antonio. (AP)

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As of Wednesday, around 2.3 million of Texas’ nearly 29 million residents have contracted the coronavirus, with 44,650 of those cases proving fatal, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. 

Under Abbott’s updated guidance, businesses are now able to limit their capacity or implement additional safety protocols if they choose to do so. 

The executive order also allows county judges to implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies if hospitalizations rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in any region for seven consecutive days. 

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However, no one is allowed to be jailed for not following county orders, Abbott said, nor can penalties be imposed for failure to wear a face mask. 

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The changes come as coronavirus-related hospitalizations and new cases in Texas are at their lowest levels since September, Fox4 Dallas reported. 

The station also said an announcement from the Texas Department of State Health Services on expanding vaccine eligibility could happen by the end of this week, with restaurant, grocery and transportation workers possibly among those next in line to receive the shots. 

Pedestrians wear masks to protect against the spread on COVID-19 while walking through downtown Austin, Texas, on Tuesday. (AP)

As of Tuesday, more than 4.5 million Texans have gotten at least one COVID vaccine shot, according to Fox4 Dallas.  

Texas health care professionals are warning the public, though, to remain vigilant. 

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“We are down the home stretch. I don’t think any of us want to be the last to get COVID-19,” Dr. Mark Casanova of Dallas County Medical Society told Fox4 Dallas, noting that not wearing masks can hurt progress made against the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Do those simple things,” he added. “Things we have gotten so used to.” 

Fox News’ Brittany De Lea contributed to this report. 

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