Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman and possible candidate for governor, called the decision a “death warrant” and suggested that Abbott is guilty of murder for allowing people to make their own decisions about coronavirus precautions.
“Add them to the 44,000+ killed as he failed to confront the pandemic & botched the vaccine rollout,” O’Rourke tweeted. “And those who froze to death because he cares more about energy companies’ profits than keeping Texans alive. Abbott is killing the people of Texas.”
In a similar vein, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20) said on social media shortly after the decision that it will “cost Texans their lives.”
“This decision is reckless and dangerous — and a desperate distraction from the Governor’s dereliction of duty during the power outages,” Castro tweeted. “He’s putting politics above the people of Texas.”
State Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) accused the governor of specifically targeting black individuals.
“Black people are being disproportionately killed by COVID, there’s a lack of vaccine in communities of color[,] and now the Governor has lifted the mask mandate,” Miles tweeted. “He has signed the death warrants of communities of color. Today he made it clear Black (sic) lives don’t matter.”
Meanwhile, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), backed Abbott’s decision in a press release almost immediately after the governor made the announcement, citing the effectiveness of vaccinations and dropping hospitalizations.
“Today’s action marks an important step in the reopening of Texas, improving the mental health of our students, increasing the reporting of domestic violence and child abuse, and revitalizing our business climate,” Phelan said.
“I also appreciate that there are safeguards in place to prevent spread from increasing as the state reopens. The past year has been difficult for all Texas families, and there is now hope that we will defeat and eradicate COVID-19.”
Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) was disappointed that the governor left room for local mask mandates.
“A statewide mask-mandate violates the separation of powers enshrined in the Texas Constitution. A local mask-mandate is equally offensive to our legal framework,” Schaefer said in a social media post.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called the decision “one step closer to a return to normalcy.”
“The Texas economy is coming back stronger than ever and Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement today will help us restore the livelihoods of millions of Texas even faster,” Patrick said in a press release. “Texas has proved what I have said throughout this long year of the pandemic — we can do two things at once — maintain our economy and fight COVID-19.”
In a media appearance, Democratic Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins — who has battled Abbott since the pandemic began — called the decision “unfortunate.”
“I think most Texans are spurred not by what the governor demands of them, but just what a good neighbor does for one another, which is to protect each other in this time of a pandemic,” Jenkins said.
Texans who want to wear a mask and avoid crowded areas are still free to do so. Businesses are also free to have their own rules for their customers and employees.
The governor’s order does not prohibit anyone from following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.