Abbott announced his decision at a press conference in Lubbock last week.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for your family members,” Abbott clarified. “Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain [COVID-19]. It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
Texans are no longer required to wear masks unless a business or other entity requires them. Businesses are still allowed to remove individuals from their property who decline to wear masks.
The governor’s order leaves room for local counties to impose their own restrictions if hospitalizations exceed 15 percent in the trauma service area that encompasses the county. Currently, no trauma service areas have coronavirus hospitalizations that exceed that threshold.
Even then, local jurisdictions cannot impose penalties such as fines or imprisonment, and restrictions on business capacity could not exceed 50 percent. Restrictions on churches, schools, and childcare centers are now banned altogether.
The executive order does not prohibit anyone from wearing a mask or prevent businesses from requiring them; however, local jurisdictions are not allowed to dictate that businesses require their customers or clients to wear face coverings.
A legal face-off is brewing between the State of Texas and the City of Austin, which has refused to recognize Abbott’s order and has said it will continue to legally mandate masks.
Public universities in Texas have also chosen to continue requiring face coverings.
Though Texas now has among the least restrictive pandemic rules, it was not the first state to lift the mask requirement. In fact, some states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee — never had a statewide mask mandate.
Some current and former elected officials in Texas were irate over Abbott’s order, likening it to a “death warrant.”