After almost a full year of COVID-19 restrictions, Governor Greg Abbott today issued Executive Order (GA-34) lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent starting next Wednesday, March 10, 2021. The Governor made the announcement in Lubbock on Tuesday, March 2.
“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 percent. 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.”
During his remarks, Abbott discussed advancements Texas has made, including the “rapid increase of vaccines.” Nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered to Texans, and the state is now administering almost one million shots each week. By March 10, an estimated 7 million COVID-19 vaccine shots are expected to have been administered in Texas and over half of seniors in Texas will have received a vaccine shot. Abbott said that by the end of March, every senior who wants a vaccine should be able to get one. The vaccine supply is increasing so that more and more Texans will soon be eligible to receive a vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccines haven’t been as available in Hopkins County as they have in some larger more urban areas with designated vaccine hubs and super hubs. In fact, Hopkins County vaccine providers have been allocated first-doses of COVID-19 vaccines in only two of the last six weeks, and none this week. Residents have reported difficulty scheduling an appointment with Hopkins County providers when first-doses of the vaccine have been allocated. As of March 1, 12 weeks into COVID-19 vaccine allocations, Hopkins County has only been allocated 4,100, but 4,742 people in Hopkins County had been vaccinated, according to the COVID-19 Vaccine Data dashboard, a likely indication 642 residents have had to go elsewhere to receive the vaccine. Of the vaccines administered only 1,732 have received both doses of the vaccine, leaving 3,010 waiting on a second dose.
Abbott also Tuesday noted that Texas has a surplus of personal protective equipment and can perform over 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day. The state has invested in a variety of anti-body therapeutic drugs that have kept thousands of Texans out of hospitals. Texans have also adopted daily habits that reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection. More than 2.5 million Texans who were lab confirmed for COVID-19 have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic , and experts note the total number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19 is likely 4-5 times that amount. The number of active COVID-19 cases is the lowest since November—meaning more Texans are recovering from COVID-19 than contracting it, Governor Abbott reported.
Hopkins County has had 1,514 confirmed COVID-19 cases since March 21, 2020, and 1,408 additional probable cases and 101 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, leaving 160 active cases of of March 1, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services Case Counts dashboard.
Executive Order GA-34 rescinds most of the Governor’s earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. Effective next Wednesday, all businesses of any type may open to 100 percent capacity. Additionally, GA-34 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 percent 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 percent for any type of entity.