On Tuesday afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that it was time to ‘reopen Texas’ to 100% starting next Wednesday.
In a new executive order issued on Tuesday, Abbott announced lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent.
Reaction to Abbott’s announcement has been mixed.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner took to Twitter to say that he and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo urged Governor Abbott to keep the requirement in place.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo reacted to the announcement as well.
"Taking away critical public health interventions that we know are working won’t make our community safer, nor will it hasten our return to normalcy. Quite the opposite, every time public health measures have been pulled back, we’ve seen a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever when it comes to our hospital population, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we’re inching closer to the finish line of this pandemic - now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve. At best, today’s decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid."
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa conveyed Hidalgo’s statement.
"What Abbott is doing is extraordinarily dangerous. He is the worst Governor in modern Texas history. This will kill Texans. Our country’s infectious disease specialists have warned that we should not put our guard down even as we make progress towards vaccinations. Abbott doesn’t care.
"On this Texas Independence Day, once again Abbott’s actions are made independent of logic or reason. From leaving Texans to literally freeze to death, to letting a deadly virus have an open season on our residents, Governor Abbott has proven many times over that he neither understands the struggles of everyday Texans, nor does he care about doing his basic duty to protect them.
"What Abbott calls pro-business is anti-people. Make no mistake: opening Texas prematurely will only lead to faster COVID spread, more sickness and overcrowding in our hospitals, and unnecessary deaths. There is no economic recovery without beating the coronavirus pandemic. This will set us back, not move us forward.
"Abbott removing a statewide mandate while preaching personal responsibility to prevent the spread of COVID is an abdication of his own personal and professional responsibility to keep Texans safe.
"By removing all previous state mandates and opening the state to 100 percent, Governor Abbott, who has never taken this pandemic seriously, is doing what he does best: leaving Texans to fend for themselves."
The Texas State Teachers Association says, "Don’t let your guard down, governor." Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina released the following statement on Gov. Abbott’s remarks:
"Like Gov. Abbott, we believe we are making progress against the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are not there yet. Far from it. The COVID numbers have been coming down, but there were still 1,637 new confirmed cases of COVID in Texas yesterday and 59 deaths. More than 5,600 COVID patients were in Texas hospitals, and much is still unknown about the more-infectious variants of the deadly virus that have started striking our state.
Gov. Abbott needs to quit obeying his political impulses and listen to the health experts, who are warning that it is too soon to let our guard down without risking potentially disastrous consequences. The experts caution us to continue the safety practices that have worked against this disease, including widespread mask use and social distancing.
The Texas State Teachers Association urges the governor to keep his mask mandate in place, especially in our public schools, and see that it is enforced. We also repeat our call for the governor to give teachers and other school employees priority for the COVID vaccine.
A third COVID vaccine has won government approval, but so far fewer than seven in 100 Texans have been fully vaccinated against the disease, and very few of them are educators.
Texans want to see all their public schools reopened, but they want to see them reopened safely. That includes continued safety practices, including mask use, and vaccines for educators.
An overwhelming majority of Texas voters (81 percent), believe teachers should be given priority for vaccines, according to a bipartisan poll commissioned by TSTA and released this week. That strong level of support represents all demographic and partisan groups.
More vaccines are on the way, and voters believe Gov. Abbott must reserve some for educators."
Dr. Laura G. Murillo, President and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said in a statement:
"Yesterday’s announcement by Governor Abbott threatens to derail the progress made by our region in the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite improvement in almost every metric since the surge following the holidays, our region continues to see nearly 1,000 cases per day, a positivity rate near 12% and, unfortunately, many daily deaths. Put simply: it’s too soon to loosen restrictions, particularly as the majority of the population has yet to be vaccinated.
"While all of us at the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce want nothing more than to see all of the region’s businesses operating at full capacity, we fear that loosening restrictions now will lead to another untenable surge in cases, straining the region’s healthcare capacity and the progress of the ongoing economic recovery.Without the state’s guidance it now is incumbent on all Houstonians to take the battle against COVID-19 into their own hands. Get vaccinated when you’re able. Wear a mask. Continue to practice social distancing and get tested if you think you’ve been exposed.
"We’ve sacrificed too much this past year to give up the fight now. With vaccines becoming more readily available, we are closing in on a turning point in this pandemic. Remain vigilant and do the things you know will help reduce the spread of this deadly virus. If we continue to do these things, we can put this challenging chapter in our history behind us and get to the important work of rebuilding our businesses and our economy."
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick shared his approval of the announcement in a statement saying, "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. 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. Today, Texas is one step closer to a return to normalcy."
Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw also reacted to the news by saying, "Happy Independence Day Texas."
Representative Pete Sessions reacted positively to the announcement saying, "@GovAbbott announced that Texas is lifting the mask mandate, and all businesses/facilities can operate at 100% capacity. Great news for the economy and small businesses! Happy to see Texas taking the lead in getting back to a sense of normalcy."
Some Texas business leaders expressed their support of the governor's order.
"Throughout the pandemic, Governor Abbott has implemented measures that protect our communities, while ensuring Texans still have the ability to earn a paycheck and put food on their tables. Once again, the Governor is striking the right balance by removing the heavy hand of government and allowing businesses to operate as they see fit. One year into dealing with COVID-19, organizations understand what protocols they must implement to function safely, and TAB knows Texas companies will operate responsibly," said Glenn Hamer, CEO of the Texas Association of Business.
"Our members are relieved that the governor has decided that all businesses can operate at full capacity. It's important that individuals continue to take personal responsibility and follow CDC guidelines to keep healthy and prevent the deadly coronavirus from spreading, but today's announcement is a step in the right direction toward helping small businesses recover from the economic slump caused by the pandemic and to keep Texans working," said NFIB State Director Annie Spilman.
"Today’s announcement from the Governor is a welcome one for businesses and employees throughout Texas. Businesses know what it takes to operate safely and do not need the heavy hand of government dictating to them how to function. As other states in the country keep restrictions in place, Texas will spearhead the economic recovery under Governor Abbott’s leadership and with the aid of the Legislature," said Invest Texas Council Chairman Ron Simmons.
"The Texas Restaurant Association thanks Governor Abbott for outlining a plan today that will lift costly business restrictions for most of the state where we are seeing significant improvement in our COVID-19 case, hospitalization, and vaccination numbers. We also thank the healthcare workers, first responders, and everyone else whose tireless work has enabled us to reach this point. What was originally planned as a two-week closure to bend the curve has become nearly one year of unprecedented challenges, wreaking havoc on the restaurant industry and families across Texas. For the thousands of local restaurants on the brink of closure and the 167,000 Texans that remain unemployed in our industry alone, there’s finally a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel," said the Texas Restaurant Association.