How indicated Last week there were restrictions on indoor capacity for restaurants, bars and businesses in Texas, as well as statewide mask mandates have been repealed by Governor Greg Abbott, starting Wednesday March 10th. The governor made the announcement during an afternoon press conference in Lubbock at the Montelongo Mexican restaurant on Tuesday, March 2nd.
„Now is the time to open Texas 100 percent,” said Abbott. This means any Texan business – including restaurants and bars – will be able to operate with fully equipped interiors next Wednesday. Because the order canceled However, there are no social distancing or masking requirements on previous orders the order does „Strong” encourage people to wear face covering.
Abbott found that companies can continue to implement the rules they choose, be it capacity limits and / or face mask requirements for guests and employees. However, district judges are not allowed to detain anyone who does not follow COVID-19 measures or impose penalties on those who do not wear face masks.
Despite the change in rules, an executive order remains in place to limit indoor capacity to 50 percent of normal levels in regions where more than 15 percent of hospital stays were COVID-related for seven days. (This happened in Travis County for most of January).
Prior to this announcement, Texas restaurants were allowed to reach 75 percent of normal indoor and outdoor capacity while following social distancing measures. Masks were required for guests except when they were sitting at a table and eating and drinking.
Just before the conference, Austin Mayor Steve Adler pushed the governor to keep the mask mandate active. „We believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose the widespread adoption of this preventive measure,” he writes in the letter, adding that the mandate has „allowed many small businesses to stay open” .
It is unclear what this new state order means for the Austin and Travis County’s local masking requirements that existed before Governor Abbott issued reluctantly The nationwide mask mandate was issued on July 2, 2020, when the number of cases last rose sharply Summer-. Austin and Travis Counties current mask orders Now through Wednesday April 21st.
Austin is also currently in his Level four of its risk-based guidelines, Which asks all companies – including restaurants – to work with 25 to 50 percent indoor space. Local orders cannot replace state orders, as evidenced by the Travis County, Texas block trying to put a curfew on restaurants and bars on New Year’s weekend earlier this year.
Just 6.5 percent the Texan population was vaccinated through a process by the end of February, the was confusing and frustrating for citizens. The status is set to receive an increased amount of doses in the future and there is a possibility that the vaccinations with the testing of a third vaccine, a Johnson & Johnson single dose option.
Currently in Texas there are only healthcare workers, those in long-term care facilities, those 65 years of age and older, and those 16 years of age and older with certain high-risk conditions are eligible for the vaccine. Unlike some other states and counties in the country, restaurant workers were not yet allowed to receive the vaccine.
At the same time, there are several new COVID-19 strains that have emerged in the country – including Houston – these are more contagious. It is still unclear whether the vaccines will be effective against these new strains as insufficient data are currently available. People who have been vaccinated are still asked to follow social distancing rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Travis County Positivity rate is 9.5 percent since the last week of February. Daily cases in the region since the end of February floated in the 200-300 range, which have declined sharply since the January fall spikes.
If the numbers of hospitalizations related to COVID in Austin and Travis Counties continue to decline, Austin Public Health could de-escalate into phase three this week. According to Dr. Mark Escott, the interim medical director and the Austin and Travis Counties Department of Health, the spoke to KUT.
Governor Abbott’s new order also comes shortly after Texas suffered a debilitating winter storm crisis that resulted in the State power grid failed and Millions were without electricity at freezing temperatures due to forced power outages and many died. And still there many art complexes with no working water yet.
Last spring and summer, Governor Abbott made it difficult for local cities and counties to issue their own mask mandates. In the end, local communities made their own requirements before ordering nationwide.
Update, 2:25 p.m .: This article, which was originally published at 2:03 p.m., has been updated and now contains details from the Executive Order.