Governor Abbott announces 100% business capacity, end of mask mandate beginning March 10

Tori Duff and Samantha Greyson

Sheryl Lawrence and Skye Seipp contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated as information has been made available.

Update Thursday at 4:30 p.m.:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Mark Escott, the interim medical director and healthy authority for Austin Public Health, for not lifting the city’s mask order. 

“I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law,” Paxton said in a tweet. “They blew me off. So, once again, I’m dragging them to court.”

Paxton threatened to sue Austin officials on Wednesday if the citywide mask mandate was not lifted by 6 p.m. that day. Adler released a statement at 4:37 p.m. Wednesday saying the city would not lift the mandate.

“We will fight Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton’s assault against doctors and data for as long as we possibly can,” Adler said in a statement.

Original story: 

On Wednesday, all businesses in Texas will open 100% and the mask mandate will be lifted, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press conference last Tuesday.

“Personal vigilance to follow the same standards is still needed to contain COVID,” Abbott said. “It's just that now state mandates are no longer needed to stay safe.” 

Austin City Council announced Tuesday morning that the mask mandate will continue to be in effect until further notice for the City of Austin, according to KXAN.

“If state officials don’t want to do their jobs in this pandemic, then we’ll do it ourselves,” Greg Casar, Austin City Council member for District 4, said on Twitter. “In Austin, we’re committed to saving lives. Period.”

Austin health leaders said the City of Austin will remain in Stage 4 of COVID-19 guidelines, according to KVUE. At Stage 4, recommended business capacity is 25% to 50%, and people should avoid gatherings of greater than 10 people.

In an executive order issued last Tuesday, Abbott said because of declining COVID-19 cases, increased medical technology and vaccine rollouts, Texas should no longer have government-mandated COVID-19 regulations. In the press conference, Abbott said over five million vaccine doses have been administered in Texas.

“The vaccine supply is increasing so rapidly, Texas will soon expand the categories of people who are able to get them,” Abbott said. “Some medical professionals say that within a few months every Texan who wants a vaccine shot will be able to get a vaccine shot."

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  • UT President Jay Hartzell said COVID-19 protocols and mask mandates on campus will be maintained for the rest of the semester in an announcement Friday.
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  • “We have been safely delivering on our teaching and research missions so far this year, and our protocols have been working,” Hartzell said. “As a result, those policies — including requiring masks in our buildings, classrooms and labs — will remain in place.”  
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  • In a Wednesday press release, the University said it was reviewing campus COVID-19 protocols to adhere to Abbott’s order that begin March 10.
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  • Institutions of higher education are being asked to establish “minimum standard health protocols” that are similar to those set by the Texas Education Agency for public schools, according to the executive order. 

Abbott said the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas is the lowest it has been since November, and cases are down by half compared to January. However, Abbott urges Texans to continue to take preventative COVID-19 measures if they see fit, to ensure personal safety.

Individual counties can implement COVID-19 mandates under worsening conditions, Abbott said.

“If COVID hospitalizations, in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas, rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, then a county judge in that region may use COVID mitigation strategies in their county,” Abbott said.

Abbott said no one can be arrested for violation of COVID-19 orders and no penalties will be given to people who violate county-implemented orders.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler released a statement last Tuesday urging Abbott to keep the mask mandate in place.

“Supported by our public health officials, we believe it would be premature and harmful to do anything to lose widespread adoption of this preventative measure,” the statement said. “Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that the widespread adoption of facemasks slows down the spread of the virus.” 

While state mandated restrictions are no longer necessary, Abbott said Texans should take measures to ensure personal safety and the safety of others. 

“Today's announcement does not abandon the safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year,” Abbott said. “It's a reminder that individual safety is managed, every day as a matter of personal responsibility, rather than by government mandate. Individual responsibility is a corollary to individual freedom.