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In an interview with the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, Governor Abbott said that he had planned to ease coronavirus related restriction in late February when the vaccine shipments were scheduled to arrive. They were however delayed due to weather and a power crisis in the state.
The mask mandate, which has been in place since July, and occupancy limits on restaurants and retail stores end next week on 10 March.
During the interview, Mr Abbott said that the decision was made in consultation with doctors and health experts but could name only one physician who endorsed his decision. “I can tell you that Dr John Zerwas did.” Dr Zerwas is a University of Texas administrator and a special advisor to Governor Abbott.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Abbott said that “too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities,” as he announced the decision to lift the pandemic related restrictions. “Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100 per cent.”
The decision comes, even as the virus has killed more than 43,000 people in Texas, behind only California and New York. President Joe Biden also reacted to the governor’s decision of state winding down virus restrictions for nearly 30 million people, calling it “Neanderthal thinking.”
One of Mr Abbott’s advisers also disagreed with the governor’s decision. “I don’t think this is the right time,” said Dr Mark McClellan, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, who also told The Associated Press in an email that he was not consulted before the repeals were announced. “Texas has been making some real progress but it’s too soon for full reopening and to stop masking around others.”