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There is a week before Gov. Greg Abbott’s order ending the mask mandate and capacity limits at businesses goes into effect.
Why did Abbott pick March 10 as the date to roll back his previous COVID-19 orders? Spokesperson Renae Eze pointed to Abbott’s remarks to radio talk show host Chad Hasty when asked whether there’s any significance to the date. She also noted that the days between announcing the order and its implementation gives business and other entities time to prepare.
Abbott told Hasty he intended to announce the lifting of the state’s mask mandate and business capacity limits on the last Monday in February.
“But we had to hold up,” Abbott said. “Because of the freeze, the delivery of vaccines was delayed and all of our decision making process is hinged to the distribution of those vaccines.”
In the interview, he linked vaccines being administered to a reduction in hospitalizations and said “the vaccination process is back up and running.”
The time between Abbott’s coronavirus directives being signed and their start has varied, but a lag isn’t uncommon.
When Abbott ordered Texans on March 31, 2020, to stay home through April, the order didn’t go into effect until April 2. Abbott said on April 17 he was relaxing the order to allow for pick-up retail services — the new rules started April 21.
Abbott began a phased approach to reopening the state in the spring of 2020. Openings were announced on April 27 and effective May 1. A second phase was announced May 18 — a Monday. Some business operations were able to operate immediately, while others had to wait until that Friday to reopen or increase capacity.
Abbott’s Oct. 7 order related to business openings — the most recent before Tuesday’s order ending the mask and capacity requirements — started a week later on Oct. 14.
Other orders have had a shorter turn around time. When Abbott ordered bars and restaurants to close again on June 26, the order was effective within hours of the announcement. Abbott announced his statewide mask mandate on July 2, and the directive started July 3.
What does the order say?
Here’s the portion of Abbott’s Tuesday order setting the timeline for lifting the mask mandate and allowing businesses to operate at 100% capacity:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, and in accordance with guidance from medical advisors, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 10, 2021:
1. In all counties not in an area with high hospitalizations as defined below:
a. there are no COVID-19-related operating limits for any business or other establishment; and
b. individuals are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household, but no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering.