Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he's lifting the mask mandate in Texas, even as health officials warn not to ease safety restrictions.
Abbott made the announcement during a Lubbock Chamber of Commerce event where he issued an executive order rescinding most of his earlier executive orders like the mask mandate.
Also announced Tuesday, Abbott said businesses of any type will be allowed to open 100% beginning March 10.
Abbott's announcement comes as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to drop across the country. However, health experts say relaxing restrictions now could lead to another surge, especially with the variants spreading.
In the last year, Texans have "mastered the daily habits to avoid getting Covid," Abbott said.
"Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility and caring for your family members, friends and others in your community," Abbott said. "People and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate."
Abbott said he knows some officials will worry that opening the state 100% will lead to worsening of Covid in their communities. He says his executive order addresses that concern.
"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.
On a county level, though, a judge cannot put anyone in jail for not following Covid orders and no penalties can be imposed for people who do not wear masks, Abbott said.
"If restrictions are imposed at the county level, all entities must be allowed to operate at at least 50% capacity," he said.
Texas joins 12 other states that do not have mask requirements.