Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon, East Texans can choose if they want to wear a face mask beginning on March 10 once the statewide mandate is lifted.

Abbott said during a news conference in Lubbock that businesses can reopen fully and the mask mandate will come to an end on March 10.

“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” he said. “Every business that wants to be open should be open.”

Through Abbott’s Executive Order 34, most of his previous orders related to COVID-19 have been rescinded and all businesses may open back to 100%.

He said business owners can limit their capacity or implement additional safety measures at their own discretion.

After hearing of the changes, Tyler Mayor Don Warren said Tuesday he was surprised that the lifting of the order happened so rapidly. He plans to read over the order and evaluate its details.

While he’s “100% behind businesses being open,” Warren said it’s important to continue to be smart and safe.

“I want businesses to be open, but I want us to be careful at the same time. When a business requires a mask, that’s their business,” he said. “I hope that people realize that even though the mask order is lifted, business owners still have the prerogative to say that a mask has to be worn.”

He added that “personally that means I’m going to continue wearing my mask.”

In a letter to staff and families, Tyler ISD Superintendent Marty Crawford said the school district is expecting further interpretation from the Texas Education Agency regarding Abbott’s order.

Abbott’s order tells schools to “operate as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols found in, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency.”

The TEA posted on Twitter Tuesday that public health guidance from the agency will be coming this week.

Crawford said Tyler ISD’s health and safety protocols have proven to be effective in keeping students healthy and safe to learn.

“We have successfully kept our doors open all year, giving our best efforts to accomplish our educational mission for successful student outcomes with an emphasis on attendance and safety for students, teachers, and staff,” he said.

Crawford said district officials will be reviewing what works for Tyler ISD and what is in the best interest of staff and students to “complete this unique school year successfully.”

Within GA 34, it states that if any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas reached above 15% hospital bed capacity in that region for seven consecutive days, a county judge within that region can use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

But the county judges cannot impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders or impose penalties for not wearing a face mask. County-level restrictions can’t include reducing business capacity to lower than 50% for any type of entity, the executive order states.

Abbott noted the medical advancements of vaccines and drugs for COVID-19 as tools that have helped Texas combat the virus spread.

He encouraged people to exercise personal responsibility regarding virus safety precautions.

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” Abbott said. “Today’s announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.”

Abbott said Tuesday that nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered to Texans, and the state is administering almost one million shots each week. By March 10, he said about 7 million shots will be administered in Texas and over half of senior citizens in Texas will have received a vaccine shot.

He estimated by the end of March, every senior citizen who wants the vaccine should be able to receive one.

Abbott added that the state has a surplus of personal protective equipment and can perform over 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day.

He said over 2.5 million Texans who were confirmed to have COVID-19 have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic, and experts believe that total number of recoveries is likely four to five times more than that amount.

 
 

Multimedia Journalist

I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.