By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Tuesday he plans to lift a statewide mask mandate and allow businesses and facilities to operate at 100% capacity, citing a decline in hospitalizations as more people are being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
"Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%." Abbott said in an address to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
He said he would sign an executive order to allow businesses in the state to open 100% on March 10 and that the mask mandate will end on the same day.
The governor noted, however, that the state will 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," he said.
Nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered to Texans, and the state is now administering nearly one million shots each week, according to a statement by the governor's office.
Abbott also said if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a county judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
As of Tuesday evening, more than 2.6 million people in the state had been infected and nearly 44,000 had died of the disease, while over 2.4 million have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.