Texas became the largest state to repeal the mandatory mask requirement, joining a growing movement of governors and other leaders across the country calling for an easing of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, despite calls from public health officials “not to let down their guard.”
Republican Governor Greg Abbott also announced the lifting of restrictions on the number of customers in restaurants that can be served indoors.
On Tuesday, the governors of Michigan, Mississippi, and Louisiana, as well as the mayor of San Francisco, announced an easing of restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses.
“Removing the state-wide requirement (to wear a mask) does not eliminate personal responsibility,” the Texas governor stressed, speaking to patrons of a crowded restaurant, many of whom stood next to Abbott without masks,” It’s just that there is no longer a need for state-level requirements.”
In the year since the outbreak of the pandemic crisis, politicians and ordinary Americans have grown tired of all sorts of restrictions. Although the virus has already claimed the lives of more than half a million US residents, in some cities and states, authorities are canceling infection control measures. In other places, people ignore the restrictions.
Public health officials, including Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have repeatedly urged Americans in recent days not to risk another wave of infections at a time when the country is actively vaccinating and victory over the virus may be just around the corner.
Meanwhile, employees at Texas auto plants General Motors and Toyota Motor will be required to wear masks at work, despite the repeal of state-level mask-wearing requirements. The removal of most of the restrictions allowed the enterprises to resume work at full capacity, starting next week.
A representative of the Japanese company Toyota in the United States said that the company is studying the governor’s order to cancel the requirement to wear masks and has no plans to change the internal rules.
GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey said the company will adhere to its own safety protocols to “further protect workers.”
Over the past two months, the number of infections in the United States has decreased by more than 70%, and the number of daily deaths since mid-January has fallen by about 40%. However, both of these curves have sharply leveled off over the past few days and even increased slightly. The numbers are still alarmingly high: every day in the United States, an average of 2 thousand people die from the coronavirus, and 68 thousand people are infected. Health officials are most concerned about the mutations of the virus. “We may completely lose the hard – won results,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday.
However, the authorities of various States continue to weaken the restrictions previously imposed.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Tuesday announced that restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms could reopen in the city. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said that, starting Wednesday, March 3, he will eliminate most of the requirements for wearing masks and remove most other restrictions, including the limit on the number of visitors in restaurants.