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Nueces County to lift mask mandate, open businesses

Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was opening Texas businesses 100 percent and lifting the mask order at a news briefing in a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock on Tuesday, March 2, Texas Independence Day. Screen-captured image

Nueces County will drop its mask mandate and open businesses to full capacity, announced County Judge Barbara Canales following Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions statewide. The new order, which takes effect Wednesday, March 10, came with a warning from both Abbott and Canales.

“COVID-19 has not gone away,” said Canales, echoing Abbott’s words during his announcement at a gathering of business owners in Lubbock on Tuesday, March 2.

Abbott pointed to declining hospitalizations across the state as a marker that it is time to reopen Texas for business.

“Texas is in a far better position now than when I issued my last executive order back in October,” Abbott said.

In October 2020, he allowed bars to reopen under certain conditions. Abbott imposed the mask mandate in July 2020.

“All businesses of any type are allowed to open 100 percent,” he continued. “That includes any type of entity in Texas.”

Business may continue to require masks on their premises and restrict occupancy.

“It is their business, and they get to choose to operate their business the way they want to,” he said. “At this time, however, people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagreed, stating that it is too early to lift restrictions, especially with the increase of disease variants.

“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19.”

Fifteen other states have either lifted a mask mandate or never required one in the first place, including Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Arizona.

“Despite these changes, remember this: Removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for your family members, caring for your friends, and caring for others in your community. Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain COVID. It’s just that, now, state mandates are no longer needed.”

As for the effect on public schools, local districts await guidance from the Texas Education Agency, which promised a decision this week.

“We are aware of the governor’s announcement regarding the state’s mask mandate,” reads a Twitter announcement from the Corpus Christi Independent School District. “At this time, there are no changes to CCISD’s COVID-19 protocols. Texas school districts anticipate receiving guidance from local health authorities and the Texas Education Agency. We will continue to share information with staff, students, families, and the community as it becomes available.”

H-E-B issued a statement that its stores would continue to enforce mask wearing for everyone who works there and its vendors. A statement from the grocer also urged customers to continue to wear masks.

“Although there is no longer a statewide mask order, H-E-B believes it is important that masks be worn in public spaces until more Texans and our Partners have access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” reads a statement from the Texas grocer. “As an essential service provider during the pandemic, H-E-B will still require all our Partners and vendors to wear masks while at work, and we urge all customers to please wear a mask when in our stores.”

Nueces County and Corpus Christi officials will hold a news briefing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, to further discuss how the governor’s latest orders will affect the Coastal Bend and how they will be implemented.

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