The state of Texas will be completely relaxing it’s COVID-19 restrictions next week as Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he will be allowing businesses (including venues) to reopen at 100%, as well as lifting it’s mask mandate.
The new rules go into effect on March 10, and will make Texas the largest state in the country to do away completely with its restrictions.
“If businesses want to limit capacity or implement add’l safety protocols, they have the right to do so,” said Abbott in a statement. “It is their business, & they get to choose to operate their biz the way they want to. At this time, though, ppl & biz don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”
Even without direction, Abbott still expects citizens to continue taking personal safety precautions on their own. He continues, “Today’s announcement doesn’t abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it’s a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety & the safety of others.”
The news comes as COVID-19 cases around the country have been dropping. Texas, which only a couple of weeks ago had more than 10,000 daily cases, fell to an approximately 7,600 daily case average for the last seven days. Vaccination rollout is also underway, with 7.1% of the state’s 30 million-person population fully inoculated.
Despite this trend, health officials are critical of the move, fearing that with spring break coming up, a new surge in cases could see hospitals at capacity again. There’s also concern that a spike could come from people affected by the unprecedented winter storm that blindsided the state, leaving many without heat and huttling in close quarters with those that still had theirs.
“I am just concerned that I am going to have a tsunami of new cases,” said the chief medical officer at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Joseph Varon, to ABC News. “I truly hope I am wrong. But unfortunately history seems to repeat itself.”
Experts, such as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, think that the fall will be a more likely timeline for restrictions to ease up enough to go back to having near-normal interactions, including live events. During a virtual performing arts professionals conference in January, Dr. Fauci said that by then, enough people will have been vaccinated to create herd immunity. So far, about 15.3% of US citizens are either fully or partially inoculated.
Live Nation also seems to see midsummer into fall as a good timeline for large-scale concerts to return. Said CEO Michael Rapino during a recent earnings call (reported by Variety on Tuesday), “Every day we seem to have a new state or country talking about when they’ll open up, so we’re feeling more optimistic than we were a month ago.” The UK has already set a date of June 21 for the return of “large live events” and many states in the US, including Texas, have started to allow for venues to reopen (some at higher capacity than others), making the light at the end of the tunnel more visible.
“So as long as these states open up to the right capacities, we can start in midsummer and in the southern U.S. we can go all the way into November.”