Texas and Mississippi lift mask mandates and allow full-capacity gigs

Texas and Mississippi have courted controversy after both US states confirmed plans to lift their mask mandates and increase the capacity of all buildings to 100 per cent.

From March 10, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at full capacity for the first time in a year – effectively permitting large social gatherings at gigs and sports stadiums.

Announcing the move, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said businesses would still be able to limit capacity or implement safety protocols if they wished to do so.

“With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the [corona]virus,” Abbott said after issuing the Executive Order GA-34.

“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 hospitalisations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. 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.”

Mississippi, meanwhile, issued their own executive order to secure reopening yesterday (March 2).

“Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves wrote on Twitter.

“Our hospitalisations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!”

The decision has since been condemned by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who warned that it risked undoing the positive steps that have been taken to defeat the virus in the US.

“93.2% of Texans aren’t fully vaccinated. The state just endured one disaster worsened by selfishness + denial of basic science, and now conditions are being set for another,” she wrote.

“Repealing the mask mandate now endangers so many people, especially essential workers & the vulnerable.”

“This endangers the entire country and beyond. We are in a pandemic,” she wrote.

“We know that COVID spread isn’t neatly contained by state borders, and explosions in COVID cases can increase the likelihood of new COVID variants to develop or spread to new places. It’s dangerous.”

The move comes after the CEO of LiveNation said that he expects large-scale US concerts to resume this summer.

Michael Rapino made the comments during Live Nation’s Q4 2020 earnings call last week, saying that he based them on conversations with governors in key US states.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75.2 million vaccinations have been administered in the US to date. More than 20 million doses have now been given to people in the UK.