AUSTIN, Texas (Nexstar) – On Tuesday, Texas Independence Day, Gov. Greg Abbott took the podium in Lubbock to declare the state is open and the mask mandate is no more.
“It’s time to reopen Texas 100%,” Abbott said. “Everybody who wants to work should have that opportunity. Every business that wants to be open, should be open.”
It has also been nearly a year since the pandemic began.
Taking a look back, Gov. Abbott issued his executive order, implementing restrictions on businesses and a mask mandate throughout the state, in July.
At that point, hospitalizations were at an all-time high in the tens of thousands. Through the next two months, those numbers started to fall significantly to about 3,000. That is until October.
In the fall, those numbers began to climb again, eventually matching the peak points again in December and surpassing them in January. Since that time, numbers have dropped again.
As of March 1, less than 6,000 hospitalizations were being reported in Texas, according to the Texas Coronavirus Dashboard. A similar story is told in newly confirmed cases and in fatalities, the data shows. Both categories have seen steep declines in recent weeks.
On a local level, both Midland and Odessa have had struggles and triumphs in fighting the virus. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. At one point both cities were forced to scale back capacity at businesses due to the rising hospitalization numbers.
Those have since come down and local health experts say the Permian Basin is in good shape today.
Midland Health CEO Russell Meyers and Odessa Regional Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan both have acknowledged the progress the neighboring cities have made in the battle against the Coronavirus.
However, they both also urged residents to not let their guard down yet.
“We are hoping with all the information we are giving, and from listening to the Governor’s words he used, it is important we understand, the reason we were able to get to this point, is because we were following through with our prevention techniques and because of the great work we have done as a community to immunize our populations,” Dr. Saravanan said.
The doctor went on to say that he hopes those prevention techniques will continue, such as social distancing, wearing masks and hygiene, but not as a mandate and instead as a social responsibility.
Additionally, both hospitals say they have administered about 50,000 doses of the vaccine, with more on the way.
So what happens now?
Gov. Abbott said Texans have developed good, safe habits that rendered the mandates unnecessary going forward. He also left the decision to enforce masks up to businesses and said if numbers rise significantly, local governments would be allowed to enforce restrictions.
He also encouraged Texans to keep up their prevention efforts and said the pandemic is not over yet.
“Today’s announcement does not abandon the safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, as a reminder that each person has their own role to play in their own personal safety, as well as in the safety of others.” Abbott said.
So, will you continue to wear a mask?