As cities across the country begin repealing their restrictive COVID-19 policies, one of the most liberal regions in Texas is also winding down its pandemic orders.
Earlier this week, both Travis County and the city of Austin announced that they were lifting all restrictions and orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.
With this recent repeal, citizens are no longer required to wear a mask indoors at most venues. However, masks will still be mandatory in hospitals, jails, airports, and other forms of public transportation.
This week’s announcement also lifted mask requirements in schools and all city and county buildings. Additionally, businesses are no longer required to post signs relaying COVID restrictions.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler was still a proponent of mask mandates in early 2022, even as the pandemic appeared to be coming to a close. In January, he ordered businesses across the city to post two new signs reminding patrons of various COVID mandates while also imploring them to wear masks and get the COVID vaccine.
“Help us keep employees safe! Local health officials recommend that you: Wear a Mask; Vaccinate and get boosted against COVID-19,” read one sign.
Although Adler was still supportive of mask mandates two months ago, this week he celebrated the end of Austin’s and Travis County’s mandates and credited the COVID vaccine for this new development.
“Effective immediately, masking indoors, including inside city buildings, is no longer required (with only limited exceptions),” said Adler. “Congratulations — it’s about time! Thank you to everyone vaccinated and boosted for helping to get us here.”
Even though progressive strongholds like Austin and Travis County are beginning to ease their pandemic restrictions, Texas is still beholden to a COVID-related state of emergency.
On March 13, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency declaration for every county in the state in response to the COVID outbreak. Subsequently, Abbott used the order as the basis for all of his executive orders related to the pandemic. Although the declaration was only valid for 30 days, Abbott has continued to renew the emergency order every month for the past two years.
As cities and counties across the state begin to roll back their COVID restrictions, some lawmakers are calling on Abbott to rescind his emergency declaration.
State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) sent Abbott a letter earlier this month calling on him to lift the COVID state of emergency and officially recognize the end of the pandemic in Texas.
“What started as ’15 days to slow the spread’ has turned into 24 months of unprecedented government regulations, a massive transfer of wealth from small businesses to mega-corporations, families separated from loved ones, and fear permeating every thought and action,” wrote Slaton.
Abbott has yet to respond to Slaton’s letter.
As other regions historically governed by progressive Democrats begin ending COVID restrictions, Abbott will have to decide if keeping the COVID-19 emergency declaration in place still benefits the state of Texas and its citizens.