July 25, 2021

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As Texas Drops Mask Mandate, Covid-19 Cases Bear Watching – The Wall Street Journal

4 min read

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that state residents will no longer be required to wear masks beginning March 10. The governor, a Republican, also lifted capacity restrictions on businesses, saying, “It is now the time to open Texas 100%.” The nation’s second-largest state was followed by a similar announcement in Mississippi. The decisions drew a quick rebuke from President Biden, who said, “I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference.”

While Covid-19 cases have declined sharply since peaking in mid-January, health officials have cautioned against relaxing restrictions, noting that progress has stalled and more transmissible variants of the disease continue to be a concern.

After about a monthlong shutdown last year, Texas allowed businesses to reopen to varying degrees beginning in May. Here is what happened following that move in one of the states hit hardest by the pandemic.

New Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, 7-day average

March

2020

U.S. total

May 1

With case rates holding below the national level, Texas allows some businesses to reopen at 25% capacity .

June 26

As cases surge past the national rate, Gov. Greg Abbott shuts down bars.

July 2

After previously prohibiting local mask mandates, Mr. Abbott issues a statewide order requiring masks in public spaces.

Sept. 17

Cases ease and Mr. Abbott lifts capacity limits to 75% for most of the state, moves to region-based restrictions.

Oct. 14

Bars reopen at 50% capacity.

Jan. 15

Cases peak at 80 per 100,000 residents.

Jan.

’21

March 10 Texas plans to end its mask mandate and reopen businesses 100%

March

2020

U.S. total

May 1

With case rates holding below the national level, Texas allows some businesses to reopen at 25% capacity .

June 26

As cases surge past the national rate, Gov. Greg Abbott shuts down bars.

July 2

After previously prohibiting local mask mandates, Mr. Abbott issues a statewide order requiring masks in public spaces.

Sept. 17

Cases ease and Mr. Abbott lifts capacity limits to 75% for most of the state, moves to region-based restrictions.

Oct. 14

Bars reopen at 50% capacity.

Jan. 15

Cases peak at 80 per 100,000 residents.

Jan.

’21

March 10 Texas plans to end its mask mandate and reopen businesses 100%

March

2020

U.S. total

May 1

With case rates holding below the national level, Texas allows some businesses to reopen at 25% capacity .

June 26

As cases surge past the national rate, Gov. Greg Abbott shuts down bars.

July 2

After previously prohibiting local mask mandates, Mr. Abbott issues a statewide order requiring masks in public spaces.

Sept. 17

Cases ease and Mr. Abbott lifts capacity limits to 75% for most of the state, moves to region-based restrictions.

Oct. 14

Bars reopen at 50% capacity.

Jan. 15

Cases peak at 80 per 100,000 residents.

Jan.

’21

March 10 Texas plans to end its mask mandate and reopen businesses 100%

March

2020

U.S. total

May 1

With case rates holding below the national level, Texas allows some businesses to reopen at 25% capacity .

June 26

As cases surge past the national rate, Gov. Greg Abbott shuts down bars.

July 2

After previously prohibiting local mask mandates, Mr. Abbott issues a statewide order requiring masks in public spaces.

Sept. 17

Cases ease and Mr. Abbott lifts capacity limits to 75% for most of the state, moves to region-based restrictions.

Oct. 14

Bars reopen at 50% capacity.

Jan. 15

Cases peak at 80 per 100,000 residents.

Jan.

’21

March 10 Texas plans to end its mask mandate and reopen businesses 100%

Although the largest state to do so, Texas isn’t the first to drop its mask mandate. Three others did so earlier this year, and Mississippi eliminated its requirement Wednesday. But many larger cities within these states continue to mandate mask-wearing in public places.

Statewide mask mandate laws

Removed mandate

Mask mandate

Never implemented a mandate

Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, 7-day average

North

Dakota

Mississippi

Mask

mandate

April

2020

March

2021

Statewide mask mandate laws

Removed mandate

Mask mandate

Never implemented a mandate

Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, 7-day average

North

Dakota

Mississippi

Mask

mandate

April

2020

March

2021

Statewide mask mandate laws

Removed mandate

Mask mandate

Never implemented a mandate

Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, 7-day average

North

Dakota

Mississippi

Mask

mandate

April

2020

March

2021

Statewide mask mandate laws

Removed mandate

Mask mandate

Never implemented a mandate

Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people,

7-day average

Mississippi

Mask

mandate

April

2020

March

2021

North

Dakota

April

2020

March

2021

While the move to abandon a mask requirement has drawn the most scrutiny, Texas’ move comes as many other states have reopened or eased restrictions on businesses, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. As of Wednesday, 21 states were considered to be reopened, up from eight in early January. An additional 22 states have eased restrictions.

States’ status of reopening

New restrictions imposed

Easing restrictions

New restrictions imposed

Easing restrictions

New restrictions imposed

Easing restrictions

New restrictions imposed

Easing restrictions

As states continue to ease restrictions, the business world’s reaction remains mixed. Hyatt Hotels Corp , Target Corp. , Starbucks Corp. and CVS Health Corp. , are among the major corporations saying they have no plans to drop mask requirements. Gym operator Life Time Inc., Albertsons Cos. and a number of local restaurants plan to stop mandating masks or return to normal capacity, or both.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans to “open Texas 100%,” allowing businesses to operate at full capacity and an end to the state’s mask mandate starting March 10. Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

Write to Max Rust at max.rust@dowjones.com

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