Abbott issued an executive order that rescinds many of the state’s previous orders, allowing all businesses in the state to fully reopen and revoking the statewide mask mandate as of next Wednesday.
"To be clear, COVID has not, like, suddenly disappeared," Abbott cautioned during a press conference at a restaurant in Lubbock, Texas on Tuesday. "COVID still exists in Texas, the United States and across the globe, but it is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations and from the safe practices Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed."
Abbott pointed to a number of positive statistics as he detailed the state’s reopening plans, including a reduction in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and the lowest positivity rate the state has seen in months.
He also noted that the vaccine is a big contributing factor to the state’s ability to safely reopen, saying that health experts expect 7 million shots to have been distributed in the state by next Wednesday.
"Within a few months," Abbott said, it is expected that anyone who wants to receive a shot will be able to do so.
Businesses are able to limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols if they choose to do so.
Abbott also said Texans should continue following the appropriate health guidance.
The executive order allows a county judge to implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies if hospitalizations rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in any region for 7 consecutive days.
However, no one is allowed to be jailed for not following county orders, Abbott said, nor can be penalties be imposed for failure to wear a face mask.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly responded to the announcement on Tuesday, calling it "absolutely reckless" in a Twitter post. Newsom has leaned toward stricter guidance in California's pandemic response.
Abbott's latest directive will go into effect on Wednesday, March 10. President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency on March 13, 2020.