Roundup: Face coverings still required in some places in U.S. Texas as mask mandate ends
As statewide mask mandate ended on Wednesday, some businesses and public places in the U.S. state of Texas still require face coverings and other safety practices to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week issued orders to lift the mask mandate in the state and increase capacity of all businesses and facilities to 100 percent capacity starting from March 10.
"Businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny," Abbott said when announcing the orders. He said that with the help of COVID-19 vaccines, new cases and hospitalization have dropped. That's way state mandates were no longer needed.
However, health officials still emphasized the importance of wearing face masks to contain spread of the virus, along with handwashing and social distancing.
Local media reported that some businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores and shopping malls are still asking their employees and customers to wear face coverings.
In Houston, the fourth largest city of the United States, about 70 percent restaurant owners surveyed by the Texas Restaurant Association are asking their staff members and customers to wear masks.
"Our goal is to take care of employees, take care of our customers and our community," said Melissa Stewart, executive director of Greater Houston Restaurant Association, a Chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association.
In a shopping mall southwest of Houston, Xinhua reporter found on Wednesday that all staff and customers wore masks. There were signs in the mall asking people to wear face coverings and keep social distance.
Other places such as airport and public transportation, as well as some hospitals, supermarkets and gyms, haven't changed their safety policies.
Abbott's remarks were criticized by President Joe Biden, who said it was a "big mistake" to end the mask mandate. Three of Abbott's four coronavirus medical advisers said they had not been directly consulted before he lifted the mandate.
In addition, mayors in some Texas big cities said mask mandates would continue in municipal buildings after the statewide mask order ended. Cities such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso still require people to wear masks when they enter city-owned indoor spaces like libraries, police and fire department headquarters, convention centers and transportation hubs.
Meanwhile, date models showed that COVID-19 daily deaths and new cases in Texas would both increase without a mask mandate, local media KTRK reported.
Texas hit a peak of daily deaths in mid-January, losing between 300 and 350 people per day. The figure dipped below 300 deaths per day in February and is projected to continue to decline into the spring with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to data models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at current rate, there could be fewer than 25 deaths per day as soon as June. However, projections show the lifting of a mask mandate, assuming a worst-case spread, may cause the death rate to stall and stagnate at 100 deaths per day into the summer.