Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on March 2nd (otherwise known as Texas Independence Day) that he was lifting the statewide mask mandate via Executive Order No. GA-34, which went into effect today. The order also enables Texas businesses to open back up to 100% capacity. According to Governor Abbott, businesses can still choose to enforce their own mask mandate and capacity rules, “at their own discretion.”
The executive order also states:
“If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity.”
You can read the entire executive order Gov. Abbott issued here.
GritDaily spoke to several Texas business owners to find out how they felt about the statewide mask mandate being lifted.
Law Offices of Ryan Reiffert-San Antonio, Texas
Business lawyer and estate planning attorney Ryan Reiffert spoke from his experience legally representing a lot of small businesses.
“I represent a lot of small businesses. The vast, vast majority of businesses I have heard from are still enforcing the mask mandate, and have called me to ask for advice on whether they can exclude customers who refuse to wear a mask.
The anti-masker crowd is very loud, but they’re a tiny minority. They sound a lot bigger than they are. For the most part, the only businesses that are lifting their mask policy are the ones that were already against it before, and already lax on enforcement.”
Brooklyn Breakfast Shop-Austin, Texas
Ryan Rosen owns the Brooklyn Breakfast Shop, a farm to trailer business with a menu crafted from local Texas ingredients.
Rosen said, “I personally don’t agree with the governor’s decision on lifting the mandate. I have a young child, a wife, customers, employees, and all of them have family and friends as well. It puts more than just one person at risk. I’ve been fortunate where I’d say 95% of my customers wear face coverings. The ones that don’t generally do apologize and say they forgot and cover their mouth with their hand or shirt. Not the best solution, but people are trying.”
Rosen continued, saying that, “The Brooklyn Breakfast Shop is a food trailer stationed outdoors, so things are a little more lenient in that scenario. But Austin is fighting back and so is the food service industry. There was a protest at the Austin capital recently and the city of Austin said they will not be lifting its mandate even with the governor saying it’s lifted.”
The city of Austin’s official government page did release an official statement on March 9th declaring that the mask mandate still would be enforced city-wide. With that statement, Austin businesses are still required to enforce the mask mandate for customers until April 15th, 2021, unless modified or extended. Masks will also be mandatory when anyone is on or in Austin city property (with a few exceptions) until July 8th, 2021 unless modified or extended.
You can read the entire official statement from the Austin city government here.
Elevated Wellness-Austin and Houston, Texas
Elevated Wellness is a company with five locations across Austin and Houston that sells high quality CBD products. Ross Anderson, the lead manager of Elevated Wellness stated that company employees will still be required to wear masks, but customers at the Houston locations will be allowed to choose whether or not they want to wear a mask, but the company will follow any updated local regulations. This policy of allowing customers the ability to choose to wear a mask or not will also apply to the Austin locations if or when the Austin city-wide mask mandate expires.
“We predominantly work with individuals who may be considered “at-risk” for the virus. However, we will not stop anyone who would like to enter without a mask on as we do not own the property. Our staff is trained to sanitize and wipe down all surfaces after each customer in order to maintain a clean environment.”
Anderson noted that Elevated Wellness continues to offer curbside pickup as an option for customers.
“We believe everyone that everyone has their own right to decide whether or not to wear a mask. We must also obey that right as we do not own the property where we are located. Our method will leave everyone the freedom to choose how they want to proceed with a mask or not with a mask, while still being able to shop confidently and safely.”
*At the time Anderson made his statement Austin had not yet announced their own city-wide mask mandate. Elevated Wellness will follow the Austin mask mandate until it expires, and then will allow customers the decision to choose whether or not they want to mask up afterwards at the Austin locations.*
Herrman and Herrman PLLC-Corpus Christi, Texas
COVID-19 is not over, says the law offices of Herrman and Herrman PLLC, which specializes in personal injury cases and has offices in Corpus Christi, Brownsville, San Antonio and McAllen.
“Here at Herrman and Herrman PLLC, we have decided that because COVID-19 is still spreading throughout our community, we will continue to enforce that our team members and clients to wear a mask in our offices. The safety of our team members and clients is always the number one priority of our law firm.
COVID-19’s presence is not gone because our governor lifted the mask mandate. Much of our staff and clientele are still at risk during this pandemic. As a personal injury law firm, putting anyone at risk goes directly against our goals and aspirations. We are confident that our law firm and clients will understand and appreciate our concerns.”
According to a Progress Texas poll of 997 registered Texas voters, the results were evenly split on the issue of the mask mandate, with 48 percent in favor of the statewide mask mandate being lifted, 48 percent against, with 4 percent undecided.
If you live in Texas, how do you feel about the statewide mask mandate being lifted? Is it about time, or too soon? Should other states follow suit or wait until more people are vaccinated?
Stay tuned for more GritDaily updates.