"It is now time to open Texas 100%," Gov. Greg Abbott declared Tuesday, announcing that the state's mask mandate is being lifted and businesses will be allowed to open at full capacity starting March 10. Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday rescinding earlier pandemic-related orders, including the mask mandate, CNN reports. Soon after he spoke, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a fellow Republican, announced that the state's mask mandate would be lifted Wednesday, along with restrictions on businesses, reports NBC. "Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time," he tweeted, adding that the state is "getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do."
"Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility," Abbott said. "It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed." Health authorities, however, warned Monday that this is a dangerous time to roll back restrictions. "At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at the daily White House COVID briefing. Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, said he told hospital leaders after Abbott's announcement that they would need more staff and ventilators, the AP reports. "I am just concerned that I am going to have a tsunami of new cases," he said. "I truly hope I am wrong. But unfortunately history seems to repeat itself." (More coronavirus stories.)