AUSTIN, Texas -
Gov. Greg Abbott is officially lifting the mask mandate on March 10, and with that, letting businesses open back up to 100 percent capacity, including bars.
"I think it's reckless for bars to be open in the first place. Especially now when we've got increasing concern about variants," said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin Public Health.
Escott is extremely concerned about young people going out in the masses, possibly with no masks.
"Those individuals who frequent bars are the same individuals who have close to zero vaccination. We can expect if bars open 100 percent and they don’t require masks we will see a rapid and efficient transmission in those age groups," said Escott.
The governor made the announcement just as the weather is warming up, people are getting back out, and holidays and celebrations are nearing. "We have a couple things that are coming up in our future, one is spring break, the other being Easter," said APH chief epidemiologist Janet Pichette.
However Escott said, although the governor lifted the mandate, he still aligns with APH in his messaging. "The governor said in his opinion, Texans don't need a mandate because they are doing the right thing. We all have to remember that," he said.
The relaxing of masking rules comes as Travis County continues to try to get shots in arms as soon as possible. "We have provided over 100,000 vaccines. Of those, we have fully vaccinated over 30,000 individuals," said Cassandra DeLeon, assistant director, disease prevention and health promotion at APH.
Escott warns of a spring surge being very possible if Central Texas becomes complacent. "The pattern we have seen in the past is after these events, after holidays, we've seen numbers increase in younger people in their 20's and 30's and in subsequent weeks we see it spread out to older individuals," said Escott.
The health authority said he expects a category 1c group to be created within the next week. This will open up the vaccine appointments to essential workers.