AUSTIN, Texas - Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is lifting the statewide mask mandate on March 10, a move that isn't sitting well with Austin-Travis County leaders.
"There is no explanation for the governor's action other than trying to distract us and the media from the failure of the state to protect us from the power outage. At the beginning of this pandemic, Governor Abbott said he'd be guided by the science and data and yesterday he broke that promise," said Mayor Steve Adler.
Austin Public Health has continued to push for masking to carry on, one year into the pandemic.
"Nearly unanimous health experts tell us that masking is the best tool we have to stop this virus, to open up schools to all kids in person, to keep businesses open," said Adler.
The Austin ISD teachers and employees union also believes the governor pulled the plug too early. "When we have families, 80 percent of them have chosen to stay home, to stay virtual in their instruction, we know this city values safety," said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin.
Although the mandate is lifted, private businesses can still choose what they want to do.
Joi Chevalier is an entrepreneur and works in the foodservice industry. She said her team will mask up, but worries others may not. "This lifting of our masks statewide is a real slap in the face to us who are essential workers. While we may be able to wear them, we are now in contact with more and more people who may be transmitting or carrying COVID-19 and we don’t know it," said Chevalier.
Numbers continue to trend downward in Travis County, but officials believe it's all the more reason to keep up the masking, social distancing, and proper hygiene. They are in fear of another surge due to the governor’s choice.
"You see people come in for heart surgery, you broke your leg and you always have somebody at your side. With COVID-19 you're in the hospital you have nobody," said Dr. Jose Ayala with St. David’s Hospital.