(Adds details on clash between state and Austin authorities, comments by restaurant workers)
By Brad Brooks
LUBBOCK, Texas, March 10 (Reuters) – Texas ended a statewide mask mandate and occupancy restrictions on businesses were lifted on Wednesday, a move some heralded as freedom and others as foolishness.
On paper, Texas’ rollback of coronavirus mitigation efforts is the most sweeping seen in the United States, along with a similar measure in Mississippi. In practice, vast swaths of Texas have rarely enforced mask or occupancy mandates in the past year, anyway.
Several major retailers, grocery and restaurant chains in Texas said they would still require that masks be worn in their stores, which under Governor Greg Abbott’s order relaxing restrictions is their right.
Texas was one of the first states to reopen its economy after the first wave of pandemic cases last May, and the nation’s second-most populous state led the way again last week when Abbott, a Republican, announced the relaxation amid declines in new daily COVID-19 cases and with the rollout of vaccines.
As of Sunday, 18% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control. https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-TRENDS/dgkvlgkrkpb/
County officials in regions where COVID-19 patients take up 15% or more of hospital beds for seven consecutive days can enact new mask and occupancy restrictions, under Abbott’s order, but no regions are currently in…