Texas, other states relax COVID-19 rules despite warnings

Texas became the largest state to lift its mask rule on Tuesday, joining a rapidly growing movement of governors and other leaders across the United States to ease restrictions on COVID-19 despite calls from officials in the United States. health not to let down for the moment.

The Lone Star State will also remove limits on the number of diners that can be served inside, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock.

The governors of Michigan, Mississippi and Louisiana also relaxed bars, restaurants and other businesses on Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco.

“Removing statewide warrants does not end personal accountability,” Abbott said, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those around him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”

A year after the onset of the crisis, politicians and ordinary Americans are fed up with rules designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than half a million people in the United States. Some places are lifting infection control measures; in other places people ignore them.

Senior health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by repeatedly begging people not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just as the country advances in vaccinating people and that victory over the epidemic is in sight.

Cases in the United States have fallen more than 70% in the past two months, from an average of almost 250,000 new infections per day, while average deaths per day have fallen by about 40% since mid -January.

But both curves have leveled off sharply over the past few days and even increased slightly, and the numbers continue to rise to alarming levels, with an average of around 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly concerned about viral mutations.

“We risk losing hard-won ground altogether,” CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday.

Even so, many Americans are fed up with closures that have damaged their livelihoods and are eager to socialize again.

A bar in the Indianapolis area was filled with maskless patrons over the weekend. In Southern California, people lined up in a parking lot on a recent weekday afternoon for a chance to shop and eat in downtown Disney, which is part of Disneyland. (Theme park rides remain closed.) And Florida is preparing to welcome students during spring break.

“People want to stay safe, but at the same time, fatigue has hit,” said Ryan Luke, who hosts a weekend rally in Eagle, Idaho, to encourage people to patronize businesses that haven’t. need masks. “We just want to live a near-normal life.”

Michael Junge objected to a mask warrant when officials at the tourist town of Branson, Missouri adopted one and said he had not applied it in his Lost Boys Barber Company. He said he had had enough.

“I think this is all a joke honestly,” he said. “They originally said it was going to last a month and they put it off indefinitely. … It should have been done a long time ago.

In San Francisco, an optimistic London Breed mayor announced that California has given the green light to indoor dining and the reopening of cinemas and gymnasiums.

“You can enjoy your city, right here, right away,” she says from Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. She added, “We’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re getting there, San Francisco.”

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he was getting rid of most mask warrants and lifting most other restrictions, including restaurant seating limits, starting Wednesday.

“The governor’s office stops telling people what they can and cannot do,” the Republican said.

Florida, which is gearing up for Spring Break travelers to flock to its sunny beaches, is considered an “active epidemic,” along with Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, according to the data tracking website CovidActNow.

Florida Governor Rick DeSantis made it clear in his annual state-of-the-state address on Tuesday that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy booming. .

Florida municipalities can impose their own mask and curfew rules, restrict beach access, and place limits on bars and restaurants, but some have virtually no such measures in place.

Miami Beach will require masks inside and out and will limit the number of people allowed on the beach as well as in bars and restaurants.

“If you want to party without restrictions, go elsewhere. Go to Vegas, ”Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said in a recent virtual meeting. “We will adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards this behavior.”

In Michigan, a group called All Business Is Essential has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s viral policies, and many people are ignoring mask requirements and other measures, group leader Erik Kiilunen said.

“At some point you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I want a risk-free life? “, He said. “It has become a joke, really. People stopped living for a year, at what cost? “

“I think everyone wants things to come back as they were,” said Aubrey D. Jenkins, the fire chief of Columbia, South Carolina, whose department issues dozens of $ 100 quotes every week. end to bar lovers who refuse to wear masks or keep their distance. “But we still have to be very careful.”


Associated Press editors Brendan Farrington in Tallahasee, Florida; Anila Yoganathan in Tucker, Georgia; Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi; John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Janie Har in San Francisco; and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story.

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