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Judge Branick gives update following Gov. Abbott lifting mask mandate, plans to opens state

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that called for the lifting of the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent.

The Governor made the announcement in Lubbock.

“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent,” Abbott said. “Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. Today’s announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year.”

This executive order rescinds most of the governor’s earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. Effective next Wednesday (March 10), all businesses of any type may open to 100 percent capacity.

Following the governor’s mandate, Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick told Port Arthur Newsmedia, his orders would mirror the governor’s.

“He has a lot more medical advisors than I do,” Branick said, adding he anticipates an increase in COVID cases due to the lifting of the restrictions.

Branick said Jefferson County has ordered the recently approved single-dose COVID vaccination from Johnson & Johnson but has not been notified when it will receive them.

The county is still receiving Moderna vaccines and dispensing them.

According to Branick, COVID hospitalizations are down 30 percent over the last couple of weeks in Texas.

“We are below 15 percent for the past week and a half,” Branick said. “I just hope we can still be cautious and enjoy ourselves while getting back to some semblance of normalcy and exercising good personal hygiene.”

Additionally, the governor’s order ends the statewide mask mandate in Texas. Businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion.

If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15 percent of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

However, County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask.

If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50 percent for any type of entity.

During his remarks, the governor said nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered to Texans, and the state is now administering almost one million shots each week. By next Wednesday, about 7 million shots will have been administered in Texas and over half of seniors in Texas will have received a vaccine shot.

By the end of March, every senior who wants a vaccine should be able to get one, Abbott said.  The governor noted that Texas has a surplus of personal protective equipment and can perform over 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day. The state has invested in a variety of anti-body therapeutic drugs that have kept thousands of Texans out of hospitals.

More than 2.5 million Texans who were lab confirmed for COVID-19 have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic, and Abbott said experts note the total number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19 is likely 4-5 times that amount. The number of active COVID-19 cases is the lowest since November.