Texas governor Greg Abbott’s decision to drop Covid-19 restrictions for roughly 29 million residents and reopen at 100 per cent capacity has sparked a fierce backlash from health experts and politicians who describe it as “mass murder” and a “reckless mistake”.
With the third-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the US and less than 7 per cent of people fully vaccinated, Texas will be opening businesses to full capacity and ending the mask rule that has been in place for eight months. The restrictions are due to end on 10 March.
Senior White House advisor for COVID response, Andy Slavitt, described the decision as a “mistake” and not in line with Joe Biden’s policy. He said it is critical more than ever to put the restrictions in place as cases are increasing in Texas.
Watch: Houston Mayor criticizes lifting of Texas mask mandate
“Now is not the time to do this and if you are living in Texas you should ask what is the cost of putting on mask for several months to get through this period of time. We think it is a mistake for us to take off the foot of the gas now,” Mr Slavitt said on MSNBC.
The announcement comes as the governor faced pressure from fellow Republicans to remove the mask rule which he initially resisted implementing when the first surge hit in the summer.
Texas representative Joaquin Castro called the governor’s decision “reckless and dangerous” and a desperate attempt to distract Texans from their failure of handling the devastating winter storm and subsequent power outages.
“Governor Abbott’s failure to listen to science and medical advice will cost Texans their lives,” he said in a statement.
Meena Harris, niece of vice president Kamla Harris, also called it a decision of politics, accusing the government of trying to kill people.
Texas, which recorded 44,000 deaths from coronavirus and more than 2 million infections, has become the largest state in the US to reopen.
Chip Franklin, American talk show host, comedian and musician, suggested that the Texas governor should be tried for “premeditated mass murder” of people with his decision.
Mississippi, another state with Republican stronghold, listed rules for businesses and dropped county mask mandates, announced governor Tate Reeves on Tuesday.
Officials in Michigan, Louisiana, and the city of San Francisco, California, are also lifting coronavirus restrictions, however, not going as far as Texas and Mississippi.
Health experts and fellow politicians remain wary of the latest decision as beaches in South Texas and hard-hit Rio Grande Valley remain popular party destination among students and tourists.
“We as a state should be guided by science and data, which says we should keep the mask mandate. Too much is at stake to compromise the positive outcomes we have seen with over-confidence,” Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, said.
He added that the people in Austin and Dallas are "dumbfounded" by the decision, adding the order is not based on data and science: "It’s based on something else."
Watch: What North Texas school districts have to say about Gov. Greg Abbott fully reopening Texas