COVID mandates canceled
Governor Greg Abbott scraps the statewide mask mandate and allows companies to reopen fully on March 10th. He says Texas is handling COVID-19 better than it was a few months ago and small businesses are hurting badly.
“Too many Texans have been excluded from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have trouble paying their bills. This has to come to an end, ”says Abbott.
He cites the growing number of vaccinated Texans as the main reason he thinks reopening is appropriate now.
Not unexpectedly, the local health authorities are not at all satisfied with the repeal of the nationwide mask regulation. Travis County’s Health Department Mark Escott remains one of the loudest mask-wearing advocates in the area.
“Now it’s too early to get back to normal. Now it’s too early to remove the mask. Now it’s too early to forget about social distancing, ”says Escott.
Governor Abbott still left a lot of power to the private sector, which can still choose to require customers to wear masks and business premises. In fact, many Austin companies have already announced that they will do just that.
Masking in HEB
Texan grocer HEB says it will respect the governor’s decision to lift the mask mandate by ending its own requirement that customers wear one. However, HEB’s Mabrie Jackson says the stores will urge customers to voluntarily mask themselves anyway.
“By being a role model and using news in the store, signs are being put on front doors. But it’s a customer’s personal responsibility, ”says Jackson.
All HEB employees are still required to wear a mask, and individual masks will be made available free of charge to customers at HEB locations across the state.
Austin City Council continues to push for the importance it sees in the masking. Following Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to end the mass mandate. Councilor Greg Casar slammed the decision on Twitter and called the governor a coward. Austin Mayor Steve Adler also criticizes that the governor’s decision doesn’t have the kind of medical assistance he would like to see.
“Not supported by any of the scientists or the data I’ve heard,” says Adler.
City officials are urging residents to continue masking themselves and comply with COVID reduction practices.
Depending on who you ask, lifting COVID restrictions is either a blessing or a curse. Anne Spilman of the Texas Wing of the National Federation of Independent Business says it’s great to be able to choose between masks and capacity again.
“It’s very good news for small business owners. This removes some of the fear that is still moving forward with some uncertainty, ”says Spilman.
However, many other groups remain very concerned that Texans now have that choice.
Governor Abbott is putting the school grounds at risk, according to the Texas State Teachers Association. When teacher groups expressed concern, the Austin School District said that masks must continue to be worn by all students and staff. AISD says it is also awaiting guidance from the Texas Education Agency on what to do next.
Travis County has seen more declines in its COVID numbers over the past day. 241 people are hospitalized this morning, of 1,661 active cases, 73 people have been confirmed in intensive care and 76,088 cases in the past 12 months, with 73,678 people having recovered.
UT sued for online courses
The University of Texas system is being sued for tuition fees during the pandemic. It is a class action lawsuit that argues that online courses are not the same as in-person courses and should therefore not incur the same cost. Student Lily Rembert tells CBS Austin that she totally agrees.
“I learn personally very practically. That makes it easier to understand concepts while teaching itself like online, ”says Rembert.
The lawsuit alleges that students are paying for a high quality educational experience and have instead received a “materially deficient and inadequate alternative”.
Prop B reformulated
Local nonprofit Save Austin Now scores a hoped-for victory in the Texas Supreme Court that ruled the city of Austin must reformulate the language of choice for Proposition B in relation to a citywide public camping ban. In a 6: 3 ruling, the Supreme Court found that the voting language chosen by the city could mislead voters and therefore needs to be revised.
Job posting on SpaceX
Tesla CEO Elon Musk may not have finished planning his flags in the region. A job advertisement on the SpaceX website searches for an engineer overseeing a new manufacturing facility in Austin. Musk’s presence in Austin has grown pretty big with big plans for the Tesla Gigafactory in Del Valley, Boring Company in Pflugerville, and Neuralink Company in Austin.
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