In a statement to the county, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra expressed disapproval of Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide March 2 announcement of an executive order that will lift the state-wide mask mandate and increase the capacity of businesses and facilities to 100%.
Executive Order GA 34 will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 10.
The order states if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas climb above 15% of the hospital bed threshold for seven straight days, a county judge may implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
The governor adds no county judge can impose penalties or jail time for failing to follow COVID-19 orders or wear a face mask. Restrictions on a county level also may not reduce the capacity for businesses and facilities to less than 50%.
In a press release and statement to KXAN, Becerra says it is too early to ease restrictions in place, especially after more contagious and dangerous strains of COVID-19 have been detected within and near Hays County.
Becerra also points out Hays County, with its population of nearly 300,000, only receives “fewer than 2,000 vaccines a week.”
“After careful consideration and much deliberation, I call the governor’s order lifting the mask mandate ambitious, but premature and reckless,” Becerra says.
Abbott says Texas’ COVID-19 testing capacity exceeds 100,000 tests per day, and the number of Texans who have recovered from COVID-19 is likely four to five times higher than the confirmed 2.5 million lab-confirmed recoveries.
In his announcement, Abbott cited advancements in vaccinations, specifically the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as well as the high number of recoveries from COVID-19 in the state as reasons for the decision.
"We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%,” Abbott says. “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.”