AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that public schools must end mask requirements starting in June and ordered Texas' cities and counties to drop nearly all face covering mandates by the end of the week.
The announcement does not affect businesses, which can still require customers or workers to wear masks. But the change amounts to the biggest rollbacks of Texas' COVID-19 safeguards since Abbott ended a statewide mask mandate in March.
The move comes as virus cases and deaths continue plunging in Texas, and as the COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children as young as 12 years old. Public hospitals, jails and state-supported living centers will still be allowed to require masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors and can stop social distancing in most places. Masks are still recommended for the remainder of the school year, but Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said on “Fox News Sunday" that her agency is working on guidance for the fall.
Some Texas school have already ended mask mandates. The Texas State Teachers Association criticized Abbott's decision as premature.