In his remarks, Abbott said that the new directive would go into effect on March 10.
What are the details?
The Washington Post's editorial board castigated the Republican governor for his order ending the state's coronavirus restrictions, saying the move is "gambling with the health of his state and beyond."
Citing recent remarks from Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outlet insisted that now is not the time for Abbott — or any other lawmaker — to relax restrictions and ease strict mandates.
In Monday remarks, Walensky said, "Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close. We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country."
"Please stay strong in your conviction," Walensky said. "Continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking other public health prevention actions that we know work."
The Post's editorial board warned that the country should have learned a lesson in 2020 when some states attempted to lift certain restrictions too soon.
"If there was any lesson from the disastrous push by then-President Donald Trump last year to open up — which triggered a massive Sun Belt surge of infection in Texas, Florida and Arizona — it is not to lift restrictions too soon," the editorial board insisted. "But Mr. Abbott, a Republican whose state was buffeted by a devastating power outage during a winter storm recently, seems determined to forget last year's lessons. He announced Texas can return to full capacity next week as long as local hospitals are not experiencing high levels of covid patients."
"The governor issued an executive order saying that except in high hospitalization areas 'there are no COVID-19-related operating limits for any business or other establishment,'" the outlet continued. "While local officials can demand some limits below 100 percent, they cannot order establishments to close to less than 50 percent, and no jurisdiction can impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face mask."
The editorial board concluded by pointing out that while Abbott's decision may cheer and embolden "those feeling rebellious, fatigued, and impatient with the year-long pandemic restrictions," the result of a premature complete opening "will be viral spread and more suffering."
"Only 12.9 percent of the Texas population has received one or more doses of vaccine," the board wrote. "They and others previously sickened may enjoy some immunity, but a huge swath of the state's population remains vulnerable. The winter holidays and the third surge were awful. A fourth surge — which could spread beyond Texas — is the last thing the country needs just as vaccines are being rolled out. Mr. Abbott is throwing a match on kindling."
Although Texas, Florida, and Arizona were singled out by the Washington Post editorial board for their policies, those three states rank 24th, 28th, and 7th nationally in number of COVID cases per 100,00 residents as of March 2, 2021. Those rates compare favorably to states that have maintained strict lockdown policies throughout the pandemic like California (22nd), Delaware (23rd), and Rhode Island (3rd).