Gov. Greg Abbott says he will not impose another statewide mask mandate, despite COVID-19 cases being on the rise again.

“There will be no mask mandate imposed, and the reasons for that are very clear,” Abbott told KPRC in Houston on Tuesday. “There are so many people who have immunities to COVID, whether it be through the vaccination, whether it be through their own exposure and their recovery from it, which would be acquired immunity.”

It would be “inappropriate to require people who already have immunity to wear a mask,” Abbott said.

During a news conference Wednesday in Houston, Abbott went further and expressed blanket resistance to any new restrictions to fight the virus. He said Texas is “past the time of government mandates” and “in to the time for personal responsibility.”

Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson stated Wednesday that while the department acknowledges there are no mandates in place, it will continue to strongly recommend masks for anyone who’s unvaccinated.

Matt Richardson mug

Matt Richardson

“Moving forward, we continue to emphasize recommendations that mask use is critical for the unvaccinated, regardless of age,” Richardson stated by e-mail. “We acknowledge these aren’t mandates, but the message is consistent: more cases means more transmission in the unvaccinated. … That recommendation is simple yet very, very important.”

Richardson said at Tuesday’s county Commissioners Court meeting that he remains in support of the loosened CDC guidelines, which clear anyone fully vaccinated to participate in most activities without a mask.

County Judge Andy Eads, in his own written statement Wednesday, cited the county’s vaccination statistics as evidence of a successful response to COVID-19. He did not directly address Abbott’s comments or the possibility of any future mandates.

Andy Eads

Andy Eads

“Herd immunity increases every day through vaccinations and acquired immunity from those who have recovered from COVID-19,” Eads stated. “Whereas 43% of Texans are fully vaccinated, I am proud that our vaccination efforts have reached 55.09 percent of our residents ages 12 and older who are now fully vaccinated. … Those statistics tell the story and we continue to stand ready to close the gap.”

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors in most settings, the World Health Organization is still encouraging everyone to wear masks while inside.

As the delta variant has spread, some key pandemic indicators have increased in Texas. On Sunday, the state’s positivity rate — the ratio of cases to tests — went above 10% for the first time since February, a threshold that Abbott has previously identified as dangerous.

As of Sunday, 43% of Texans were fully vaccinated.

Abbott lifted the statewide mask requirement in March. The mandate had been in place since summer of last year.

Two months later, he announced he was banning government entities — including public schools — from mandating masks. Abbott reiterated Tuesday that Texas schoolchildren will not face mask requirements as they return to school later this summer.

“Kids will not be forced by government or by schools to wear masks in school,” Abbott said. “They can by parental choice wear a mask, but there will be no government mandate requiring masks.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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