Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that Texas is looking at when it will be able to lift all statewide orders related to the coronavirus pandemic and that an announcement is forthcoming.
Abbott made the comments at a Corpus Christi news conference where he was asked when the statewide mask mandate would end as Texans continue to get vaccinated. That requirement has been in effect since July.
Abbott called it a “great question.”
“We’re working right now on evaluating when we’re gonna be able to remove all statewide orders, and we will be making announcements about that pretty soon,” Abbott said, without giving a specific time frame.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, recently filed two bills that he says would “restore the separation of powers and conform the governor’s authority to the Texas Constitution.”
Schaefer’s bills, House Bills 2097 and 2098, were introduced Tuesday.
In July, the governor issued the order requiring masks in public settings along with possible fines of up to $250.
“The governor cannot create a crime, and then also enforce the crime. That is a clear violation of separation of powers,” Schaefer wrote. “No one person should ever have that power. The simple truth is that only the Legislature is constitutionally authorized to create, amend, or abolish criminal laws.”
He said the section in the Texas Government Code that allows Abbott to implement a fine with the mask mandate is unconstitutional.
In addition to the mask mandate, statewide orders in effect include a policy that rolls back business reopenings in a hospital region if its COVID-19 patients exceed 15% of hospital capacity for seven days. Abbott put that policy in place in last fall.
Only 5.1% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, though Abbott has been optimistic that the pace will pick up as more vaccines are made available to Texas.
Experts say Texas is a long way from reaching herd immunity through the vaccines. Hitting the 70% to 80% level that many estimate is needed would mean vaccinating some 22 million people, or nearly 100% of adults in the state, according to census numbers. The vaccines are currently not approved for children under 16, who make up about 23% of the population.
Scientists do not yet know for sure whether or how well the vaccines prevent the spread of the virus, though some preliminary research has suggested that some vaccines might be able to do so to some extent.