By Anne Walker | Staff Writer
On Tuesday, Governor Abbott announced an executive order that will end Texas’ mask mandate and allow business to operate at full capacity. Abbott encouraged Texans to continue practicing COVID-19 safety precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing, but emphasized these practices should be left to the discretion of individuals and businesses.
“If businesses want to limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols, they have the right to do so. It is their business and they get to choose to operate their business the way they want to. At this time however people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate,” Abbott declared.
The executive order will go into effect March 10, giving businesses a week to decide how they will adjust their operations in response to the new policy. Multiple major companies, including Target and Kroger, have already announced that they will still require customers to wear masks. Some businesses, such as H-E-B, will require employees to keep wearing masks but only encourage customers to wear a mask.
Local businesses in Waco are still considering how they want to react to the change in state policy. Kyle Ferguson, co-owner of Shorty’s Pizza Shack, said he was not sure how Shorty’s would alter their operations on March 10 but did not plan to require masks in the restaurant.
“We’ll probably open up a few more tables. You know, we probably prefer people to wear a mask if they come in, [if they don’t] it’s their prerogative,” Ferguson said.
Mr. Jimenez, an employee at J-Petal and Poké, shared that the restaurant will not ask customers to wear a mask. He does not expect the governor’s order to impact the restaurant’s traffic but sees the executive order as an opportunity to restore a greater sense of normalcy to Waco.
“We feel like in order to get back to a normal society we also have to make steps forward with this and not to undermine the situation of the virus or anything” Jimenez said.
Jimenez raised concerns that other restaurants that maintained current COVID-19 precautions could face backlash.
“I think if businesses have stricter regulations, I feel like that could make more people mad in the community send a wrong message in a way, versus, you know, giving the people the choice to make that decision,” Jimenez explained.
On Tuesday, Baylor informed students that the university would review the Governor’s executive order but instructed students to uphold the current campus mask mandate until further notice.