texas lockdown protest

The governor agrees
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday he is lifting business capacity limits and the state's mask mandate starting next week.

Abbott made the announcement at a news conference in Lubbock.

"Every business that wants to open should be open," Abbott said.

Abbott said that county judges can institute coronavirus-mitigation measures in their counties if the hospitalization rate rises above 15% for seven consecutive days. However, he said no one can be jailed for failing to follow those protocols or be penalized for not wearing a mask.

The governor said the state is in a much better position than when the pandemic started last year, citing a lower number of cases, a higher number of recoveries and wider availability of vaccines.

"Despite these changes, remember this - removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility," Abbott said.

You can view a copy of the governor's order below:

Houston-area officials say move is 'premature'

Both Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner jointly signed a letter to Abbott, asking him to keep the mask mandate in place.

In the Tuesday letter, Hidalgo and Turner said they believe lifting the mandate would be "premature and harmful" to the progress made in the pandemic thus far.

"Especially with the arrival of new variants of the virus to Texas and our cities, with the associated potential for a future spoke in cases, preserving the most effective of our existing safety measures is even more important," the leaders wrote.

Houston health officials announced Monday that wastewater testing has revealed an increasing amount of COVID-19 variants in the city with the UK version becoming the primary variant being detected.

Hidalgo echoed the concerns raised in the letter during a news conference held after Abbott's announcement.

"We shouldn't play with lives in this way, because, what I'm afraid of, is when people see this rescinding of public health interventions, of public health guidelines and restrictions, what they're going to hear is that there's an all-clear," Hidalgo said. "What I want to say, very directly, is that's not the case. That's not the case."

You can read a copy of the letter in the tweet below.