Greg Abbott
© Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Texas governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed an executive order prohibiting local governments and public schools from requiring face masks.

The order directs local governments to drop their mask mandates by May 21 and schools to do so by June 4.

"The Lone Star state continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said in a press release. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities."

Local governments that disobey the order and keep their mask mandates in place after May 21 may be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

"We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up," the Republican governor said.

Abbott's order comes after the CDC issued new guidance last week that, with few exceptions, anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.

"If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency's director.

Cases in nearly every state have continued to plummet as more Americans get vaccinated.

In March, Texas was the first state to lift its COVID restrictions. While many criticized the decision as premature at the time, data show the move did not cause a surge in COVID cases.