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Navigating COVID-19 Restrictions After States Lift Their Mandates

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Last Wednesday, the governors of Texas and Mississippi announced they are lifting mandates requiring masks to be worn in public and allowing businesses to open at limited capacity. “Texas is OPEN 100%,” Governor Greg Abbott tweeted. While many companies will accept the end of restrictions after a year of stifled business, others will want to keep some level of pandemic safety. Below is a guide on how to navigate that challenge.

When will the new executive orders take effect?

Starting 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, March 10, Texas will allow businesses to operate at full capacity and not require individuals to wear masks. Governor Tate Reeves’ order in Mississippi took effect almost immediately, essentially replacing all executive orders with recommendations encouraging, but not mandating, the wearing of face coverings in public.

What areas will be affected?

In Texas, if your business is in a county with high COVID-19 hospitalizations — greater than 15% of hospital capacity for at least seven straight days — a county judge may issue orders to slow the spread. That may include mask mandates and capacity restrictions. However, the capacity limits can not be lower than 50%. Currently, Culberson, El Paso, and Hudspeth counties in West Texas meet the requirement for high hospitalizations. Check https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/ for more information and to stay up to date on local ordinances. 

The new order in Mississippi is statewide and does not set a threshold for any limitations. “Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates, and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.” Reeves tweeted.

Can businesses still require customers and employees to wear a mask?

In both Texas and Mississippi, business and property owners are within their rights to require masks on-premises. Major national stores including, Macy’s and Target, have already said they will require employees and customers to wear face coverings in their stores. State guidelines strongly encourage people to wear face coverings wherever it is impossible to maintain six feet of social distancing. However, the executive orders allow the public to practice personal responsibility and will not impose any penalties or fines on those who choose not to wear masks. Many businesses have decided to keep mask requirements in place for staff and customers. The owners from Olivia Shoppe in Austin, TX, announced on their social media, “We would love to lose the masks, but at this point in time we feel like it is not in the best interest of the health and safety of our employees, families, and fellow patrons”. 

Can businesses set capacity limits?

According to the executive orders, businesses will be able to set their capacity limits and require face coverings “at their discretion.” In Texas, authorities will be allowed to enforce trespassing laws at the request of a business or property owner invoking their own capacity limits and mask requirements.

How will this change affect markets?

Just as other businesses, showrooms can set mask requirements and capacity limits at their discretion. While many are still imposing mask requirements, most are opening at full capacity with updated safety guidelines. “At this time, we think it’s critically important to maintain what’s working so well in Dallas. That means continuing our support for the care and comfort of all customers, many of whom are traveling from out of state or are choosing to do business here for the first time,” said Cindy Morris, president and CEO of Dallas Market Center. “As local case counts steeply decline, we are remaining vigilant and exceeding the recommendations and mandates from national and local health officials. Our efforts and experience have created the safest possible environment among all market centers and trade events.”

What are other states doing?

Fifteen other states do not have statewide mask mandates: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee. Mississippi lifted restrictions shortly after Abbott announced his executive order. 

 

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