ALEXANDRIA, Va.—This week, both Texas and Mississippi lifted mask mandates, following Iowa and Montana, which did so last month. Recently, Massachusetts removed capacity limits on restaurants, and South Carolina is permitting gatherings of more than 250 people, reports the New York Times.
According to U.S. News, Texas is the largest state to lift its mask mandate, despite averaging over 7,600 new COVID-19 cases per day with about 9% of its adult population fully vaccinated. So far, Texas has recorded over 2.6 million cases of the virus—the second highest of any state.
While many Americans want to return to the freedom of pre-pandemic days, some medical experts believe the recent announcements represent a rushed return to normalcy.
“Despite the impending removal of the state mask mandate, we must continue our vigilance with masking, distancing and hand washing,” Dr. Mark Escott, Travis County Interim Health Authority, told the Texas Tribune. “These remain critical in our ongoing fight against COVID-19.”
Jason Brewer, spokesperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a statement that “relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing a mask is a mistake,” CBS58.com reported. “Going backwards on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates.”
Politicians defended the new round of changes by pointing to the sharp decline in cases since January. The number of confirmed new cases has stopped falling in the past two weeks, both in the U.S. and worldwide. In the U.S., the average daily number of cases is higher than at almost any point last summer, and over the past week, more than 2,000 Americans have died each day on average.
Regardless of state action, many retail chains are still requiring customers to wear face masks in their stores.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, the following retailers will continue to require customers to wear a mask:
- Walmart: According to Walmart's website, all customers are required to wear a mask as of July 20. However, employees are not required to enforce the policy.
- Albertsons: Masks are still required.
- Kroger's: Masks are still required.
- Sprouts Farmers Market: Masks are still required. Face shields are also allowed.
- Target: Masks are still required.
- Whole Foods: Masks are still required, and free ones are available at the front of the store.
- Costco: Masks are still required. Those with certain health conditions may wear a face shield instead.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.