Texas Restaurants Face Backlash, Threats for Continuing to Require Masks

Gov. Greg Abbot announced the state will allow businesses to operate at 100-percent capacity starting March 10.

Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott used his Twitter account and an executive order to announce that his state would soon be "OPEN 100%" again, and it's reopening pretty much everything, all at once. When he signed off on that order, he gave bars and restaurants throughout Texas an official OK to reopen at full capacity, and it also allows their employees and customers to stop wearing face masks or to worry that they're not standing at least six feet from each other.

Although Abbott was enthusiastic enough about his decision to use ALL CAPS on Twitter, not everyone is quite as excited about it. A number of restaurants logged into their own social media accounts to explain that they would still require their patrons to wear masks and to stick to the previous social distancing requirements. The new executive order does permit individual businesses to "limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion," but some of the restaurants that have decided to err on the side of safety have already faced significant backlash.

Texas Governor Abbott Lifts Statewide Mask Mandate
Covid-19 restriction signs hang outside of Chipotle on March 3, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state will end its mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity on March 10. Montinique Monroe / Stringer/Getty Images

Monica Richards, the co-owner of Picos Mexican restaurant in Houston's Upper Kirby neighborhood, told the Houston Chronicle that customers called, emailed, or DMed to make threats, or to warn her that someone just might call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the restaurant's employees. "It was horrific," she said. "I never imagined that they would go that far."

Richards isn't alone in her decision to keep the safety measures going a little longer: according to the Chronicle, 72 percent of the 700-plus members of the Texas Restaurant Association said that they will extend their own in-house mask requirements. The Association has also updated its own guidelines, suggesting that this is the way to go, for now.

"In keeping with the public health guidance and best practices, our updated Texas Restaurant Promise includes a face-covering requirement for employees and encourages guests to wear a face covering when they are not seated at their table," the group told Nation's Restaurant News in a statement. "Please show respect to our valued and hard-working staff, having patience and grace as they help us navigate this next phase of reopening Texas," it adds on its website.)

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the results of its own study, which illustrated that from March 1 through December 31 of last year, U.S. counties with mask mandates had decreased numbers of positive cases and deaths, compared to counties that allowed in-person dining, where the number of positive cases and the death rate increased.

"Mask mandates were associated with statistically significant decreases in county-level daily COVID-19 case and death growth rates within 20 days of implementation," the report read. "Allowing on-premises restaurant dining was associated with increases in county-level case and death growth rates within 41–80 days after reopening." On Friday, Texas reported 4,277 new cases of the coronavirus and 256 new deaths. Abbott's "100% OPEN" executive order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

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