March 2 (UPI) -- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that they will lift mask mandates and allow businesses to open at full capacity in their respective states.
Reeves wrote on Twitter that the changes in Mississippi will take effect Wednesday, while Abbott issued a statement declaring that Texas will lift many of its pandemic-related executive orders on March 10.
During a news conference Tuesday, Reeves said restrictions including mask mandates will remain in effect in K-12 schools.
"I believe that the most consequential debate playing out in America today is whether children should be in the classroom learning," he said. "My view is simple, all of Mississippi's children should be in the classroom."
Indoor arenas will also be required to operate at 50% capacity.
He added that businesses are "well within their right" to impose their own restrictions and that he would replace the executive orders with "recommendations."
"Executive orders that interfered with peoples' lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year," he said. "Now we are putting our focus toward rapid vaccine distribution. We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do."
In Texas, Abbott signed an executive order that will rescind most of his earlier executive orders related to COVID-19 as well as the mask mandate and allowing all businesses "of any type" to open at 100% capacity.
"We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100%," Abbott said. "Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed."
Abbot said that county judges will be able to implement COVID-19 strategies if hospitalizations in any region rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity for seven consecutive days. However, judges will not be permitted to impose jail time for failing to follow COVID-19 orders or for failing to wear a face mask.
Both governors cited declining rates of new cases and hospitalizations, and rapid distribution of vaccines as reasons their states are able to lift the restrictions.
Texas ranks second in the nation in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic with 2.3 million along with 43,266 fatalities, while allocating more than 8.8 million vaccine doses and administering more than 5.6 million.
The seven-day average in the state has been on the rise since late February, increasing to 6,600 on Tuesday from 4,900 on Feb 20.
During Tuesday's press conference Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs warned that new cases and deaths are increasing, adding the Health Department is still "strongly recommending" individuals older than 65 or anyone older than 16 with a chronic medical condition avoid social gatherings until they have been vaccinated.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Americans to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including using face coverings. He said in an update from the White House that there will be enough COVID-19 vaccines for every adult in the United States to be fully vaccinated by the end of May.
"The fight is far from over," Biden said. "Though we celebrate the news ... I urge all Americans, please keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, wear masks."