Target, Costco among big retailers keeping mask mandate in Texas

Coronavirus

Signs tells customers about safety measures against COVID-19 that are required inside a retail store Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Dallas. Texas is lifting a COVID-19 mask mandate that was imposed last summer but has only been lightly enforced. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement Tuesday makes Texas the largest state to do away with a face covering order. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

In the wake of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to do away with coronavirus restrictions, major retailers, restaurants and even NBA teams are declining to follow his lead when it comes to mask requirements.

The Republican governor’s announcement Tuesday rejects guidance from federal health officials, who are imploring states not to relax guidelines as the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

Target, Costco, Sprouts, Whole Foods and Walmart are among the grocery and big-box stores that will continue to mandate masks inside stores.

Walmart requires masks for customers and workers, but has said the company won’t ask employees to enforce the rule.

Whole Foods told Nexstar’s KXAN that customers who refuse to wear a mask will be offered a faces shield, those who refuse that will have to pass a health screening in order to shop inside without a mask.

Texas’ repeal of the mask mandate goes into effect March 10, forcing business owners to create their own rules or risk being tied to a potential outbreak.

Mark Cuban, who owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, has said that he has no immediate plans to scrap mask requirements and limits to the size of crowds, which have so far been about 3,000 or less.

The San Antonio Spurs have decided to keep mask rules in place with head coach Gregg Popovich calling Abbott’s decision “mystifying” and “ignorant.”

Stores such as supermarket chain H-E-B won’t require masks and will opt to “strongly encourage” use of the protective device.

In Texas, where more than 43,000 people have died from COVID-19, the number of cases has fallen sharply, a trend states across the country are seeing as the vaccination rollout picks up momentum.

Despite the positive news, the seven-day rolling average of positive tests is still at 7,600 in Texas, and medical experts worry that Abbott’s announcement is premature.

“I am just concerned that I am going to have a tsunami of new cases,” Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center told reporters. “I truly hope I am wrong. But unfortunately history seems to repeat itself.”

On Tuesday, Abbott said that it was “time to open Texas 100%” and that the statewide mandate was “no longer needed.” He added that the announcement “does not abandon the safe practices that Texans have mastered of the past year.”

On Wednesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said Abbott “broke a promise” and “created ambiguity where none should exist” by pulling the mask mandate.

“At the beginning of this pandemic, Gov. Abbott said he’d be guided by the science and the data, and yesterday he broke that promise,” Adler said. “Masking works, and it continues to be necessary.”

Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves joined Abbott in lifting coronavirus restrictions, a move that President Biden called “Neanderthal thinking.”

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