These are the states reopening, rolling back mask mandates amid coronavirus pandemic

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States are rolling back more and more coronavirus restrictions as vaccines become available and positive cases trend downward nationwide. 

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to make an announcement on removing all statewide orders “soon,” though no changes have been made yet. We’re working right now on evaluating when we’re gonna be able to remove all statewide orders, and we will be making announcements about that pretty soon,” Abbott, who has had a statewide mask mandate in place since July, told reporters during a news conference in Corpus Christi on Thursday without giving a specific date.

“We’re working right now on evaluating when we’re gonna be able to remove all statewide orders, and we will be making announcements about that pretty soon,” Abbott, who has had a statewide mask mandate in place since July, told reporters during a news conference in Corpus Christi on Thursday without giving a specific date.

Abbott has issued several executive orders, in addition to the mask mandate, that restricts some business operations if businesses are based in areas with high hospitalization rates.

Positive COVID-19 cases spiked in the state in January and have been on a steady decline ever since. About 7.4 million vaccines have been distributed in the state while 3.5 million first doses and 1.7 million second doses have been administered, according to the Houston Chronicle. 

Arkansas has lifted almost all of its restrictions, and a number of other states have already reopened completely, including Iowa, Missouri (with county-wide exceptions) and Flordia. Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday lifted most of the safety restrictions it placed on businesses to curb the spread of coronavirus and said he’ll end a mask mandate next month if the state’s test positivity or hospitalizations are low. Hutchinson announced the rollback of the safety rules as he extended the public health emergency he declared last year because of the coronavirus pandemic until the end of March. The governor announced the move as he’s faced pushback from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature over the state’s virus safety rules. Arkansas has recently seen a drop in new cases and hospitalizations. Arkansas as of Thursday had a test positivity rate of about 10%. The state on Thursday reported 522 patients hospitalized because of COVID-19.

Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Feb. 5 lifted all coronavirus restrictions — including a mask mandate  — in the state that had been in place since before Thanksgiving, according to an emergency proclamation. Reynolds lifted all mandates related to masks,  indoor and outdoor gatherings, and other business-related restrictions while recommending that high-risk individuals and companies still take necessary precautions to stay safe. Positive COVID-19 cases in the state spiked in November after Thanksgiving and have been declining since then, according to the Iowa Department of Health. More than 680,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Iowa.

In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson lifted all restrictions in June, including a mask mandate, while keeping a state emergency order in place, allowing counties to determine the best restrictions for their respective areas. “It is truly incredible to think about how far Missouri has come since March. At that time, no one knew what to expect. There was a lot of uncertainty, worry, and concern,” Parson said in a June 11 statement. “Here we are today, just over 90 days since our first COVID-19 case in Missouri, and I am proud to say we have overcome all of these challenges and more than met our four pillars to reopen.” Those four pillars included expanded testing capacity and volume; expanded personal protective equipment (PPE) reserves through opened supply chains; continued monitoring of hospital capacity; and improved ability to predict potential outbreaks. Missouri has also seen a progressive decline in cases since November, after Thanksgiving, and declines in cumulative case-fatality rates since June. The state has recorded fewer than 1,000 cases per day over the past two weeks, Fox 2 St. Louis reported on Thursday.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also announced in June that the state would not reimpose sweeping shutdowns amid some of the highest COVID-19 case numbers in the country, saying that going back to lockdowns would cripple the economy without saving lives. “We’re not going back, closing things,” DeSantis told reporters at the time, despite recording some of the highest COVID-19 case numbers in the country. “I don’t think that that really is what’s driving it,” the governor said of businesses staying open. “People going to a business is not what’s driving it. I think when you see the younger folks, I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that’s natural. Obviously, you had a lot of different activities going on in different parts of the state. … So that’s just the reality.” DeSantis added that doomsday predictions about Florida’s coronavirus numbers were off-base, and urged young residents to “protect the vulnerable” by socially distancing and steering clear of the elderly — stopping short of other governors, who have suggested residents should generally stay home.

Fifteen states, including Florida, Iowa and Missouri, have either lifted or never implemented statewide mask mandates, leaving it up to counties to implement the rules, with Montana being the latest state to do so.

Montana also lifted most restrictions on businesses, such as limitations on indoor gatherings, in January under the leadership of its new Republican governor, Greg Gianforte.

Other states that never implemented or have lifted mask mandates include Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee. Arizona only requires masks in certain settings. 

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