U.S. firms continue to mask up in Texas despite the rollback of its statewide mask mandate. Target Corp, Macy's, General Motors, and Toyota Motor plan to keep Covid-19 safety protocols in place regardless of Governor Greg Abbott's move to lift the mask requirement and fully reopen the state for business.
As of Wednesday, Texans will no longer be subject to a statewide mandate to wear masks in public. All businesses have the go-ahead to resume operations at full capacity with protections in place to prevent residents from being penalized for not wearing a mask.
Despite Abbott's executive order, most major U.S. firms operating in the Lone Star State have no plans to enact any changes to their current safety precautions. Many companies voiced their intent to continue requiring both employees and customers to wear a face-covering or mask while on the premises.
Pushback from city and county leaders across the state is widespread. Major companies, retailers, health care providers, and other customer-facing organizations intend to disregard the Governor's mandate and keep COVID-19 safety measures in place. Most plan on sticking with their current procedures to combat COVID-19 transmission, which is in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Retail Industry Leaders Association's vice president of communications and state affairs, Jason Brewer, voiced his frustration with lifting the mask requirement. "Relaxing common-sense, non-intrusive safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake," Brewer said. He insisted that removing the mask ban "will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates."
Even if vaccinated, individuals are still capable of transmitting COVID-19 asymptomatically. Public health officials continue to recommend masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing as the best way to minimize transmission. Such guidance influences corporate entities' response in dealing with inconsistent mask mandates between state and federal governments. In lieu of consistent messaging across the state lines, industry groups are choosing to follow federal guidelines, even if doing so marks a return to mask wars that were prevalent at the start of the pandemic.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) responded to Governor Abbott's lifting of the mask mandate with a statement reiterating businesses' rights to create their own policies regarding COVID-19. "Retail stores are private entities," said Bill Thorne of the NRF, "if they require you to wear a mask in their stores, and you choose not to, that store can refuse admission or service."
Big-box retailer Target said it would enforce the use of masks and face coverings throughout all of its stores and premises, for employees as well as guests. Texas is no exception. Target plans to continue providing its store teams with reusable and disposable masks in order to maintain the current status quo, even as vaccinations increase. "Those who have been vaccinated for coronavirus are still required to wear a mask and follow all social distancing guidelines," a Target spokesperson said, which would keep the corporation's safety protocols "in line with current CDC guidance."
Macy's department stores are operating on the presumption that all workers and customers will need to mask up in office and retail space for the near future. No changes are expected in regards to the mask ban being lifted.
GM spokesperson Patrick Morrissey echoed the sentiment and reiterated, "We'll keep our COVID-19 safety protocols in place to ensure we continue to protect our employees." GM employees number about 13,500 in the state of Texas. All staff and workers will be asked to mask up at work, despite the Governor's mandate.
Toyota's 7000 Texas employees are also expected to follow suit at its San Antonio plant and Toyota headquarters in Plano. "The early read is - no change for us," according to Toyota's spokesperson, Scott Vazin. Senior leadership at Toyota is currently reviewing the mandate with no word on any expected change to its policies.
The use of masks or facial coverings will continue to be enforced on all federal properties in Texas. A majority of U.S. states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are currently under state-imposed public mask mandates. As of last year, Mississippi, Montana, Iowa, and North Dakota do not require residents and visitors to mask up within their state borders.