BEAUMONT, Texas — After nearly a year of restrictions and closures the state of Texas is, as of Wednesday at midnight, open again at 100% by order of Governor Greg Abbott.
While many in Texas and Southeast Texas may disagree there is now no longer a state issued mask-mandate and all types of business in the state may open at 100%.
Abbott Made the announcement at a Lubbock restaurant on March 2 saying "Businesses don't need the state to tell them how to operate."
Businesses in Southeast Texas can be found on both sides of the issue with some opting to remain open at 50 - 75% and some still asking their customers to mask up.
Southeast Texas restaurants like Bruno's Italian Kitchen and the 5 Under Golf Center won't be requiring customers to mask up starting today.
"It's all about our avoiding conflict. It's up to our customers. If they want to wear it they can. If they don't want to wear it, they don't have to," said Zamira Gyriqi, Owner Bruno's Italian Kitchen.
The message on masks at 5 Under Golf Center is pretty much the same.
"We will not force them to wear it. If they do feel the need to wear it then they are more than welcome to," said Chris Clark, vice president of food and beverage at 5 Under.
At Katharine & Company, in Beaumont, staff will continue to mask up as the restaurant continues to operate at 75% capacity and patrons will be asked to wear masks according to a Tuesday Facebook post by the restaurant.
In the post, tagged #ItsTooSoonTx, the restaurant said that it would follow the previous Texas mandates to protect staff and customers.
While some businesses in the region are not requiring masks it may still be a good idea to keep one with you for the ones that do require them.
Some Southeast Texas leaders and doctors have also said opening the stage back up to 100% at this point concerned them, fearing another surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Even though Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said he didn't want to second-guess the governor he told 12News that he was concerned about the long-term impact of the governor's decision.
"I think that we will see with the opening up some more infections. I'm just hoping that it doesn't get back to the levels that we've seen the last several months," Branick said last week.
Beaumont's Dr. Msonthi Levine told 12News he realizes people are more ready than ever to get out and about, but said they should still wear a mask.
He also says, if you've been vaccinated, you should still mask up.
"You can still become infected when you have the vaccine. It's just that the vaccine lowers your chance of having a severe infection," Dr. Levine said.
Masks will be required at his practice for staff and patients.
The hospitalization rate in the state's "Trauma Service Area-R", which includes Southeast Texas, has consistently remained below 15% since February 14, 2021, after staying above 15% for nearly two months according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The 14-day rolling average of new cases in Southeast Texas has been trending downward since mid-January.
The total deaths tied to the pandemic now stands at 913 in Southeast Texas and 44,650 in Texas according to state data as of March 8, 2021.
If COVID-19 hospitalizations stay above 15% for seven straight days, a county judge may use mitigation strategies in their county, such as face masks. Judges may not enforce penalties for countywide face mask restrictions, Abbott said last week.
"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," Abbott said last Tuesday.
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This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.