On Wednesday, the governors of Texas and Mississippi announced that they would lift mandates requiring face coverings to be worn in public and businesses to open at limited capacity. “Texas is OPEN 100%,” Governor Greg Abbott tweeted, with an enthusiasm that some state Democrats have described as a distraction from the recovery effort after the state’s energy crisis in February.
While many firms will accept the end of restrictions after a year of stifled business, others will want to keep some level of pandemic safety as the coronavirus still infects thousands of Texans and hundreds of Mississippians every day. Below is a guide to how they will navigate that challenge — one that predicts the coming debate over the extent to which private businesses, like airlines, will be able to require proof of vaccination before providing service.
Can businesses in Texas still require masks?
According to the executive order from Governor Abbott, companies will be able to set their own capacity limits and require face coverings “at their discretion.”
Major national firms operating in Texas, including Best Buy, CVS, Kroger, Macy’s, and Target, have already said they will require employees and customers to wear face coverings in their stores. Kroger, for one, told CNN that they will “continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the vaccine.”
Other major companies, like the supermarket H-E-B, have never instituted formal mask mandates, instead choosing to let county or city rules dictate mask wearing in their stores. H-E-B employees and vendors will have to wear masks statewide. The grocer Albertsons will also require its employees to wear face coverings.
Can businesses in Mississippi still require masks?
Governor Tate Reeves order this week essentially replaces all executive orders with “recommendations,” encouraging, but not mandating, the wearing of face coverings in public. Similar to Texas, many large national chains will still require masks to be worn in their stores, while cities, including Long Beach and Gulfport, will require masks to enter any municipal buildings. Throughout the states, K-12 schools will also require students and teachers to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible.
Can businesses in Texas and Mississippi set capacity limits?
While businesses in Texas can put in place capacity limits and require patrons to wear masks, Governor Abbott’s order stated that local officials cannot jail or fine anyone who does not wear a mask or violates any local coronavirus restrictions. Business occupancy limits, however, cannot be put in place on religious institutions, schools, or child-care services. If coronavirus patients exceed 15 percent of hospitalizations for seven days in one of the state’s 22 trauma service areas, county judges would then be allowed to set capacity limits to 50 percent.
The new order in Mississippi also allows for private businesses to set occupancy limits, and limits seating capacity for large indoor sporting events at 50 percent.