Texas moves to lift mask mandate and ease Covid rules

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Intl desk, Mar 03: Employees at General Motors, Toyota Motor, Target Corp, and Macy’s Inc in Texas will keep face masks on at work, the companies said on Tuesday, even as the U.S. state lifted most of its coronavirus curbs allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity as of next week.

Japanese carmaker Toyota, which has its U.S. headquarters and a factory in Texas, said it was looking into the move by Governor Greg Abbott to roll back the mask mandate, and it doesn’t contemplate any immediate changes, Reuters reported.

Abbott’s executive order lifts all mask requirements statewide and forbids any local jurisdiction from penalizing residents for not wearing a face covering.

“The early read is – no change for us,” Toyota spokesman Scott Vazin said.

Toyota’s plant in San Antonio builds full-size pickup trucks. The company has about 7,000 employees in Texas, including 4,400 at its Plano headquarters.

GM, which employs about 13,500 people in Texas, said it would also maintain status quo in the state, with regards to its employees wearing masks.

“We’ll keep our COVID-19 safety protocols in place to ensure we continue to protect our employees,” GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey said.

Target will continue requiring guests to wear masks in all of its stores, the company’s spokesman said, adding that the big-box retailer also required all store team members to wear masks at work, and provided them with reusable and disposable masks.

Department store operator Macy’s said its policy of needing customers and workers to wear masks in stores was going to remain unchanged.

“Relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake,” Jason Brewer, vice president of Communications and State Affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said, adding that going back on safety measures will “unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates.”

As of Monday, 35 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, mandate that residents wear face masks in public. Iowa, Mississippi, Montana and North Dakota have lifted mask orders imposed last year.