Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is lifting mask mandates in the state and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity starting Wednesday. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that capacity restrictions on businesses and mask requirements will be lifted next Wednesday.
The short answer is this means very little for travel including travel to, from, and in states where state and local mask and other requirements are lifting.
- Airlines had their own mask requirements, before last month’s federal mandate. The federal rule isn’t going away any time soon and applies to airports and planes. It is in effect “until further notice…or until the Secretary of Health and Human Services rescinds the determination under section 319 of the Public Heatlh Services Act (42 USC 247d) that a public health emergency exists.”
In other words, Covid-19 not only has to no longer be a ‘public health emergency’ but risk-averse government officials need to formally recognize that.
- Hotel chains have their own mask requirements for public areas of their properties. Those aren’t state-dependent, and the lifting of state requirements do not bar private businesses from enforcing their own mask rules. Uber and Lyft, by the way, still require masking as well.
- Airports are going to follow federal rules. Don’t expect any renegade airports. Their budgets are subject to significant FAA string-pulling. If a small Texas or Mississippi airport decided to go rogue on masking, Mayor Pete tells big airlines not to fly to small airports that don’t enforce masks for the safety of their crew. Killeen, Texas will never see another Envoy Air ERJ-145 again for the duration of the current administration.
Some restaurants and bars will be packed if you travel to Texas and Mississippi. Of course that was already true because enforcement of capacity restrictions was uneven at best. Some restaurants and bars will allow patrons to go unmasked while moving around away from their tables. But many will continue some elements of current practices.
Destinations that remove mask mandates first are most likely places that were largely open already. Of course everyone has to find their own comfort level, I’m happy visiting restaurants for instance with outdoor patios where I’m not packed in close to other patrons.
The Texas order allows counties to impose their own restrictions if Covid cases take up 15% of available hospital beds for a week consecutively. We’ll know soon enough whether this was too early, but Governor Abbott in Texas likely needed something to recover politically from the major power and water outages of last month and the Governor of Mississippi was able to jump in line lifting his state’s requirements before Texas’s were actually lifted.