Target won't be lifting its mask requirement in Texas stores despite the state's governor loosening COVID-19 restrictions, including a mask rule, the company said.
"We require guests to wear masks or face coverings in all of our stores, except for guests with underlying medical conditions and young children," a spokesperson for the Minnesota-based company said in a statement to NBC 5. "We also require all store team members to wear masks at work and have provided them with reusable and disposable masks. Those who have been vaccinated for coronavirus are still required to wear a mask and follow all social distancing guidelines, in line with current CDC guidance."
And Target isn't alone.
Kroger, which is based in Ohio but operates several stores in Texas, also said it has no plans to lift mask requirements.
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"To ensure the continued safety of our customers and associates, The Kroger Family of Companies will continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the company said in a statement.
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let their guard down yet.
The Lone Star State will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed."
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said that as of Wednesday, he is getting rid of most mask mandates that he had imposed to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He is also lifting most other restrictions, including limits on seating in restaurants.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that she will extend the state's mask mandate through April 9, but will lift the order after that date.
Top health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by begging people repeatedly not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the outbreak is in sight.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday condemned both Texas and Mississippi's plans to end their mask mandates and reopen as officials try to contain new strains of the coronavirus.
U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January.
But the two curves have leveled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations.
“We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday.
Even so, many Americans are sick of the shutdowns that have damaged their livelihoods and are eager to socialize again.