Texas schools, stores divided on masks as mandate ends

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A sign requiring make is seen near diners eating at a restaurant on the River Walk, Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in San Antonio. Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is lifting a mask mandate and lifting business capacity limits next week. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

DALLAS – The end of Texas' mask mandate is giving Lucy Alanis second thoughts about one of her occasional indulgences during the coronavirus pandemic: dining in at restaurants.

“I guess I'm a little scared," said Alanis, 27, a florist in Dallas.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's repeal of most COVID-19 restrictions — saying it was “time to open Texas 100%" — reverberated across the state and to the White House on Wednesday, a day after one of the country's most dramatic rollbacks of rules intended to slow the spread of the virus.

Businesses in Texas shed rules, city leaders plotted new safeguards and the state's 5 million schoolchildren largely remained under orders to keep wearing masks, at least for now. The pushback to Abbott's decision included one of his own pandemic advisers, who said he was not consulted ahead of time.

Texas has another week before the mandates end, but what daily life will look like after that remains unsettled after Abbott made the state the largest in the U.S. to no longer require masks, which health experts say is among the most effective ways to curb the spread of the virus.

President Joe Biden reacted to America's second-largest state winding down virus restrictions for nearly 30 million people, calling it “Neanderthal thinking."

The mask mandate, which has been in place since July, and occupancy limits on restaurants and retail stores end March 10. Already, some stores announced they still won't allow maskless customers, while social media users began tracking evolving polices on crowdsourced spreadsheets.

Shopping at Target? Masks are still required. Going to Texas' largest grocery chain, H-E-B? Face coverings are encouraged but no longer mandated.