Austin imposes own mask requirement; Paxton threatens suit
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The state is opening up COVID-19 vaccination priorities to include persons above age 50, effective Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday.
In making the announcement, the department noted that more than 93% of the state's COVID-19 fatalities involved those age 50 and older, with those between ages 50 and 64 accounting for 20% of the deaths.
The department gave vaccination priority to health care workers and long-term care home residents and staff in December, followed by all age 65 and older shortly thereafter, then school and child-care workers last week.
Meanwhile, Austin and Travis County officials have imposed their own requirement that all in the city wear masks in public in apparent defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott's order lifting the state mandate, which took effect Wednesday.
The mandate announced Tuesday by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown prompted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to threaten a lawsuit Wednesday if the Austin-area officials don't reconsider their move.
Adler and Brown announced the new mask mandate Tuesday after consulting their top health officials. Abbott's order lifting the state mask mandate took effect Wednesday, leaving the decision on requiring masks to property owners.
On other fronts, Texas Rangers baseball club officials said Wednesday that they would open Globe Life Field, their 40,518-seat ballpark, to its full capacity for its April 5 home opener. Fans will be required to wear masks except while eating or drinking.
On Tuesday, data from Johns Hopkins University showed the two-week rolling average of new cases in the state decreased by 832.4 cases per day, or 13.7%.
The state health department on Tuesday reported 4,410 new confirmed or probable cases, bringing the state's pandemic total to a few cases shy of 2.7 million, an estimated 125,403 of which are now active.
The 225 new COVID-19-related fatalities reported Tuesday brought the state's pandemic death toll to 44,875.
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