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When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, lifted his statewide face mask mandate and his limits on business occupancy in early March, Democrats warned that he was inviting a public health disaster. Yet a month and a half later, newly identified coronavirus cases in Texas have fallen by more than 50 percent, and daily deaths have dropped even more.
Meanwhile, states with stricter COVID-19 regulations have seen spikes in daily new cases. This is not the pattern you would expect to see if government-imposed restrictions played a crucial role in curtailing the pandemic, as advocates of those policies assume.
Abbott's critics did not mince words. President Joe Biden said the governor's decision reflected "Neanderthal thinking." Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said it was "extraordinarily dangerous" and "will kill Texans."
One reason those dark prophecies have not come true: The practical impact of Abbott's changes was much less significant than his detractors implied.
Most businesses in Texas had been allowed to operate at 75 percent of capacity since mid-October, when Abbott also allowed bars to reopen. It was implausible that removing the cap would have much of an impact on virus transmission, even in businesses that were frequently hitting the 75 percent limit.
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