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“I’m worried about the people in our state. That’s a pretty mystifying decision considering the situation that we’re all in,” Popovich said Tuesday before the Spurs took on the New York Knicks in San Antonio, according to reports. “But as far as the players go, we listen to the NBA, not Governor Abbott.”
Abbott announced Tuesday that beginning March 10, Texans will no longer be required to wear masks in public. The governor also said he will rescind the state’s previous executive orders and allow all businesses to reopen at maximum capacity.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich directs his team against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
His decision makes Texas the largest state to eliminate the face masks requirement, despite health officials saying they are an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“It puts a lot of businesses in a tough spot,” Popovich said, according to the USA TODAY. “They’re trying to do a good job of keeping everybody safe. Of course they want to open up. But getting rid of masks just seems ignorant to me.”
“We have to have instant gratification and act like the pandemic is over? We already went through this once, and now we’re going to do it again?” he continued.
Abbott noted that the vaccine is a big contributing factor to the state’s ability to safely reopen, saying that health experts expect 7 million shots to be distributed in the state by next Wednesday. Hospitalizations are also at the lowest levels since October.
However, as of Tuesday, less than 2 million Texans are fully inoculated against COVID-19 in a state of 29 million, according to The Dallas Morning News. Health officials have urged people to social distance and wear masks even as vaccinations rise.
Abbott also noted that removing statewide mandates doesn’t eliminate the personal responsibility of residents in his state, “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
However, Popovich, who is known to speak out on social issues, said he believes there will be more infections without the mask requirement — which was imposed about eight months ago.
“But when all of a sudden we act like it’s over with and all of the science tells us the opposite, you’re basically saying, ‘You get infected and you die? That’s the way it goes. We have to open up!’ That’s not the way to do it. This is really ridiculous,” he said, according to the USA TODAY.
Popovich previously condemned Abbott and state leaders back in July for their handling of the pandemic.
“We have a lieutenant governor who decided he doesn’t want to listen to Fauci and those people anymore,” Popovich said in July, according to KENS5 reporter Tom Petrini. “That makes a lot of sense. Cmon. How safe can that be? The messaging is ridiculous.”
As of early Wednesday, Texas has reported more than 2,668,091 total coronavirus cases and more than 44,186 deaths from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Federal health officials this week urgently warned states to not let their guard down, warning that the pandemic is far from over.