In a Feb. 24 press release, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the suspension of a policy requiring all employees and visitors to wear a mask in municipal buildings.
This comes after a Feb. 23 announcement from Turner, in which he said “the country is beginning to move into a new phase of the pandemic.” With Houston’s positivity rate declining, the city is now seeing manageable hospitalizations, Turner said.
“Over the past few months, city employees have worked diligently to create a safe and healthy environment in our municipal buildings,” Turner said. “Because of their selfless actions, fewer employees are getting sick and are showing up to work and providing city services to the public.”
The suspension of the policy—known as A.P. 3-39—also means employees will no longer be required to conduct a temperature screening when entering municipal buildings. However, Turner said the suspension does not apply to those who work as clinical personnel, such as paramedics, nurses and doctors. When interacting with patients, clinical personnel are still required to wear a face covering, he said.
Those who would still like to wear a mask in municipal buildings may choose to do so. Turner said he encourages Houstonians who are not fully vaccinated or who are immunocompromised to continue to wear a face covering when on city premises.
The suspension is supported by the city’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Persse. In his Feb. 24 letter to city employees, he said it is safe to no longer wear masks in all settings, because the overall risk for the virus has decreased because of Houston’s vaccination rates.
“After two years of learning a great deal about [COVID-19], a variety of nonpharmaceutical interventions, vaccines and our individual opinions about each of these, we are fortunate that the amount of viral activity in Houston is slowing down at a rapid rate,” Persse said. “So, it is timely to consider the lifting of the remaining restrictions.”
Turner and Persse encouraged Houstonians who have not been vaccinated or boosted to do so. As Community Impact Newspaper previously reported, the city’s vaccine incentive, giving people who get vaccinated a chance to win a $1,000 gift card, runs until March 10.