In the hours after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state will lift COVID-19-related mask mandates and business restrictions March 10, Montgomery County officials and members of the county's business and health care communities weighed in on the end of the era of state-mandated pandemic restrictions.

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, who has criticized the mandates at various points in the past year, said he welcomes the change.

“If you’re like me, you ought to be very pleased with what the governor has just told us about opening up businesses, taking away mask mandates and the rest. We are so happy, Governor, ... for finally doing this," Keough said in a March 2 video post on his Facebook page.

Keough also said that while the governor left open the possibility of counties reinstating capacity limits for businesses or other restrictions if hospitalizations in a region exceed 15% for seven days, he will not make such a decision.

"I want to say to you as your county judge, that is never going to happen," he said.

Local reaction

Officials with local business organizations and hospitals have also weighed in on what the change will mean for those who live or do business in Montgomery County.

“It’s really taking what the state was doing and now letting local counties and local organizations and businesses make up their mind on what is best for them," said JJ Hollie, president and CEO of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, in a phone interview the afternoon of the announcement."I hope people are understanding, respectful and kind when they go to a establishment and are asked, 'Can you put on a mask?' The pandemic is not over. Vaccinations are increasing. Hospitalizations are leveling off, which is great, but now, it’s a matter of ... the state is not making the decision for you. Each organization will need to make that decision."

At CHI St. Luke's Health-The Woodlands Hospital, safety requirements, including mask mandates, will remain in effect, according to a statement from St. Luke's Health.

"The COVID-19 virus and its effects will be with us for a long time," hospital officials said in a statement. "To ensure the safety and health of our communities, we urge people to continue to wear masks and practice other precautions like hand washing and social distancing, in addition to getting vaccinated. Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of the virus, which is why masks are still required at all St. Luke’s Health facilities.”

Schools await guidance
Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, who was in attendance March 2 at the Day at the Capitol event with local legislators in Conroe when Abbott made his announcement, said at the event that TEA guidance will be updated soon to "allow for some degree of continuation of what we had before."

Many local school districts, such as Conroe ISD, announced on social media that they will look to the TEA for guidance.

"All safety protocols will remain in effect in Conroe ISD schools and facilities under further clarification is obtained," the district posted on social media.

Eva Vigh contributed to this report.