The most popular grocery chain in Texas has updated its mask policy today. H-E-B, the San Antonio based company, released a statement on its website stating
"At H-E-B, the health and safety of our Partners and customers is our top priority. After reviewing updated guidance from the CDC on mask use, H-E-B will make facial coverings optional for fully vaccinated Partners, vendors, and customers inside our stores. This policy change will take effect on June 9, 2021.
Throughout the pandemic, H-E-B has been a leader in developing strong Covid-19 safety measures to protect our Partners, customers, and communities, and we are encouraged by the favorable Covid-19 trends in Texas."
Before today, H-E-B asked all partners and vendors to wear face masks while at work even if they were fully vaccinated. While the need for customers to wear masks wasn't mandated, it still asked all customers to wear masks.
The Texan chain, which opened its first store in Kerrville, TX in 1905, has over 420 stores across Texas and Mexico. It employs over 137,000 staff and has over $32 billion in sales each year.
Masks across Texas
The news from H-E-B follows on from the announcement that Gov. Greg Abbott made last month that public schools can no longer require masks on their campuses starting June 5. Abbott's decision was part of a new executive order banning government entities in Texas from mandating masks.
Both the Texas State Teachers Association and The Texas American Federation of Teachers were critical of Abbott's move at the time.
Head of the Texas State Teachers Association, Ovidia Molina, said Abbott should have waited until the CDC issued updated guidance on masks for the 2021-22 school year, calling the move "ill-advised."
Updated requirements on masks can be found here.
Texas Vaccination rates
According to the latest CDC tracker, which compiles data from healthcare facilities and public health authorities, Texas ranks 42nd amongst the states in terms of vaccination.
As of June 9, these were the statistics:
Doses distributed to state: 30,896,645
Doses administered: 23,639,670
Percentage of distributed vaccines that have been administered: 76.51
Vaccination is lagging, and businesses are pushing employees to receive the vaccine, although there is some pushback. This week almost 200 staff members at a Houston-area hospital were suspended for not following a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Their suspensions followed a protest by dozens of workers on Monday night against the policy.
Houston Methodist's hospital had told employees that they had to be vaccinated by Monday or face suspension. In May, 117 Houston Methodist employees filed a lawsuit against their employer over the vaccine policy.
“If we don’t stop this now and do some kind of change, everybody’s just going to topple,” Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who led the Houston Methodist protest
On Tuesday, Greg Abbott signed a law concerning vaccination and posted the following on Twitter:
"Texas is open 100%. Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements. Today, I signed a law that prohibits ant YX business or gov't entity from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information."