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Labor activists rally to protest Abbott’s lift of mask order

March 9, 2021 GMT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A few dozen activists rallied Monday at the Texas Capitol to protest Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift his order requiring Texans to don masks.

The Amplified Sound Coalition of music industry workers and the Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America mounted the rally. They called for Abbott to reconsider last week’s decision until 70% of the state’s essential workers are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The viral illness has killed about 45,000 people in Texas, the nation’s third-highest COVID-19 death toll. The Texas per-capita COVID-19 death rate is the nation’s 24th-highest, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

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The 1,300 new confirmed and probable cases drove the state’s pandemic total closer to 2.7 million cases, with an estimated 133,003 of those now active, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported Monday. The number of cases requiring hospitalization continued to trend lower with 4,329 reported Sunday, the most recent data available from the state.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases increased by 1,545, an increase of 34.1%, according to the Johns Hopkins researchers.