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'Mask off' party celebrating Texas Covid rollbacks nixed after outcry from Houston officials

"This is a dangerous, irresponsible event that is literally a slap in the face of our health care workers that are risking their lives," state Rep. Ann Johnson said.
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A Houston night club's "mask off" party, set for early Wednesday to celebrate Texas lifting statewide Covid-19 mandates, was canceled after local leaders raised alarms about a potentialspike in coronavirus cases.

The Concrete Cowboy in Houston had told patrons to come to their bar at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the "mask off" bash, complete with bottles of Veuve and Grey Goose, for $100 and $150 respectively, Mayor Sylvester Turner and state Rep. Ann Johnson said.

The lawmakers released an image of an ad for the party that appears to have been posted on an Instagram story. But such postings disappear after 24 hours and there were no signs of that flier on the club's website, Facebook and Instagram by Monday morning.

Turner and Johnson said such celebrations will lead to a spike in Covid cases and they appealed to Concrete Cowboy to call off the party.

"This is a dangerous, irresponsible event that is literally a slap in the face of our health care workers that are risking their lives, those family members who have lost loved ones, and all of Houstonians, who honor the sanctity of life over getting an overpriced cocktail," Johnson said.

By Monday evening, following the public statements denouncing the party, Turner announced the venue had a change of heart.

"I appreciate the owners of @ConcreteCowboyH for putting the safety of their employees and guests as a top priority," Turner tweeted. "Today, they wrote to me stating they would cancel the mask off party that was scheduled for this Wednesday."

A representative for the Concrete Cowboy could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

Gov. Greg Abbott last week announced that the Lone Star state would be open completely open for business with no state laws mandating masks.

His executive order appears to allow local jurisdictions with a high Covid case load to institute mask mandates — but bars them from using fines or jail to enforce them.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Turner told NBC News on Monday that city attorneys are still reviewing Abbott's order to determine what, if any, power that local governments could still have to enforce Covid protocols.

More than 527,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 as of Monday morning, according to a running NBC News tally.

Texas, the second most populous state in the union, has lost more than 45,000 lives to the virus, which is a rate of 157 per 100,000 residents. The nation's most populous state, California, has lost more than other jurisdiction - about 54,000, a rate of 137 per 100,000.

And more than 14 percent of Covid-19 tests are currently coming back positive in Texas, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Only five states and Puerto Rico have higher rates.