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Counties with 20+ cases impacted
From The News-Courier staff with contributions by Texas Tribune—
AUSTIN —With a spike in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last Thursday that requires all residents in counties with 20 or more cases must wear masks in public places.
“Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said.
“We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces,” he added,
The mask order represents a turnaround for Abbott, who has long resisted a statewide requirement, even as the coronavirus situation has gotten worse than ever over the past couple of weeks in Texas.
When he began allowing Texas businesses to reopen this spring, Abbott prohibited local governments from punishing people who do not wear masks. As cases began to rise earlier this month, he clarified that cities and counties could order businesses to mandate that customers wear masks.
In recent days, Abbott had held firm against going further than that, saying he did not want to impose a statewide requirement that may burden parts of the state that are not as badly affected by the outbreak.
COVID-19 is not going away,” he said. “In fact, it’s getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19.”
His order also allows mayors and county judges to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people and makes it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.
Penalties for not following Abbott’s order:
“Following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of this face covering requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.”
However, no one can be jailed.
Exceptions to the new statewide mark order:
- Children under 10
- People who have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask
- While eating, drinking or sitting at a restaurant to eat or drink
- While exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity while maintaining social distance guidelines
- While driving alone or riding in a vehicle with members of the same household
- While swimming in a pool, lake or other similar body of water
- While in church.
Abbott’s order specifies that at least one group of people is not exempted from the order: “any person attending a protest or demonstration” with over 10 people who cannot socially distance.
State Democrats and local officials had been demanding Abbott institute such a requirement. Democratic party officials said his new order is “far too little, far too late.”
“This is unacceptable,” Texas Democratic Party spokesman Abhi Rahman said in a statement. “Governor Abbott continues to lead from behind rather than implementing preventive measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”