As hospitalizations across the state are soaring due to COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott is now requiring face coverings for the state of Texas. On Thursday, July 2, Abbott issued an executive order requiring face coverings in any county with more than 20 COVID-19 cases.
The new statewide order goes into effect at 12:01 pm on Friday, July 3. Face masks were already mandatory in the state's biggest metro areas, including Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston.
Abbott noted that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 cases have tripled across the state in just the past week alone. "These spikes are not just limited to just the big cities," Abbott said. "More than 91 [Texas] counties have had record-high numbers in just the past three days. All together these numbers reveal a very stark reality: COVID-19 is not going away. In fact, it's getting worse."
On July 1 alone, the state recorded more than 8,000 new cases of COVID-19.
"I know wearing a face covering is not the convenient thing to do, but I also know that wearing a face covering will help us to keep Texas open for business and it will help Texans earn the paycheck they need," Abbott said in a video address. "I also know that not taking action to slow the spread will cause COVID-19 to spread even worse, risking people's lives and ultimately closing more businesses."
Abbott never said the word "mask" during the seven-minute video, instead referring to them as "face coverings." He also noted that they are among the most effective ways to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Texans do not need to wear a face covering:
- if they are younger than 10 years old
- if they have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask
- while eating, drinking, or sitting at a restaurant to eat or drink
- while exercising outdoors
- while outdoors and maintaining six feet of distance from someone not in their household
- while driving alone or with people in their household
- while obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face
- while swimming
- while voting or administering an election
- if providing or engaged in religious worship (though it's highly encouraged)
- while giving a speech or broadcast
Law enforcement have the authority to enforce the order, says Abbott, who compared it to police enforcing seat belt laws. Those caught without a mask will be issued a warning after their first offense. Subsequent offenses could be subject to penalties not to exceed $250, but he stressed that no one can be placed in jail for not wearing a face covering.
In addition to face coverings, the governor issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people.
"Everyone," said Abbott, "needs to do their part to slow the spread."