Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear masks "over the nose and mouth" in public spaces. It applies to counties with at least 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases and reverses the governor's previous policies.
"If Texans commit to wearing face coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, we can both slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Texas open for business," Abbott said in a statement.
Repeat offenders, after receiving a verbal or written warning for violating the mask requirement, may be fined up to $250. Local law enforcement and other local officials "can and should enforce" the mandate, according to the order.
The governor also granted mayors and county judges the ability to prohibit outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
Texas reportedly ranks sixth among states with the most rapid increase in cases per capita. Travis County surpassed 10,000 cases yesterday and is preparing the Austin Convention Center as a field hospital in case area hospitals are overwhelmed.
The governor's order provides some exceptions to the mask mandate, including:
- People who are under 10 years old or have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
- While eating, exercising outside, swimming, voting or driving alone or with a member of the same household.
This order represents a reversal for Abbott, who previously refused local jurisdictions the right to mandate masks and limit gatherings despite repeated pleas that he do so.
Earlier this week, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe sent Abbott a letter asking the state to enforce mandatory masking, prohibit social gatherings of more than 10 people, roll back business occupancy and allow local officials to issue stay-home orders as needed.
"In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure and mitigate the spread of disease," he wrote.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, along with the mayors of eight other large Texas cities, also sent Abbott a letter, on June 16, asking for the authority to impose a mask requirement.
The next day, Abbott allowed local jurisdictions to require businesses to mandate masks among employees and customers.
This story is developing and has been updated.
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