Abbott issues mask mandate

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Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest order requires Texans living in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth while in a business or other building open to the public, as well as outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. Photo credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Pool/American-Statesman

As new coronavirus cases surge in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mask mandate Thursday that will require nearly all Texans, including all in Denton County and around the Metroplex, to wear a face covering in public.

The order applies to all Texas counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions. Denton County, and the counties of DFW, are well above 20 positive cases. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and must be worn while inside a business or other building open to the public, as well as in outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. There are several exceptions, including children under 10 years old, people who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, people who are eating or drinking and people who are exercising outdoors.

The order is effective as of 12:01 p.m. Friday. Abbott had previously resisted calls for a statewide mandate, but allowed local governments to require businesses to mandate masks. Last week, the city of Denton issued its own mask mandate, while just this week, the Denton County Commissioners Court chose to not issue such a mandate, against the recommendation of the county’s public health department.

First-time offenders of Abbott’s order will receive a written or verbal warning. Those who violate the order a second time will receive a fine of up to $250. Every subsequent violation is punishable also by a fine of up to $250. The order specifies that no one can get jail time for a violation.

“COVID-19 is not going away,” Abbott said in a video statement. “In fact, it’s getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19.

“We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast there is little margin for error.”

The Denton County Sheriff’s Office won’t be enforcing the order.

Abbott’s mask order comes weeks after new coronavirus cases began surging around the state. Last week, he announced that bars would have to close again, and restaurants would reduce capacity from 75% to 50%.

Abbott on Thursday also banned certain outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, unless approved by local officials. The threshold had been previously set at more than 100. These new restrictions come just before the Independence Day weekend.

Click here to view the Executive Order.

Abbott released the following written statement:

“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.

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. Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Restricting the size of groups gatherings will strengthen Texas’ ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe. We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.

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. I urge all Texans to wear a face covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”

About The Author

Mark Smith

Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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