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Governor Abbott Orders Masks as Texas Coronavirus Cases Near 176,000

In a complete about-face, Governor Greg Abbott has ordered residents in most Texas counties to don a face mask while out in public, his latest desperate attempt to slow a massive coronavirus outbreak that continues to claim thousands of new victims every day.
“COVID-19 is not going away,” the Governor said yesterday. “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,” he continued.

Texas Continues to Set Coronavirus Records

Texas health officials had confirmed 175,977 COVID-19 infections across the state as of this morning, including nearly 33,000 cases in Harris County. The statewide death toll stands at more than 2,500 and counting.
Abbott’s decision to mandate face masks came one day after Texas reported 8,076 new cases – over 1,000 more than the previous day and another single-day record for the state.
Texas also saw 6,904 new hospitalizations on Wednesday, setting yet another record for the third straight day in a row. Fewer than 13,000 hospital beds remain available statewide, and all but 1,322 ICU beds are in use.
While the rate of positive tests ticked down slightly to 13.58%, they remain 10% above the threshold Abbott said would be cause for alarm during the reopening process.

About Governor Abbott’s Mask Order

Effective noon today, residents of all Texas counties with 20 or more coronavirus infections must wear maks “when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public or when in an outdoor space, whenever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distance from another person not from the same household.”
While masks will not be required at voting booths or religious gatherings, they are strongly encouraged. Children under 10 are not required to cover their faces, nor is anyone with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask. Other exemptions are listed in the Governor’s executive order.
First-time violators will receive a warning. Subsequent violations are punishable by a fine of up to $250.

Texas Hoping to Avoid a New Coronavirus Shutdown

While the spike in coronavirus cases had already forced Governor Abbott to order bars closed for a second time and allow local officials to mandate face coverings for businesses, he had steadfastly refused to issue a statewide mask order. But yesterday, Abbott finally conceded that masks offered the best chance to avoid another shut-down of the Texas economy.
“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,” he said during his Thursday news conference. “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.”
In addition to the executive order mandating masks, the Governor also issued a proclamation banning certain outdoor gatherings of over 100 people without official approval.
While Abbott’s critics see both moves as reasonable first steps, many would like him to do more. Earlier today, for example, State Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston) called on the Governor to prohibit on-premises restaurant dining until the increases in new infections, hospitalizations, and the positive test rate are reversed.
“One can’t wear a mask while eating, and COVID-19 transmission is more likely when people spend a long time visiting with others indoors without wearing a mask,” Coleman said. “The sooner we get serious about halting the spread of the virus, the sooner we will be able to go out to enjoy a meal in our favorite restaurants, operating at full capacity, without fear of contracting COVID-19.”

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