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Harris County Extends Mask Order, as Coronavirus Continues to Ravage Texas

Harris County is extending a recent mask order, as officials across Texas race to contain a coronavirus outbreak that continues to grow by the day.

Harris County Mask Order Will Now Expire on August 26th

The order, which directs any businesses providing goods or services to require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public, was set to expire on June 30th.  But with COVID-19 surging and threatening to overwhelm the region’s hospitals, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced earlier this week that she would seek to extend the county’s coronavirus disaster declaration.
“I will be requesting an extension on the disaster declaration, and if I’m granted that extension from my colleagues, then I do plan to extend the requirement for businesses to require masks from their employees and their patrons,” Hidalgo said Monday during a Zoom meeting.
On Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners voted to extend the disaster declaration until at least August 26th.

Over 164,700 COVID-19 Infections Confirmed in Texas

Texas health officials had confirmed 164,724 COVID-19 infections as of yesterday afternoon – an increase of 7,726 cases since Monday and another single-day record for the state. They also reported 42 new deaths yesterday, bringing the Texas total to 2,476.
The Texas coronavirus count has doubled since May 31st, and the state is now reporting a positive test rate above 14%.
The Houston Metro Region’s case count was up 1,207 on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 43,673.  The region saw three new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 634.
Harris County had recorded 31,422 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, an increase of 693 since Monday.

Reopening Slows Amid Texas Coronavirus Surge

Last week, the coronavirus surge forced Governor Gregg Abbott to scale back his aggressive reopening plan. He also ordered bars to close and mandated that restaurants reduce capacity to 50%. But after four straight days of record-breaking case totals, some local officials urged the Governor to do more.
On Monday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins wrote to Abbott, suggesting he institute a new state-wide “Stay Home. Stay Safe Order,” as well as mandatory mask and physical distancing orders enforced by fines. Jenkins also recommended closing restaurant dining rooms and social venues like gyms, bowling alleys, public pools, and theaters, as well as a 10-person limit on indoor gatherings.
While Abbott stated he would close other industries if any COVID-19 cases are traced back to them, he rejected Jenkin’s recommendations on economic grounds.
“He seems to want to continue to force poverty on people by having a stay at home order that will crash all of these people who are now out working earning a paycheck,” the Governor said.
In the meantime, Judge Hidalgo has moved Harris County to the highest threat level and has urged residents to remain at home. But local governments in Texas lost the authority to issue stay-at-home orders after Abbott took over the reopening process.
Hidalgo has since indicated that she would fight to regain that authority.
“The governor has taken some steps, which are great, and they’re necessary [such as] making sure that the bars are closed,” she explained on Monday. “My fear is we don’t have any proof that alone will do it. There is no evidence from a community that was on the verge of disaster, and they put the restaurants at 50 percent capacity, and suddenly, everything is fine. The only thing we know works is a stay-at-home order, and anything short of that is a gamble on our own people.”

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