With the state posting new record numbers of COVID-19 cases daily that “reveal a very stark reality,” and hospitals filling up, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered most Texans Thursday (July 2) to begin wear face coverings. His new executive order also authorized strict distancing rules and restrictions on gatherings — but stopped short of issuing a stay-at-home order.
In a video message issued with his order, Abbott held up a face mask that resembled a Texas flag to advocate for masks’ effectiveness.
“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,” he said. First-time offenders will be issued warnings for violating the order, he said, with a possible $250 fine levied for subsequent violations. The governor stressed that no one will be jailed for disobeying his order.
Exceptions to the mask requirement include children younger than 10, people whose medical condition prohibits wearing a mask, and masks will not be required while eating and drinking or exercising outdoors.
Starting Friday (July 3) at noon, all Texans in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases — which includes Harris County — must wear face coverings over their noses and mouths in public spaces. With few exceptions, Texans will not be allowed to congregate in groups larger than 10 people, and they must maintain at least six feet of physical distancing from other people.
Abbott also authorized mayors and county judges to restrict some outdoor gatherings. It was not immediately clear whether Bellaire or West University’s mayors or Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo would be issuing new orders.
The governor said he’s taking the actions to maintain “the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck.”
“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, adding “it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another…Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Restricting the size of groups gathering will strengthen Texas’ ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe.”