Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday mandated face coverings in public in all Texas counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases.
The governor also banned gatherings of over 10 people ahead of the July 4th weekend, with certain exceptions.
In a statement, Abbott urged Texans to wear a face mask so that they could “keep Texas open for business.”
“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,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases.”
The governor's mandate is a major reversal from one month ago. On June 3, Abbott called on Texans to wear masks but signed an executive order banning local governments from imposing fines or criminal penalties on people who don't wear them in public.
"Government cannot require individuals to wear masks," he later explained, according to the Texas Tribune. "Local governments can require stores and business to require masks. That’s what was authorized in my plan."
City and county officials said Abbott didn't explain to them that businesses could require face masks.
Abbott paused his state’s reopening process last week amid a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, but said, “the last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses.”
TEXAS PAUSES REOPENING AFTER SEVERE UPTICK IN CORONAVIRUS CASES
The governor said the pause will remain in effect “until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.” He also closed bars in the state the following day.
Texas is currently in Phase 3 of its reopening plan, and many businesses are open at a limited capacity.
Abbott also put a pause on elective surgeries in the state’s largest counties to protect hospital space in the Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio areas.
Texas reported 8,076 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and 371 new COVIDd-19 hospitalizations. It also added 57 deaths, the second-highest number since the start of the pandemic. So far, 2,481 have died from coronavirus in Texas.
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As cases continue to rise mainly in the West and South of the country, a number of governors, Republican and Democrat alike, have issued new mask mandates. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, though he didn’t mandate masks statewide, implored residents to wear a mask in public “so we can enjoy” football in the fall.
A vast number of state leaders have paused or even rolled back reopening.