Texas governor issues mandatory face mask policy

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has issued an order making it mandatory for all Texans to wear a face covering of some kind while out in public as the state faces a surge in coronavirus cases.

The governor's office said the order applied to all counties in Texas with 20 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19, saying the move was necessary with other efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

"Due to recent substantial increases in COVID-19 positive cases, and increases in the COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19, further measures are needed to achieve the least restrictive means for reducing the growing spread of COVID-19, and to avoid a need for more extreme measures," Abbott said in his executive order issued Thursday afternoon.

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He added: "Wearing a face covering is important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming fellow Texans, especially given that many people who go into public may have COVID-19 without knowing it because they have no symptoms."

The order notes that Texas law enforcement is allowed to enforce the law by issuing a $250 fine if someone doesn’t comply after being warned, but officers can’t “detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this executive order or for related non-violent, non-felony offenses that are predicated on a violation of this executive order.”

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Abbott’s order comes after the governor late last week decided to ban standalone bars in the state from serving alcohol in an attempt to stop the rise of cases and as governors in multiple states stress the need to wear masks and practice social distancing as part of efforts to stem the rise of new cases.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) shuttered bars in his state Monday and encouraged all residents to wear a mask. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) acted similarly at the beginning of the week, imploring Georgians to wear masks while in public. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump notes GOP governor when asked why he backs mail-in voting in Florida Five people who attended meeting with DeSantis in Florida test positive for coronavirus Journalist covering Trump trip to Florida tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R), meanwhile, has said he will leave mask mandates up to local leaders in his state.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE has been reluctant to wear a mask since the start of the pandemic, but in an interview with Fox Business on Wednesday said he was “all for masks” and that he’d have “no problem” wearing one.

Texas has broken its record for the daily number of new cases several times in the past two weeks, most recently on Wednesday when it reported 8,076 new cases. On Thursday, the state reported another 7,915 cases, bringing its total number of cases during the pandemic to nearly 176,000.

The Lone Star State isn’t the only one to see a record number of cases. Georgia, Ohio and Arizona also reported new single-day highs on Wednesday. Like Abbott, DeSantis last Friday closed Florida’s bars. The Sunshine State on Saturday recorded nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases.

As a country, the U.S. recorded more than 50,000 new cases of the disease Wednesday, a record, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The previous high had been 45,300 cases. The U.S. now has more than 2.7 million confirmed cases and more than 128,000 deaths.

Updated: 5:43 p.m.