Medical workers treat a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient at United Memorial Medical Center’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) intensive care unit in Houston, Texas, USA, June 29, 2020.
Callaghan O’Hare | Reuters
Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring residents across the state to wear a face covering public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive cases of Covid-1
“Wearing a face coat in public has proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a press release.
“We have the ability to keep companies open and move our economy forward so that the Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but that requires us all to do our part to protect each other – and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces,” he added.
Abbott also issued a proclamation that gave the mayor and county judge the opportunity to impose restrictions on certain outdoor gatherings of over 10 people.
Texas obtained several exceptions to the order and waived the requirement for religious services. Children under the age of 10 and persons with a medical condition that prevents wearing of facial coatings are exempt from the order. The order says that facial coatings are also not required when exercising or voting, among other activities.
However, the order explicitly requires someone to cover their face during a protest or demonstration with more than ten people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have previously warned about the “potential for widespread transmission” of coronavirus at “group gatherings during church events and within the wider community.”
After the first violation of the order, people receive an oral or written warning according to the order text. Each subsequent violation can be punished with a fine of up to $ 250. Local police “can and should” enforce the rule according to the order, but Abbott said police can’t arrest or arrest people for violating it. The order is effective from 10am. 12:01. Friday, local time.
Abbott’s announcement comes after the governor had resisted demands for a state mandate by some Democratic politicians. The governor allowed local and city officials to issue their own demands, but only after nine mayors from some of the largest cities in Texas sent a letter to Abbott urging him to “give them authority to set rules and regulations” that require face masks in public.
Abbott said in a recorded announcement that he made the decision because the percentage of total tests that came back positive and hospital admissions both increased too much. In the second half of May, Texas reported on average about 1,500 new cases of coronavirus each day, Abbott said. In the past week, that number “doubled,” he said.
“Both of these danger zones have now been triggered,” he added.
The CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that people wear masks as a way to slow the spread of the virus. Researchers say the virus can spread through respiratory drops that pass when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Studies indicate that the masks serve as a good barrier.
On Wednesday, Texas reported a record high with 8,076 new cases over a 24-hour period, according to the state Department of Health. The virus has now infected more than 168,000 people in Texas and killed at least 2,481 people.
By comparison, the state of New York had about 10,000 new daily cases at the height of its pandemic earlier this year.
Throughout Texas, there are 12,894 hospital beds and 1,322 ICU beds that are still available, but hospitals in some particularly hard-hit areas that Houston has said are nearing surplus capacity.
“We’re now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast, there’s little margin for error,” Abbott said.
As more Texans have been infected by the virus, become ill and hospitalized, Abbott ordered last week to abort elective procedures to allow more room for Covid-19 patients in the harshest counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis County. On Tuesday, he extended the order to include Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces and Webb counties. It affects some of Texas’ largest cities, including San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin.
“It’s important that these peaks are not limited to just the big cities,” Abbott said. “More than 91 counties have hit record highs in the last three days.”
Texas was among the first states to open again. Abbott allowed the state’s domicile order to expire on April 30, and by May 1, all stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls would open again with changes.
“Covid-19 doesn’t go away,” he added. “It’s actually getting worse.”