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Governor Abbott signs executive order mandating facial coverings

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Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order mandating facial coverings on Thursday afternoon. The order affects counties with 20 or more active cases of COVID-19.

“Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available for COVID-19."

People are required to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth when inside businesses or public spaces. This includes outdoor spaces where it is not possible to keep 6 feet of distance from other people. This almost statewide mandate will take effect Friday at noon.

Abbott released a video message with the order stating that “In the past few weeks there has been a swift and substantial spike in COVID-19 cases. So, we need to refocus on slowing the spread.”

He goes on to say he wants to do this without “mandating stay at home policies.”

Last week, Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope issued a declaration requiring employees who interact with the public and can't socially distance to wear masks. There were no penalties for noncompliance. 

The city council considered requiring patrons to wear masks, too. But previous state guidelines didn't allow much room for enforcing the mandate. Other cities and counties found a loophole, making businesses the enforcers. Pope wasn't comfortable doing that here. 

“It became abundantly clear that we didn’t even need to consider harnessing a businesses with those requirements.” The mayor said. 

The Governor’s new order however would have first-time offenders receive a warning. After that, they’ll receive a fine of up to $250 for every subsequent violation. The order also specifies that no one can receive jail time for a violation.

Local law enforcement and officials are authorized to enforce this, but the order does provide a number of exceptions. Children who are younger than 10 years old and people who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask are two of them.

However protest and demonstrations with more than 10 people in attendance who are unable to socially distance are not exempt from this new order.

Abbott's order comes after a series of record-setting days in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas, as well as increased hospitalizations, and daily positivity rates.

“The positivity rate surged from 4.5% in late May to more than 14% today… Importantly these spikes are not just limited to the big cities. More than 91 counties have hit record high numbers in just the past three days. All together these numbers reveal a very stark reality, COVID-19 is not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse.”

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