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Texas Governor Institutes Mandatory Mask Rule

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Texas Governor Institutes Mandatory Mask Rule

2020-07-03 21:06:44

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Greg Abbott (Image source: J Dimas via Wikimedia Commons)

With the frightening uptick in coronavirus cases in the United States this week, with daily case numbers topping 50,000 for the first time, the most affected states are finally falling into line and mandating the use of masks and/or social distancing, interrupting many 4th of July plans.

The four states considered to be surging right now are Texas, Florida, Arkansas, and California. As a surprise to many, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order that makes the wearing of a face covering mandatory when out in public.

This order applies to all counties in Texas with 20 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the governor's office, who explained the move was necessary along with other efforts that are already in place to control the pandemic in the state.

"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," wrote Abbott in his executive order.

The governor 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."

Texas law enforcement may enforce the mask mandate with a $250 fine if someone doesn't comply after being given a warning. Still, 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."

This order was issued after Abbot had ordered late last week a ban preventing standalone bars from serving alcohol.

Several times in the past couple of weeks, Texas has broken its record for new cases. On Wednesday it reported more than 8,000 new cases, with just under that amount the following day.

On Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) closed bars in his state and encouraged everyone to wear a mask. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) made a similar suggestion at the beginning of the week, strongly encouraging residents to wear masks when in public. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has said he would leave the mask mandates to local leaders.

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) urged those in his state to turn to their "better angels" and use common sense. This includes wearing masks and not attending gatherings with family and friends during the 4th of July weekend.

One place masks will not be required is in South Dakota at Mount Rushmore. Donald Trump plans to speak there at a national memorial before a fireworks show that will be the first held there in a number of years. The crowd will not be required to wear masks or social distance.

Seven thousand five hundred tickets have been issued to the event on Friday night. It will feature a patriotic display at the Shrine of Democracy. Public health experts say the lack of a health mandate could lead to a surge in COVID-19 and that the fireworks could set the forest on fire. 

Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a Trump ally, said this week the event wouldn't require distancing or masks, though masks will be available. She explained it as a personal choice. "Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they're comfortable with," she told Fox News.

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