AUSTIN, Texas, USA (AP) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered Thursday that people wear face masks in public places in most parts of the state to control the increase in confirmed cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Abbott, who launched a swift reopening of the Texas economy in May, had previously said that the government could not force people to wear face masks. His previous coronavirus orders had undermined attempts by local governments to implement mandatory mask use.
The measure announced Thursday makes it mandatory for “all Texans to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive cases of COVID-19, with few exceptions,” the governor’s office said.
“We are at a point where the virus is spreading too fast, there is little room for error,” said Abbott.
Texas reported 7,915 new confirmed cases, after it passed the 8,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday. The 7,382 hospitalizations mean the state has more than quadrupled that statistic since late May.
Abbott took the move before the Independence Day weekend, a celebration characterized by gatherings and parties. Regarding the coastal zone, local authorities said access to many beaches will be restricted.
Mandatory mask use goes into effect on Friday, and the minimum case count would cover most of the state’s 254 counties and the majority of the population. Counties with fewer than 20 cases are primarily in rural areas and may request a waiver from the governor’s office.
Violators could be fined up to $ 250. People with a health condition or disability, who are exercising outdoors, or who are participating in a religious service or voting are exempt from wearing a mask. Texas this week began its one-month early voting period for its primary election.
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