Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered that facial covers be worn in public as coronavirus cases skyrocket across the state.
The directive applies to counties with 20 or more Covid-19 cases, which cover most of Texas’ 254 counties.
Texas hit a record of more than 8,000 cases of the virus in one day on Wednesday, compared to 2,400 two weeks ago.
Americans are about to celebrate the weekend of July 4, with some beaches closed from coast to coast and the fireworks canceled.
There have now been 2.7 million registered infections across the country and more than 128,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
What did the Governor of Texas say?
“Wearing a face mask will help us keep Texas open for business,” Abbott said, announcing the order.
After an initial warning, those who refuse will face a fine of up to $ 250.
“Let me be clear: No one can be jailed for violating this safe practice,” said the governor.
“Covid-19 is not going to go away,” Abbott, a Republican, said Thursday. “In fact, it’s getting worse.”
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Noting that some hospital intensive care units were nearly full, he added: “We are now at a point where the virus is spreading so fast that there is little margin for error.”
The order includes a number of “common sense” exemptions, including children 10 years of age and younger, those with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, people who eat or drink, and those who exercise outdoors.
Texas is now one of 21 states that require the use of masks in public, according to Masks4All, a voluntary advocacy group.
But Mr. Abbott’s move was described as “too small, too late” by the Texas Democratic Party.
How do we get here?
Texas led the charge in the US states by loosening blockade measures designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Abbott allowed his initial stay-at-home order to expire on April 30, with almost all companies operating at least 50% of capacity in early June.
But as the virus increased, Abbott began to roll back his state’s reopening last week, ordering all bars to be closed and reducing the restaurant’s capacity by 75-50%.
Initially, Abbott had resisted a state-wide order of masks, even going so far as to ban local governments from requiring facial covers.
What Texans Think
Rachel Moon, 23, Houston sales representative
When we reopened, all my friends went to the Houston bars, and all have tested positive now.
I’m a Republican, but I don’t think Trump should enforce the rules if he doesn’t follow them.
Genesis Valbuena, 26, project manager, Austin
The reopening should have been done less quickly.
I think initially the decision of the local and state government, which closed everything quickly, was made out of fear rather than data.
Read more about life within the US outbreaks.
What is the national image?
Infection rates are increasing in 40 of the 50 states, the Associated Press reports, and not all of the increases can be explained by expanded testing.
Recent reopens fueled job creation at a record pace of 4.8 million in June, according to the United States Department of Labor, but employment remains 14.7 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels .
Also on Thursday:
- For the first time, Florida reported more than 10,000 new cases daily, more than any other European country at the height of its outbreaks, according to the Reuters news agency.
- Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended that state’s public health emergency for another 90 days, causing it to expire on September 9.
- City of Chicago officials announced that travelers to the Illinois city of 15 of the worst-affected states will have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival or face possible fines.