AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - In the wake of record-high daily COVID-19 totals, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Thursday that requires most Texans to wear a face-covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces.
The executive order is aimed at counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, according to a press release. There are other exceptions as well.
Abbott’s executive order and proclamation were scheduled to go into effect at 12:01 p.m. today.
“Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in the press release. “We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another - and that means wearing a face-covering in public spaces.”
The governor also issued a proclamation that gives mayors and county judges the authority to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people. The proclamation also states that, with certain exceptions, people may not be in groups of 10 or larger and they must maintain social distancing of six feet from others.
“Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases,” Abbott said. “Restricting the size of groups gatherings will strengthen Texas’ ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe. We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.”
Abbott stressed that if Texans commit to wearing face-coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, residents of the Lone Star State can “both slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Texas open for business.”
“I urge all Texans to wear a face-covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans,” Abbott said.
Abbott also released a YouTube video that coincides with the executive order and urges Texans to do their part to help keep their communities safe.
In Executive Order 29, Abbott said that he issued the order because of “recent substantial increases in COVID-19 positive cases and increases in the COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19.”
The executive order states that face masks are necessary because many people who go into public areas may have COVID-19 without realizing it because they have no symptoms.
“Every person in Texas shall wear a face-covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household,” the order states.
However, the order does list exceptions where a face covering is not required. They include:
- Any person younger than 10 years of age
- Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering
- Any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink
- Any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household
- Any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver
- Any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face-covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal
- Any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water
- Any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face-covering is strongly encouraged
- Any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face-covering is strongly encouraged
- Any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience
- Any person in a county that meets the requisite criteria provided by the Texas Division of Emergency management regarding minimal cases of COVID-19 and whose county judge has opted out of the requirement by filing a “face-covering attestation form.”
- “Not excepted from this face-covering requirement is any person attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people and who is not practicing safe social distancing of six feet from other people not in the same household,” the order states.
For a list of the counties that aren’t subject to the face-covering requirement, click this link.
According to Executive Order, 29 first-time violators of the face-covering requirement will result in a verbal or written warning. A second violation will be punishable by a fine of up to $250, and each additional violation will also be punishable by a fine of up to $250.
“Local law enforcement and other local officials, as appropriate, can and should enforce this executive order, Executive Order GA-28, and other effective executive orders, as well as local restrictions that are consistent with this executive order and other effective executive orders,” the order states.
However, the order also states that no law enforcement or other official is allowed to arrest or anyone who violates the executive order or commits related non-violent, non-felony offenses. Any official with authority to enforce the executive order may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.