Abbott expands local authority over outdoor gatherings, mask requirements

As the reporting of COVID-19 cases has increased in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued another proclamation that expands the ability of mayors and county judges to impose even greater restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

According to the initial phase 3 reopening plan, restrictions were in place for outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people.

The proclamation also directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to enact emergency rules to provide strict health and safety standards and procedures related to COVID-19 for childcare centers in Texas.

Abbott’s orders, he says, are based on reported data that indicate increases in COVID-19 transmission have stemmed from large gatherings and childcare centers.

“These are just some of the steps Texas will take to contain the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Abbott said in a statement. “Today’s proclamation and emergency rules will aid in that effort in two key ways: allowing restrictions on large gatherings where COVID-19 is easily spread and implementing a statewide standard of infection control for child care centers.”

Abbott urged all Texans “to do everything in their power to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus by wearing a face mask, washing their hands often, and staying six-feet apart from others.”

While some counties have imposed severe restrictions like Bexar, Harris and Travis, Tarrant County’s public health director reported that deaths from the coronavirus are falling in Texas’ third-most populated county.

“I will beg and plead with you to wear a mask, but I will not require it,” Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said. “I won’t even attempt to require it as long as our hospitals are OK.”

Denton County Commissioners Court members also said they wouldn’t be implementing a face mask mandate, although “community-wide interventions” were possible if the virus were to spread. Only half of Denton County hospital beds are occupied and it has just 28 confirmed coronavirus patients.

In response to Abbott appearing to reverse his previous stance on local mask requirements, the Texas Federation of Republican Women (TFRW) asked its members to “tell Governor Abbott ‘no’ to face mask mandates.”

One of the most powerful women’s political organizations in the state, TFRW, encouraged its members to contact their local officials, saying, ”If you agree that this is an overreach of power by our elected officials, please do not wait. Let your voices be heard!”

It also said, “Many election judges and other election workers have said they will not work on July 14th if they are forced to wear masks.”



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