Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a sweeping executive order this afternoon requiring masks be worn in public places, “with few exceptions,” in counties with 20 or more COVID-19 cases.
In a press release and a video, Abbott explained the mask mandate as a strategy to keep businesses and institutions open during the coronavirus situation. “If people follow this requirement, more extreme measures may be avoided,” the Governor said in his executive order.
Outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people are banned unless the mayor or county judge approves of the gathering. The order defers to existing Department of State Health Services rules regarding outdoor events.
Protests, often given a free pass by authorities, are no longer excepted. “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,” Abbott’s executive order read.
The executive order requires every Texans over 10 years of age to wear a mask “covering the nose and mouth” inside “a commercial entity” or building or space open to the public. It does not apply to:
- Persons with medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering
- People in the process of eating or drinking.
- People in the process of exercising outdoors and while socially distant.
- Drivers while driving alone or with passengers from the same household.
- “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”
- Those in counties where there have been 20 or fewer cases of COVID-19.
The text of the press release is as follows:
Governor Greg Abbott today issued an Executive Order requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions. The Governor also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.
“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,” said Governor Abbott. “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. Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 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. If Texans commit to wearing face coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, we 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.”
Updated 3:58 p.m.