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Texas governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order Thursday requiring Texans in counties with 20 or more positive coronavirus cases to wear a face covering in public, reversing an executive order from early last month that prevented local governments from imposing fines on citizens who chose not to wear face coverings in public.
Abbott’s change of heart came after the state set a single-day record on Wednesday, recording 8,076 new cases of the virus, over 1,000 more than the previous record, which was set on Tuesday.
“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 a 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 granted mayors and county judges in the state the power to restrict outdoor gatherings of more than ten people.
Texas, which has reported more than 175,000 total confirmed cases and 2,500 deaths from the coronavirus, was one of the first states to come out of lockdown when Abbott allowed the state’s stay-at-home order to expire on April 30. As the number of new cases increased, he began to backtrack last week, urging Texans to stay home because the virus was spreading at an “unacceptable rate.” He later put the state’s reopening plan on hold, placing restrictions on businesses that had been allowed to reopen at partial capacity, including bars, restaurants, gyms, malls, and bowling alleys.
Texas joins a growing number of states with mask mandates, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California, Nevada, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, New Mexico, Illinois, and Washington.
President Trump said in an interview on Wednesday that while he’s “all for masks,” he doesn’t think wearing one should be mandatory.