Texas governor orders face masks in public spaces as coronavirus cases continue to spike

State records nearly 8,000 new cases after largest single-day surge

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 02 July 2020 17:52
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Texas governor orders residents to wear masks to slow coronavirus spread

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered residents to wear face coverings as the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Health officials reported more than 8,000 new cases on Wednesday, a record daily high number of cases in the state since the beginning of the outbreak. State health officials reported nearly 8,000 cases on Thursday.

The order applies to residents in counties with 20 or more cases to wear a mask in public places or where physical distancing isn't possible.

"Covid-19 is not going away," the governor said in a video statement. "It's getting worse. Now, more than ever, action by everyone is needed until treatments are available."

The move marks a reversal of the Republican governor's resistance to issuing public guidance on wearing masks, even as the state lifted its stay-at-home order and began reopening weeks before others. Last week, he rolled back the state's reopening by closing bars and reducing restaurant capacity to 50 per cent occupancy.

Governor Abbott said the state needs to "re-focus on slowing the spread" without "closing down Texas again".

As the US sees a dramatic spike in new infections, health officials continue to urge Americans to wear masks in public to reduce transmission.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert leading the federal response to the crisis, told a Senate committee this week that Americans "need to emphasise the responsibility that we have both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic."

"We've got to get that message out, that we are all in this together," he said. "Anything that favours the use of masks – whether it's giving out free masks or any other mechanism – I am thoroughly in favour of."

Donald Trump also appeared to support Americans wearing masks after saying he wouldn't do so despite federal guidance.

"I don't know if you need mandatory," the president told Fox Business Network on Wednesday. "I'm all for masks. I think masks are good."

He previously has mocked wearing masks as "politically correct", including a jab at his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for wearing one, inflaming tensions over masks as a political issue rather than a public health one.

Governor Abbott said he doesn't intend the order to be punitive but has attached a penalty of $250 for those not wearing a mask after a warning, though he stressed no one would be jailed for not wearing one.

"I know that wearing a face covering is not the convenient thing to do, but I also know that wearing a face covering will help to keep Texas open for business," he said.

Texas health officials reported 44 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday. On Wednesday, the state recorded 57 deaths, the second-highest single-day spike in deaths amid the pandemic.

The state joins a growing number of other states and cities that have mandated face coverings, including Arizona, which like Texas saw a massive spike in new cases last month.

Arizona health officials reported nearly 4,000 cases on 28 June, the most reported in a single day in the state since the beginning of the outbreak. It also marked the seventh time within 10 days that daily cases broke past 3,000.

More than 2.7 million cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the US over the last several months, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 128,000 people have died.

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