AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that requires all Texans to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth in public spaces, with exceptions.

According to the order, which is effective at noon on Friday, this applies to residents of counties with more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19.

In his announcement, the Governor said:

“COVID-19 is not going away. In fact, it’s getting worse.”

Restrictions on outdoor gatherings are also included in the order. Gatherings can no longer be over 10 people and, with certain exceptions, groups over 10 must maintain six feet of social distancing.

Abbott said in the announcement:

“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. 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.”

According to Abbott, the decision came after a surge in cases across Texas, with the Governor saying the daily number of positive tests statewide has quadrupled in a month — to 6,000 positives a day.

Exceptions to the requirement include people younger than 10 years-old, people with medical conditions/disabilities, while consuming food or drink, while driving alone and while safely six feet apart from others while outdoors.

The Governor says that the consequences for violations are:

  1. First Violation — A warning
  2. Violations after will include penalties up to $250.

No one will be jailed for violations, however.

“Local law enforcement has the authority to enforce this safety standard,” says Abbott in his video announcement. “Just like they do when enforcing seat belt standards.”

With recent protests, an uptick in crime and officers testing positive for COVID-19, many local law enforcement agencies don’t have the resources to enforce the mandate.

“Its been well documented that we are well over 180 officers short right now and we’re talking about the defunding and the city manager was clear that he wanted to cut 100 bodies from the police budget,” said Detective Ken Casaday, President of the Austin Police Association.

As police respond to more emergency calls, Det. Casaday urges people to call 311 for mask violations, as it is a non-emergency.

The Texas Democratic Party reacted to the order, saying that while it’s a “basic step” it’s one that’s “far too little, far too late.” In a release, they say:

“It took Texas Democrats demanding that he issue this common-sense policy and record breaking cases and hospitalizations to get Governor Abbott to finally act. This is unacceptable. Governor Abbott continues to lead from behind rather than implementing preventive measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

COVID-19 in Texas

As of Thursday afternoon, there are 7,915 new cases of COVID-19 reported statewide. There are 82,732 active cases and 90,720 that are considered recovered.

In total, as of Thursday afternoon, there are 175,977 COVID-19 cases in Texas.

On Thursday, the state saw an increase of 478 hospitalizations, for a statewide record total of 7,382 hospitalized.

Fifteen percent of test results on Wednesday were positive and the seven-day positivity rate in Texas is 13.32%.