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Texas governor issues face mask order; violators could be fined

Temple fireworks show canceled.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Thursday requiring residents of all counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear face coverings in public areas that includes fines for violators. (File)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Thursday requiring residents of all counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear face coverings in public areas that includes fines for violators. (File)(NBC15)
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 3:43 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 3, 2020 at 10:59 AM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KWTX) - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Thursday requiring residents of all counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear face coverings in public areas.

The order, effective at 12:01 p.m. Friday, provides for a warning to first-time violators, a fine of as much as $250 for a second violation and fines of as much as $250 for each subsequent violation.

“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.

“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,” he said.

“Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases,” he said.

The order lists exemptions including children younger than 10, people with medical conditions, people who are eating and people who are exercising, but does not exempt anyone attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people.

Eight Central Texas counties were reporting 20 or fewer active cases of the virus Thursday including Bosque with 10; Freestone with 19; Hamilton with 11; Lampasas with 13; Leon with six; Milam with 18; Mills with none, and San Saba with three, according to state Department of Health Services data.

Limestone County’s judge, Richard Duncan, issued a statement Thursday evening in which he said the governor’s order doesn’t apply to the county, which he said has just 17 active cases of the virus.

Limestone County, according to DSHS data, has 33 active cases.

Abbott also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judge to impose some restrictions on outdoor gatherings involving more than 10 people.

In response to the order, the City of Temple canceled Saturday’s H-E-B All American Drive-In Fireworks show.

The city said it will work to reschedule the show.

Texas Medical Association President Dr. Diana L. Fite applauded the governor’s action.

“The physicians of Texas are very pleased that Governor Abbott is following the science. There is no question about it – face masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. They help protect the people wearing masks, and they help protect the people around them,” she said.

“Five actions have proven effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19. TMA strongly believes that Texans should follow these proven guidelines: stay home when possible, wash hands frequently, avoid large crowds, keep six feet apart, and wear face masks or face coverings when around nonfamily members,” she said.

Abbott Thursday also announced that emergency SNAP benefits will be extended as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to surge.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will provide about $182 million in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds.

More than 950,000 SNAP households will see the additional amount on their Lone Star Card by July 11.

“The extension of these emergency SNAP benefits helps ensure that Texans can provide nutritious food for their families as the state continues to combat COVID-19,” Abbott said.

Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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