Texans in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases will be required to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces, with some exceptions, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered today. It takes effect at noon July 3.
In addition, Governor Abbott prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people, with some exceptions, such as if an outdoor event is approved by a mayor or county judge. He also required that people must maintain 6 feet of social distancing from others.
“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 said in a statement. “Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases.”
Texas Medical Association President Diana L. Fite, MD, quickly lauded the governor’s move.
“The physicians of Texas are very pleased that Governor Abbott is following the science,” Dr. Fite said. “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.
“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 6 feet apart, and wear face masks or face coverings when around non-family members. We support all efforts throughout Texas to reach the highest levels of compliance with these safe practices.”
As of Thursday, 78 Texas counties have 19 or fewer COVID-19 cases, according to a tracker maintained by the Department of State Health Services. Ten counties report no cases.
The mask requirement allows for certain exceptions, including:
- Anyone younger than 10;
- Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
- While consuming food or drink, or while seated at a restaurant to eat or drink; and
- While exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and maintaining a safe distance from others.
According to Thursday’s order, first-time violators will be issued a verbal or written warning. Subsequent violations will be punishable by a fine of up to $250.
The order and proclamation will be in effect until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.
As a reminder, physicians across the state also must comply with face-covering requirements – among other minimum safe practices – as required by the Texas Medical Board (TMB).
The TMB emergency rule, which went into effect statewide May 1, requires – in part – that physicians, their delegates, and patients wear masks when the physician or delegate is less than 6 feet from the patient.
The TMB rule also requires certain medical settings to post a notice “in each public area and treatment room or area of the office, practice, or facility.”
TMB and the Texas Medical Association have published frequently asked questions (FAQ) documents to help clear up any confusion you might have about the emergency rule.