Abbott orders statewide mask mandate punishable by fine

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AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – Gov. Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order which requires all Texans to wear a face-covering in public spaces with few exceptions.

The mandate is set to take effect at 12:01 p.m. on Friday, July 3.

Currently, Smith County has over 600 reported cases since March with over 300 still active. You can view all of East Texas’ COVID-19 coverage on our live blog.

Local law enforcement “can and should enforce this executive order.” Following a verbal or written warning for first-time violators, subsequent violations shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.

Gov. Abbott does state that no law enforcement “may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this executive order.”

KETK’s Frank Jefferson asked those in East Texas what they thought about Gov. Abbott’s new order.

“I think it’s about time he did something. So how rapid the cases have been. We’re getting five, six-thousand new cases a day here in Texas. East texas especially with how little regards our citizens have with everybody’s health care and safety,” said Joseph Beard.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer spoke out against Abbott’s new order citing personal freedom.

“Absolutely not, I think every individual should consider medical advice from professionals they trust but then be free to make their own decisions,” he said.

The face-covering order does not apply to the following:

  • Any person younger than 10 years of age; any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering
  • Any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink
  • Any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household
  • Any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver
  • Any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face-covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal
  • Any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body
    of water
  • Any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or
    actively administering an election, but wearing a face-covering is strongly
    encouraged
  • Any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious
    worship, but wearing a face-covering is strongly encouraged;
  • Any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an
    audience
  • Any person in a county (a) that meets the requisite criteria promulgated the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and (b) whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form—provided, however, that wearing a face-covering is highly recommended, and every county is strongly encouraged to follow these face-covering standards.

Not excempted from this face-covering requirement is any person attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people and who is not practicing safe social distancing of six feet from other people not in the same household.

Gov. Abbott also issued a proclamation giving local officials the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gathering of over 10 people.

“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,” said Gov. Abbott. “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 group 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.”

Gov. Greg Abbott

Abbott released a video message to coincide with his announcement, encouraging Texans to do their part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen released the following statement in response:

Leaders lead while others criticize. Today Governor Abbott continues to lead. I applaud his face covering requirement and stand firmly with him as he makes these tough decisions, working day in and day out to keep Texas strong in both the health of its citizens and its economic prosperity. Our state, nation, and world face one of the greatest crises in recent history and there is no room for partisan politics nor are there any easy answers. He continues to demonstrate fortitude and flexibility as he monitors and responds to an extremely dynamic situation based on fact-based data and scientific evidence. I am grateful for his efforts to keep Texas unified and moving forward. #MaskUpTexas

Speaker Bonnen

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