In a taped message released today, the governor explained that due to a "swift and substantial spike in COVID cases" - one that coincided with his phased reopening of Texas businesses that offered guidance but not mandates on public safety protocols, and little enforcement tools for local authorities - "danger zones have been triggered", thus necessitating the face covering requirement.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge, with the state reporting 7,915 new cases on Thursday.
Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a statewide face-covering requirement which will start Friday, with few exceptions.
He announced he issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people and mandating that people must keep a social distance of six feet.
In April, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called attempts by local governments in the Houston area to enforce mask orders with fines the "ultimate government overreach".
Abbott's order marks a major reversal.
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In his order and a statement, Abbott said wearing a mask is a proven method to slowing down the virus' spread and said if Texans comply "more extreme measures may be avoided".
The Texas Tribune reported that kids younger than 10 years old are exempt from the order, and so are "people who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, people who are eating or drinking and people who are exercising outdoors".
Texas has reported more than 170,000 cases of the virus and 2,500 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Those who violate the face mask ordinance will be issued a first time warning.
Just last week, Texas closed all bars and water rafting across the state.
"Hospitals in Texas are on the front lines of care and prevention at all times, providing critical emergency and intensive care for people, including those with COVID-19", Texas HHSC Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson said.
Overall, Texas has recorded more than 175,000 coronavirus cases. Families are still suffering. We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe. "They help protect the people wearing masks, and they help protect the people around them", said the association's president, Dr. Diana L. Fite. The order applies to counties with at least 20 positive COVID-19 infections.