TEXAS (KTRK) — In a groundbreaking move on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask order.
This means every Texan is required to wear a mask or facial covering when out in public. According to the governor, the order applies to all counties in the state with more than 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
The requirement must be followed anywhere where a person cannot socially distance. If, for example, a person is exercising by themselves or riding a bike, a mask is not required. Children under the age of 10 are exempt from the order.
According to Abbott, first-time violators will be issued a warning. If violated a second time, a $250 fine will be issued, said the governor.
The order goes into effect at noon Friday.
The mandate comes one day after Texas hit another grim milestone in COVID-19 cases and reported 8,076 new cases on Wednesday, making it the highest one-day total in the state since the start of the pandemic.
During a briefing on Wednesday, the city of Houston reported 832 new cases, bringing the total count to 21,123. Four more COVID-19 deaths were also reported.
On Thursday evening, ABC13 will present a one-hour virtual town hall highlighting the concerns of residents, business leaders and elected officials on reopening Texas amid the pandemic.
Abbott is among the panelists for the discussion.
READ MORE: Gov. Abbott to join ABC13 town hall on ‘Reopening Texas’ Thursday
Earlier this week, the Harris County Commissioners voted to extend the recently-issued mask order until August 26.
The order directs any businesses providing goods or services to require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public.
Judge Lina Hidalgo was forced to self-quarantine after a member of her staff tested positive for the virus. She was tested earlier this week and received negative results.
This week, Hidalgo discussed the county’s efforts to flatten the curve, her discussions with Gov. Greg Abbott and her fight for the authority to issue another stay-at-home order after local officials lifted the previous one.
“The governor has taken some steps, which are great and they’re necessary [such as] making sure that the bars are closed,” explained Hidalgo. “My fear is we don’t have any proof that alone will do it. There is no evidence from a community that was on the verge of disaster, and they put the restaurants at 50 percent capacity and suddenly, everything is fine. The only thing we know works is a stay-at-home order, and anything short of that is a gamble on our own people.”
When asked if she’s noticed a change in behavior from the public after increasing the COVID-19 threat level in the area to red, which means it’s severe, she said she’s content with what she’s seeing, but would like to see more.
“I’ve noticed some change,” explained Hidalgo. “I’m very heartened by the community recognizing that we have to take steps. Now the concern is I know it doesn’t have as much of an impact if it’s a recommendation as a opposed to a requirement, and that’s not a knock on the community.”