TYLER, Texas — In an interview with CBS19 on Friday, Governor Greg Abbott said a lack of masks and a spike in COVID-19 could, as a last resort, lead to "the necessity of closing Texas down."
He also said he's disappointed some local governments refuse to enforce his recently issued Executive Order.
"It's disappointing," Gov. Abbott said. "And again, I can understand the mindset being a kid who grew up in Longview myself, that this may not be the top priority. A murderer, or a rapist or a robber is far more serious to concentrate on. However, I know this also, and that is if we do not all join together and unite in this one cause for a short period of time, of adopting a mask, what it will lead to is the necessity of having to close Texas back down. That should be the last thing that any government wants — the last thing that any business owner wants. Your business owners in Tyler — in Longview, they should be demanding that their government officials enforce this face mask order now to make sure they will be able to stay open. And the only way those businesses are going to stay open is to make sure people wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus."
Check out the full interview with the governor in the video above.
The order, which was issued July 2, requires all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.
The Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) will maintain a list of counties that are not subject to the face-covering requirement. The list can be found here.
Exceptions to the mask requirement include:
- Any person younger than 10 years of age;
- Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
- Any person consuming food or drink, or when seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;
- Any person exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors while also maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;
- Any person 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 poli 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 that meets the requisite criteria regarding minimal cases of COVID-19;
- Any person whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form.
According to the order, people not exempt from the face-covering requirement are those attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people and those not practicing safe social distancing of six feet from other people not in the same household.
Following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of Gov. Abbott's face-covering requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.
The order went into effect at 12:01 p.m. on July 3.
The governor also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.
"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 groups 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.”