On Thursday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a statewide mandate on masks as the state experiences increase in new coronavirus cases. First-time violators will be issued a warning, second-time offenders could receive a fine of up to $250. The order goes into effect at 12:01 p.m. Friday.

“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,” Abbott said.

There are several exceptions for the mask-wearing order, which include children younger than the age of 10, people with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, people who are eating or drinking, and people who are exercising outdoors.

The order is issued amid a rapid spike in coronavirus cases, with 7,915 of new cases reported on Thursday. New confirmed cases and hospitalizations have hit record-high numbers in more than 91 counties in the past three days.

On Thursday, Abbott also authorized mayors and county judges to limit outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people. He said on June 25 that Texas would pause reopening, closing bars and tightening restrictions on restaurants, outdoor gatherings and river rafting and tubing businesses.

In an interview with Univision in Dallas, Abbott also said he questioned reopening the state’s public schools for in-person classes this fall.

“If COVID is so serious, it may mean that students are having to learn from home through a distance learning program, something like the use of Zoom or FaceTime or other strategies where a teacher in real time will have the means to speak with a student, a student will be able to speak with other students, and it will replicate the class setting as much as possible,” he said.

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