Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday afternoon that all Texans who live in counties with 20 or more active coronavirus infections must wear a mask in public.
That order includes Kerr, Gillespie and Kendall counties. On Thursday, Texas saw another day of nearly 8,000 new cases. However, those hospitalized soared past the 7,000 mark after another day with 478 people admitted to hospitals around the state. There were 44 deaths on Thursday.
"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,” Abbott said. “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.”
Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn was hosting a meeting of business owners Thursday afternoon when the order came down.
"It was a complete surprise," said Blackburn, adding that the city is still reviewing some of the ramifications of the order from Abbott.
One of the challenges facing the city of Kerrville could be centered around restricting events of 10 or more people. There are several sports tournaments scheduled for city-owned baseball fields through the weekend and into next week.
Kerr County Sheriff W.R. "Rusty" Hierholzer said he was supportive of the governor's decision, but didn't want to be responsible for writing citations for those violating the order.
"I'm totally supportive of people wearing masks," Hierholzer said. "My wife and I wear them when we are in town.
"I have a problem with writing citations for not wearing a mask."
Abbott also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain 6 feet of social distancing from others.
The move was lauded by the Texas Medical Association, which has supported a mask order.
In a statement the TMA wrote: “The physicians of Texas are very pleased that Governor Abbott is following the science. There is no question about it – face masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. They help protect the people wearing masks, and they help protect the people around them.
“Five actions have proven effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19. TMA strongly believes that Texans should follow these proven guidelines: stay home when possible, wash hands frequently, avoid large crowds, keep six feet apart, and wear face masks or face coverings when around nonfamily members. We support all efforts throughout Texas to reach the highest levels of compliance with these safe practices.”