A statewide order in Texas to wear face masks in public goes into effect at noon Friday — a stark turnaround for a state that was at the forefront of efforts to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday requiring statewide public use of face coverings in counties with more than 20 known coronavirus cases. Counties with 20 or fewer cases can opt out per approval by the state’s Division of Emergency Management.

“Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of [the coronavirus],” Abbott said in a press release. “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.”

First-time violators will be issued a warning, followed by a $250 fine for subsequent violations.

The Republican governor’s announcement comes weeks after city and local officials had urged him to authorize them to issue and enforce mask mandates. The state in May was among the first to begin reopening after the pandemic virtually shut down the country this spring, but the number of positive cases has since skyrocketed, hitting a one-day record on Wednesday.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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