Texas Gov. Greg Abbott really wants you to wear a mask. The governor isn't ordering Texans to do so, he said at a press conference Tuesday, he just thinks they should.
"COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled," Abbott said. "We need to have all Texans follow the safe protocols."
The raw number of COVID-19 infections is up in Texas. So is the state's hospitalization rate and the infection rate among those tested for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In March, when local and state governments began requiring people to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus, the goal was making sure Texas hospitals weren't overwhelmed.
Texas accomplished its goal, Abbott said, only to see cases start ticking up again after Memorial Day. While the governor said he's confident Texas' hospitals will be able to take care of Texans who contract the virus, steps must be taken to control the spread of the virus around the state.
"We must find ways to go about our daily routines while also finding ways to coexist with COVID-19," Abbott said.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is shutting down bars that fail to comply with physical distancing and sanitation guidelines, Abbott said. Local governments are requiring businesses to require masks, something the governor announced was permissible last week, too. Abbott emphasized, however, that implementing new stay-at-home orders would come as a last resort.
The governor recounted a conversation he had with a leader in the hospitality business about the growing need for face coverings.
"If we do not wear a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19, it could result in that business actually having to close back down," the governor said. "Our goal is to keep business open, to keep society engaged."
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Abbott said that a statewide requirement, however, would ignore the various situations in the state. Rural counties shouldn't be held to the same standards as Texas' urban areas, he said.
"What may be true in Austin, Texas is different in Austin County in the state of Texas and we need to have latitude for that differentiation," Abbott said.
After Abbott's press conference, Texas Democrats blamed the governor for the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
"Thousands are in the hospital. Isolated from their families. Terrified and alone in a hospital bed. Millions have lost their jobs. They don’t know how they will pay rent or put food on the table. Everyone made sacrifices to stop the spread of this virus," said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa. “We’re left wondering what our suffering was for when our governor turns his back on those who are desperate and dying, refuses to offer solutions and continues to lie about this pandemic. In every single way, by every single metric, Governor Abbott and Republicans have failed."