Gov. Abbott implores Texans to wear masks amid mixed messaging and doubling of COVID-19 cases


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Gov. Greg Abbott is unhappy with the spread of COVID-19 throughout Texas weeks after giving the go-ahead for the state to enter its third phase of reopening amid the pandemic. 

Rates of COVID-19 in Texas have doubled, going from 4.5 percent in May to 9 percent in June. 

On Monday, Governor Abbott said the virus is not as contained as he would like and lamented increased rates of hospitalization. 

“Hospitalizations for COVID-19 average just over 1,600 a day in the latter part of May,” Governor Abbott told the press. “In the last four or five days, hospitalizations have averaged more than 3,200 a day. To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled.”

The third phase of reopening took effect on June 3 under executive order and expanded operating capacity for businesses as long as they maintain the minimum health standards as stipulated by DSHS.

In this phase bars are permitted to operate at 50 percent capacity (as long as people are seated and dancing is discouraged); amusement parks and counties with fewer than 1,000 cases may operate at 50 percent capacity, and restaurants may expand table seating from six to ten people. 

On Sunday, Coconuts, a bar in Five Points, was caught violating the state’s orders. TABC suspended the bar’s license for 30 days. 

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo has heeded the Governor’s orders but pushed back in recent weeks.

In May, El Paso was issued an exemption to the state’s order to allow bars and restaurants to expand operating capacity during phase two of Texas’s reopening. 

On June 12, Mayor Margo said El Paso was aligned with the rest of the state and allowed local restaurants to increase operating capacity to 75 percent. 

However, rates of COVID-19 infections in El Paso (and the rest of Texas) have surged as the state’s economy grows more robust. 

Last week, Mayor Margo along with mayors from eight other large cities in Texas sent a letter to Governor Abbott requesting authority to set safety guidelines.

The Governor said no

Under Governor Abbott’s executive order, local governments are prohibited from implementing criminal penalties or fines on people not wearing a mask in public. 

Mayor Margo’s office found a loophole to the executive order and said businesses should impose mask-wearing the same way “no shoes, no shirt, no service” policies are enforced. 

On June 22 an order by Mayor Margo went into effect that orders businesses to require employees, patrons, and vendors wear masks or face a fine of up to $500. 

During Monday’s briefing, the Governor stressed the importance of wearing masks to the public. 

“Wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open. Not taking action to slow the spread will cause COVID to spread even worse, risking people’s lives and ultimately leading to the closure of more businesses.”

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