Since late April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has not only refused to order Texans to wear masks and slow the spread of COVID-19; he's also overruled any local governments or health commissioners who've tried. On Thursday, he finally reversed himself and issued what was effectively a statewide requirement that people cover their faces while in public. Technically, the order requires masks in all counties that have over 20 COVID-19 cases, which is nearly all of 'em.

Abbott's order came as the USA set yet another new record for new coronavirus cases (more than 55,000 nationwide) and Texas set a state record for a second day in a row, with over 8,000 news cases Wednesday. The new requirement also followed by just two days Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's insistence that Texas wasn't about to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci and his silly worries about the virus and the need to stop its spread, because Texas knows what it's doing, y'all.

Yeah, Texas is gonna mask up, finally. But not because no fancy elitist commie doctor said so.


Abbott's order, which goes into effective at noon today, allows exceptions for children under ten, people with a medical condition that prevents wearing a mask (no, addiction to LIBERTY does not count), and for people who are eating or drinking, or exercising outdoors. Abbott suggested in a video released Thursday that Texas had done a bang-up job of limiting coronavirus with the early shutdown, without even the least hint of admitting that his rush to reopen the state had in any way contributed to the current outbreaks in the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott issues video message on statewide mask mandate youtu.be

In the video, Abbott told Texans they "must do more to slow the spread without locking Texas back down," and then urged them to stay at home — voluntarily like patriots — and to work from home if possible. He insisted this was "not a stay at home order," merely a really smart suggestion that "just recognizes reality: If you don't go out, you are less likely to encounter someone who has COVID-19."

We were definitely convinced: We would under no circumstances buy a used car from this man, but we'll wear masks, because we aren't fucking stupid.

And after all those worries about how local officials were doing tyranny by imposing fines for people who wouldn't wear masks, Abbott's order does indeed include a stick: People not wearing a mask in public will get a warning the first time, but a second offense carries a $250 fine, as do all repeated offenses after that. There won't be any jail time, however, because it would be pretty stupid to put more people in jail during a pandemic that spreads in crowded indoor spaces.

Abbott has had great fun in the past few months with what's an order and what's not, pretending that his April 1 stay-at-home order wasn't really a stay-at-home order, and later leaving local officials guessing as to what they could and couldn't order regarding masks. Eventually, some county and city officials figured out — in late June — that while they weren't allowed to mandate that people wear masks, Abbott's office was OK with their ordering businesses to require customers to wear masks. In fact, Abbott said, that was actually the "plan in place all along," although he never actually bothered telling local officials. But he was so delighted when they finally guessed at the unannounced loophole, what fun!

"Earlier today the county judge in Bexar County finally figured that out," he told a Waco TV station. "They finally read what we had written."

It was all very jolly, until that also left many hospitals without enough ICU beds, and Abbott stopped the fun and games last week, when he ordered the closure of bars and ordered restaurants to limit seating to 50 percent of capacity, like anyone who's been paying attention even wants to go at all. Last Wednesday, Abbott acknowledged, belatedly, that the entire state was experiencing a "massive outbreak of COVID-19," although it still took another week and a half for him to finally decide on the mask mandate.

The order's list of exemptions is followed, pointedly, by a specific warning that there will be no exemption for "any person attending a protest or demonstration" with over 10 people, if they're not socially distanced. Get ready for that to be aggressively enforced at protests against police brutality, and conveniently overlooked when the armed covidiots show up to protest Abbott's "tyranny."

Not surprisingly, some Texas Republicans reacted to yesterday's belated public health order with exactly the gravitas you'd expect. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (who once placed a very official sign outside his office identifying him as a "FORMER FETUS") accused Abbott of very bad tyranny, indeed:

The replies to Abbott's official Twitter announcement of the mask policy were special, too.

Gosh, it's almost as if the months Abbott and other Republicans spent downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic can't just be reversed once he makes a single good decision.

Last night, Rachel Maddow suggested Abbott's order might reflect a new willingness among Republicans to finally pay attention to science. Her guest, former HHS Assistant Secretary Howard Koh, emphasized that right now, if you like freedom, you should like masks, because they'll allow Americans to do all the freedom stuff instead of being dead, or surviving with permanent lung damage or other debilitating effects.

Masks Are A Means To Freedom From Coronavirus And Its Burdens | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC youtu.be

Maddow also speculated that Abbott's newfound seriousness on masks just might help persuade Donald Trump to announce a national mask order, although she wasn't especially optimistic about that prospect. Particularly given Trump's fantasy that the virus will just disappear on its own.

It would prevent tens of thousands of deaths, but it doesn't seem very likely, given the relatively small but extremely loud constituency who think the Second Amendment means nobody can tell them to do anything.

[Texas Tribune / Texas Monthly / NYT / WaPo / CNN]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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