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Texas governor issues mandatory mask policy in counties with 20 or more virus cases

Fighting COVID-19 in Texas as cases spike
Fighting COVID-19 in Texas as cases spike 02:42

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday issued an executive order requiring residents to wear face coverings in public in counties with 20 or more positive coronavirus cases. The order also gives local authorities the ability to limit gatherings of more than 10 people.

"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 in a statement Thursday. "Restricting the size of groups gatherings will strengthen Texas' ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe."

After a verbal or written warning, people who violate the face-covering requirement can face fines up to $250. However, law enforcement officers cannot "detain, arrest, or confine in jail" anyone who violates the order. 

The state reported 7,915 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

As cases skyrocket in Texas, frontline workers are overwhelmed. "It wears on us, it wears on me as a person, as a physician, as a mom," said Dr. Gina Blocker, an emergency room physician at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center.

Blocker has four children, including a newborn to take care of. She's also a caretaker at Baylor St. Lukes, with the lives of some of the most critical COVID-19 patients in her hands

"There are times where I'm intubating four or five patients in my 8-hour shift that go into the ICU that require ICU-level care," Blocker said in a statement. 

Both Texas and Florida are now running low the drug remdesivir, which is effective at shortening recovery time.

Tonya Fields, a nurse in Amarillo, almost didn't survive the virus. But on Monday, she goes back to work. "I'm terrified to go back to work, but I've just got to work through it and be an advocate for my patients… so that I can be a teacher to them."

On the eve of a holiday weekend, there is no break for first responders at the Texas Medical Center. Many beaches along the Texas Gulf Coast are closed for the holiday and bars across the state are shut down.

Janet Shamlian contributed reporting. 

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