The nation’s second most-populous state won’t allow people who are in counties with 20 or more active Covid-19 cases to go out without a face covering. About 95% of Texans live in those areas.
This comes as the top medical expert on the pandemic said the country is going in the wrong direction in its efforts to slow the virus.
In a statement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said: “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.”
There are exceptions to the order, including Texans younger than 10 and people who have a medical condition that prevents wearing a mask. Repeat violations can result in a fine, the order says.
The directive comes as Texas, like other states, sees a jump in cases. Texas on Thursday reported 7,915 new Covid-19 cases.
The Texas Democratic Party said Abbott, a Republican, had acted too late.
“This is unacceptable. Governor Abbott continues to lead from behind rather than implementing preventive measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” the party said in a statement.
“Texans are still getting sick. Families are still suffering. Texans still don’t know how they are going to put food on the table,” the statement reads. “All of this could have been prevented if Governor Abbott had listened to experts and medical professionals in the first place.”
‘We are not going in the right direction,’ Fauci says
The trends of the pandemic are not headed in a positive direction, but it’s possible to balance the yearning to reopen with precautions that can help slow the spread of the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we are not going in the right direction,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci said it’s not a case of either supporting reopening or supporting public health measures.
“There’s this feeling of an all-or-none phenomenon, where you’re either on lockdown or you’re just going to say … the devil may care and just let it all go,” Fauci said.
The best way to reopen is to sensibly use public health measures, he added.
Wednesday saw record numbers
On Thursday, Florida reported 10,109 additional new coronavirus cases, a new daily record.
The current spike in new cases is due to an increase in infections, not because of more testing, said Adm. Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Fourth could be a ‘perfect storm’
The Fourth of July weekend could be the “perfect storm” for a spike in coronavirus cases, said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center.
“The combination of travel, the combination of reopening — perhaps in some cases, too early — and the combination of people not necessarily following some of these preventive guidelines,” he said.
On Thursday, Johns Hopkins University reported 25,345 new cases in the United States and 323 reported deaths.
The virus has killed more than 128,600 people and infected more than 2.7 million nationwide.
Hydroxychloroquine study yields surprising results
A surprising new study found that the drug hydroxychloroquine helped patients better survive in the hospital.
The study of 2,541 patients found that hospitalized patients given hydroxychloroquine were much less likely to die, according to a team at Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan.
Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, said 26% of those not given hydroxychloroquine died, compared with 13% of those who got the drug. The team looked at everyone treated in the hospital system since the first patient in March.
The finding is surprising because several other studies have found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine, a drug originally developed to treat and prevent malaria. President Trump touted the drug, but later studies found not only did patients not do better if they got the drug, they were more likely to suffer cardiac side effects.
The US Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency use authorization for the drug earlier this month and trials around the world, including trials sponsored by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health, were halted.
“Our results do differ from some other studies,” Zervos told reporters. “What we think was important in ours … is that patients were treated early. For hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit, it needs to begin before the patients begin to suffer some of the severe immune reactions that patients can have with Covid.”
The team also monitored patients carefully for heart problems, he said.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The virus shows signs of resurgence
As new cases rise and states rethink reopenings, some areas that had made progress against the virus are showing signs of resurgence.
California was one of the first states to shut down with some of the most stringent measures. On Wednesday, it reported 9,740 new cases — a number that included over 3,800 previously unreported cases from a five-day period, officials said.
More than 28 million Californians live in counties where restaurant dining rooms, bars and other indoor facilities have been ordered to stay shut as Covid-19 cases increase. The closures affect 72% of the state’s population, and include restaurants, breweries, museums, zoos and movie theaters for at least three weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
“Bottom line is, the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said.
CNN’s Konstantin Toropin, Shelby Lin Erdman, Lauren Mascarenhas,Cheri Mossburg, Ralph Ellis, Jason Morris, Maria Cartaya and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.