Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear a face covering in public in counties with 20 or more positive coronavirus cases.

Why it matters: It's a dramatic reversal by the Republican governor that underscores the severity of the outbreak in Texas, which set a single-day record on Wednesday with more than 8,000 confirmed new cases. On June 3, Abbott issued an executive order banning local governments from imposing fines on people who don't wear masks in public.

  • Abbott also issued a proclamation on Thursday allowing mayors and county judges to restrict outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

But, but, but... Exceptions for masks while in public include attending church, consuming food or drink while seated at a restaurant, swimming, voting or giving a speech to a public audience.

The big picture: Texas has reported more than 175,000 total confirmed cases and 2,500 deaths, but is one of a number of states across the Sunbelt that has seen a huge surge in infections in recent weeks.

  • Texas was one of the first states to reopen after its initial coronavirus lockdown, with Abbott allowing the state's stay-at-home order to expire on April 30.
  • As cases began to climb, Abbott urged Texans last week to stay home to fight the "rampant" spread of the coronavirus, warning that it was spreading at an "unacceptable rate."
  • He then took the dramatic step of pausing Texas' reopening plan as the virus threatened to overwhelm hospitals. Abbott admitted in a radio interview last week: "If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars."

What he's saying:

"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. 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."
— Gov. Abbott

Between the lines: Abbott's reversal comes as top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have urged Americans to wear masks to protect themselves and others, dismissing the partisan divide that has defined the issue since the early days of the pandemic.

  • President Trump said in an interview on Wednesday that he's "all for masks," but maintained that he doesn't think it should be mandatory.
  • On Thursday, the leaders of the nation's top business organizations wrote an open letter urging the White House to work with governors to develop mandatory mask guidelines, after a Goldman Sachs study showed universal mask-wearing could "potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP."

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 20,092,855 — Total deaths: 736,254 Total recoveries — 12,350,879Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,094,565 — Total deaths: 163,465 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. Politics: Trump claims he would have not called for Obama to resign over 160,000 virus deathsHouse will not hold votes until Sept. 14 unless stimulus deal is reached.
  4. Business: Richer Americans are more comfortable eating out.
  5. Public health: 5 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — A dual coronavirus and flu threat is set to deliver a winter from hell.
  6. Sports: The cost of kids losing gym class — College football is on the brink.
  7. World: Europe's CDC recommends new restrictions amid "true resurgence in cases."
Aug 10, 2020 - Health

New York reports new low positive coronavirus test rate

People physically distancing at tables in New York City's Times Square in June. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday 515 people, or 0.78% of those tested, returned a positive reading for COVID-19 the previous day.

Why it matters: It's the lowest single-day positive rate since the start of the pandemic. It's another sign that the state that was once a global coronavirus epicenter is curbing the spread of the virus. "Our daily numbers remain low and steady, despite increasing infection rates across the country, and even in our region," Cuomo said in a statement. "But we must not become complacent: Everyone should continue to wear their masks and socially distance."

Updated 10 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of COVID-19 cases surpassed 20 million worldwide on Monday evening, Johns Hopkins data shows.

The big picture: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference as the world approached the milestone that 750,000 deaths were set to be recorded this week. "Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters," he said. "But I want to be clear: there are green shoots of hope and... it's never too late to turn the outbreak around."