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Dallas County commissioners to consider county-wide mask policy this week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that local governments can require businesses to mandate face masks for customers and workers.

DALLAS, Texas — The Dallas County Commissioners Court will consider and likely vote on a county-wide mask policy after Gov. Greg Abbott voiced no concern over a similar policy now in place in one of the state's most populous counties. 

Bexar and Hidalgo Counties, which includes the City of San Antonio, will begin ordering businesses to require masks for customers and employees when six feet of social distancing isn't possible. 

In a June 3rd executive order, Abbott banned local governments from imposing fines or criminal charges for those not wearing a mask in public. 

RELATED: San Antonio orders businesses to enforce mask-wearing rules: Is North Texas next?

The order out of Hidalgo and Bexar counties places the burden of mask enforcement on businesses, that can face a fine of up to $1,000 if they don't comply. 

During an interview with KWTX-TV Wednesday, Abbott said local governments could always order mask mandates for businesses just not individual residents. 

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told WFAA Wednesday night that he and commissioners will likely vote on a mask order that mirrors the one in Bexar County by the end of the week. 

"It's never too late to follow the science," Jenkins said. "The businesses and the medical community want this. It will be similar to, 'no shoes, no shirt, no service.'"

The county previously had a mask policy before Abbott's June 3rd executive order but never intended to punish anyone who wasn't wearing one. 

The developments come as Texas sees a surge in hospitalizations related to COVID-19. 

RELATED: Dallas County reports 413 cases of COVID-19, hitting record for daily cases

On May 25, Memorial Day, just as bars and restaurants began opening up more, Texas had 1,511 hospitalizations. As of Wednesday, that number now sits at 2,793. 

That's an 84% increase. For the Dallas/Fort Worth area, those same data points went from 521 to 859, which is a 64% increase. 

Dr. Phillip Huang of Dallas County Health and Human Services says more testing plays a factor in the increases, but he also thinks Texans are forgetting that we're living in a pandemic still. 

RELATED: COVID-19 updates: 'Many more people will get sick and die' if increases in hospitalizations continue, officials say

He thinks wearing masks is something Dallas County has to embrace more. 

"People aren't being as careful," Huang said. "Things start opening up and people forget. It's really important for people to remain vigilant." 

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