County Judge Jim O'Bryan will not opt Reagan County out of Governor Greg Abbott's face covering mandate.

O'Bryan said on Saturday that he intended to file the appropriate form this morning (Monday morning) with the State to exempt Reagan County from the mandate.

"I've thought about it hard over the weekend," O'Bryan said. "Our cases have not crossed the 20 active positive threshold, but they have jumped to 12 active in a short period of time."

Counties with less than 20 active COVID-19 cases may take affirmative action to opt out of the mandate if their county judge thinks its best for their county.

O'Bryan said that rapid increase over the past week was the driving factor in him deciding against filing the for the exemption.

"I feel Reagan County should follow all of the rules at this point," O'Bryan said. "Wear a mask when in public, wash your hands often and maintain social distancing."

O'Bryan said he has seen a lot of the controversy around face coverings.

"Honestly, it is the least any of us can do to help protect our community," O'Bryan said. "The mask is not just there to protect you, but to also keep you from spreading the virus if you have it. People do have the virus without having any symptoms, and I would bet there is some of that going on in Reagan County right now. If we all wear a mask when in public, it can help slow the spread here at home."

Some nearby counties have opted out of the governor's mandate with Pecos, Crane and Sutton joining the list of 43 counties across the State receiving exemption from the order.

The mandate, labeled GA-29, states that every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household.

The governor's mandate applies to everyone except those who fall into these categories:

1. any person younger than 10 years of age;

2. any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;

3. any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;

4. any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;

5. any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;

6. any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific  access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal-care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal;

7. any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water;

8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;

9. any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;

10. any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience.

The executive order also outlines how those not following it may be punished. The order states, 'Following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of this face-covering requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.'

Reagan County Sheriff Jeff Garner said he feels his department would not be doing its job if they did not enforce the mandate.

"We will not be actively seeking out people who are not wearing masks, though," Garner said. "We do honor the rights of business owners to refuse service to anyone. If you are at a business, and they ask you to leave due to you not wearing a mask, and you refuse, we will respond and take the appropriate action."

On the whole, Texas has 195,239 total cases reported as of Sunday, July 5, 2020. The State is showing 91,759 active cases and 100,843 recoveries.

As of yesterday, Reagan County was at 13 total cases with two recoveries. That figure is believed to report higher today after talking to Judge O'Bryan this morning.

"I receive a report from the DSHS each night," O'Bryan said. "We are on an upward tick on confirmed cases. I ask that everyone in Big Lake and Reagan County work together to correct that trend."