HOUSTON – Harris County could be the next to implement a mask mandate in the coming days, following similar orders in cities like Austin and San Antonio.
Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office told KPRC 2 Hidalgo hopes to finalize the mask order by Friday.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday that he and Hidalgo had reviewed the order first issued by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. He said he was open to the idea of the mask and they were discussing the possibility. Hidalgo’s office said Wednesday that the legalities of the order were being reviewed by the Harris County Attorney’s Office.
While Gov. Greg Abbott was not supportive of issuing a mask mandate, he told KWTX in Waco that the Bexar County order was in line with his own executive order.
“We want to make sure that individual liberty is not infringed upon by government and hence government cannot require individuals to wear a mask, however pursuant to my plan, local governments can require stores and businesses to require masks,” Abbott reportedly said.
So far, mask orders have been issued in Bexar, Hidalgo, and Cameron counties along with the city of Austin. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is reportedly mulling a mask order as well.
How would the mask order work?
It is unclear what provisions Hidalgo may introduce in her order if she announces one. However, if it is similar to the Bexar County order, it may require business owners to enforce all customers and employees wear masks in their business.
The Bexar County order mandates that “all commercial entities providing goods and services” must implement a health and safety policy within five days, according to a report by KPRC 2′s sister station in San Antonio. The policy “must require, at a minimum, that all employees or visitors ... wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involved close contact,” according to the new order.
Why is wearing a mask important?
Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn, associate professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine supports the idea of issuing a mask order.
“When two people are wearing a mask that are next to each other, the risk of contracting the virus goes from up here to down here,” Woc-Colburn said.
According to her, if people don’t adhere to basic public health measures, it could pave the way for an additional mandatory quarantine period.
“If we want our economy to open and we want our economy to continue, we’re going to have to adapt ourselves in order to help,” she said.
Renyi Zhang, a professor at Texas A&M University is also in favor of a mask mandate.
“If you are infected, it will basically prevent you from getting those droplets, those aerosols out,” Zhang said. “If you are not infected, it will protect you from inhaling.”
A brand-new study, led by Zhang, researched the spread of COVID-19 in China, Italy and New York. According to Zhang, the study found face masks are critical to flattening the curve.
“What we estimate is that in less than one month, there were 66,000 infections prevented by face coverings,” Zhang said.