3 things to keep in mind as the Harris County mask order goes into effect Monday

HOUSTON – An order issued by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Friday that will require businesses offering goods and services to ensure customers and employees are wearing masks, will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The order states that “all commercial entities in Harris County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop, post, and implement a health and safety policy. The Health and Safety Policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees or visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public.”

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Here are some things to know about the Harris County mask order:

1. The rules

Per the order, all businesses offering good and services will be required to make sure customers and employees:

  • Wear a mask or face covering
  • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet (or 2 meters) from other customers and staff
  • Prevent customers or employees who feel sick from coming into the businesses

2. The exceptions

The order states face coverings or masks do not need to be worn in the following circumstances:

  • Children under the age of 10 are exempt from wearing a mask
  • When consuming food or drink provided by a business (restaurants or bars)
  • When doing so poses a greater mental or physical safety risk or security risk
  • While in a building or activity that requires security surveillance or screening
  • When exercising outside or engaging in physical activity outside
  • While pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment

3. The penalty for non-compliance

Per the executive order, business owners offering goods and services who do not enforce the provisions of the order — including ensuring all customers and employees wear masks, maintaining social distancing guidelines and turning away employees who feel sick — will face a $1,000 fine per violation.

Abbott made it clear that individuals will not be subject to fines or penalties for noncompliance, Hidalgo said. Only business owners offering goods and services will be subject to the penalty. Hidalgo stressed that while there will be penalties, the goal is to educate people as opposed to issuing fines.

Jaime Fatta, assistant general manager of Frank’s Grill, said that customers have been very considerate this morning and they haven’t had any issues with the new order.

“Everybody has come in wearing a mask and once they come in they just sit down, take it off, eat and put it back on,” said Fatta.

Lee Stranathan said that the order can feel slightly restrictive but it also provides continuity for businesses.

“I think in general, people are already doing what now we are being required to do,” Lee said.

Read the full Harris County mask order below:

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