HOUSTON – Harris County Commissioners voted 3-2 to extend the county’s disaster declaration till August 26 Tuesday afternoon.
A spokesperson for Judge Lina Hidalgo told KPRC 2′s Syan Rhodes that since the mask order falls under this disaster declaration, it too is extended until August 26.
BREAKING: By a 3-2 vote, Harris County Commission extends COVID-19 Disaster Declaration until August 26. According to spokeperson for Judge Hidalgo, because the mask order falls under this declaration, that is also extended to August 26. @KPRC2— Syan Rhodes (@KPRC2Syan) June 30, 2020
“We don’t know the full nature and impact of this virus...I would rather give you and your team the runway and capacity to navigate this pandemic,” said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia in explaining his support for the extension.
Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christansen told the Commissioners that since her office opened a complaint portal on their website to allow people to report errant businesses, they’ve received 857 complaints against 643 businesses that allegedly were not enforcing the mask mandate. So far, no fines or citations have been issued as a result of those complaints.
But a group of Harris County business owners took the mask order to court, asking a judge to stop it.
“We’ve had one of our clients who had the fire marshal come to this particular place of business and said ‘if you don’t force folks to wear a mask then we are going to come and fine you.' Well that person chose to just shut down their business until this litigation could be resolved,” said Jared Woodfill, an attorney representing the business owners.
According to Judge Hidalgo’s Office, commissioners usually extend the declaration for two or three weeks at a time.
Judge Hidalgo said she’s been in contact with the governor’s office, asking for authority to enforce a stay home, work safe order.
The mask mandate went into effect Monday, June 22, and was set to expire Tuesday if the Harris County Commissioners did not vote to extend it.
It said businesses must require employees and customers to wear masks. They must ensure social distance is maintained and sick employees stay home.
Businesses posted signs at entrances and many read, “No mask, no service.”
Owners who did not enforce the order faced a $1,000 fine per violation.