HOUSTON – Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order Thursday requiring all Texans to wear masks or face coverings while in public and in businesses. There are few exceptions to the order that goes into effect at noon Friday.
Though for months, Abbott was against issuing a statewide mask order, daily coronavirus cases totals have swelled and in the past few weeks and he has slowly rolled back previous statements and even closed bars again to help control the spread of the virus.
There were nearly 8,000 new cases reported in the state as of Thursday evening, bringing the state total to 175,9777 cases. The state is at a 13.32% positivity rate, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and as of Thursday afternoon, 7,382 people were hospitalized with the virus which is a record high.
Local law enforcement and officials “can and should enforce this executive order,” when appropriate, the order states. They are also expected to enforce any other statewide executive orders and local orders that are consistent with Abbott’s orders.
Penalty for people who violate the order
If someone is found not wearing a mask or face covering in violation of the order:
- A first-time violator will get a verbal or written warning
- For a second offense, the person could face a fine not exceeding $250
- With each subsequent violation, the person will face a fine of upto $250
The order does prohibit officials from arresting or jailing anyone who is found in violation of the order.
The order reads, that “no law enforcement or other official may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this executive order or for related non-violent, non-felony offenses that are predicated on a violation of this executive order; provided, however, that any official with authority to enforce this executive order may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.”
Punishment for businesses who violate the order
A Harris County mask order previously issued by Judge Lina Hidalgo required business owners that offer goods and services to mandate that all customers and employees wear masks. If a business was caught in violation of the Harris County order, Hidalgo said that they could face a fine of up to $1,000.
KPRC 2 has reached out to Hidalgo’s office to find out if the fine for business owners is still in effect. A representative for her office shared this message with us: “Our order is staying in place, but the governor’s order supersedes local ones. I would direct all questions to the governor’s office.”