Updated 4:50 p.m. Aug 3
You can now officially get a ticket for not wearing a face mask. In a August 3 press conference, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Houston police will be handing out citations to individuals disobeying Gov. Greg Abbott's mandatory face mask order, which has been in place for more than a month.
“When we started this process it was about educating,” Turner said. Citations weren't handed out then; now, after Houston had its worse month in July since the pandemic first hit, they will. Don't worry about neighbors tattling on you—Houston police won't respond to 9-1-1 calls of people not wearing masks. However, if a cop on patrol finds you sans-face covering, then be prepared to get a citation. A warning will be given first, but if you don't comply, you'll get slapped with a $250 fine.
“Don’t waste $250,” Turner said. “Put your mask on, and keep the money in your pocket.”
Updated 5:38 p.m. July 2
Gov. Greg Abbott made a surprise move this afternoon and issued a statewide order requiring masks to be worn in a commercial space or public space, or any outdoor space that does not allow for at least six feet of social distance between people in any counties where 20 or more COVID-19 cases are present as of 12:01 p.m. Friday. This is a sharp reversal for Abbott who has previously avoided issuing any state-mandated mask orders and has not been wearing masks himself in recent press conferences, even the ones where he re-closed the bars due to the increase of COVID-19 cases.
People are allowed to go without masks while exercising outdoors and swimming, but otherwise must have their nose and mouth covered. Children under 10 and anyone with health conditions that would prevent them from wearing masks are exempt, but all others must follow the executive order. The first violation gets a warning, but if you continue to go without a mask in businesses, public places or crowded outdoor areas, you risk incurring a $250 fine. “Local law enforcement and other local officials, as appropriate, can and should enforce this executive order,” Abbott wrote in the order.
Updated 2:50 p.m. June 30
The Harris County Commissioners Court voted today to extend the disaster declaration to August 26. According to a tweet from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the face mask order will extend to that date as well.
NEW: Commissioners Court approved the extension of Harris County’s disaster declaration until Aug 26. Judge Hidalgo will extend the Business Health & Safety order (tied to the disaster dec) requiring face coverings until then as well. Remember we’re in this for the long haul.— Office of Judge Lina Hidalgo (@HarrisCoJudge) June 30, 2020
Published 5:37 p.m. June 19
According to an order signed Friday by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, with support from Mayor Sylvester Turner, all Harris County businesses are now mandated to require workers and customers to wear face masks.
The order, which is almost word for word the same as those already implemented in Bexar and Travis counties, will take effect Monday. It is currently set to end June 30, when the local disaster declaration ends, but Hidalgo said Friday she is prepared to extend both indefinitely.
This order applies to businesses, and not to individuals, she said. In April, a Harris County face mask order requiring all individuals to wear masks had been overruled by Gov. Greg Abbott, but earlier this week the governor said he would support local governments to mandate businesses to require masks and penalize businesses that do not comply.
Because of this, Hidalgo said that there is a potential $1,000 fine per violation for businesses who don't comply. However, no fines will be issued for the first five days, she said, and the focus will be on education, not penalties. She will watch how other counties handle violations before making decisions on how to enforce the order in Harris County.
BREAKING: In light of the governor’s guidance I’ve signed an order requiring businesses to require #facecoverings for workers & customers. We've recently seen disturbing #COVID19 trends and we must act swiftly to keep folks safe. We'll use every tool available in this fight. pic.twitter.com/XRgoSYOwSV— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) June 19, 2020
According to the order, children younger than 10 do not need to wear a mask. Masks will be required at restaurants but not while people are eating and drinking. People pumping gas or entering a building that requires screening or surveillance, such as banks, do not have to wear a mask. Read the full order here.
For businesses who aren't sure how to implement the order, Hidalgo suggested using the "No shirt, no shoes, no service" policy. "No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service," she said.
As for people who don't want to wear masks, the county judge and Houston mayor asked people to take away the politics. The order is the least they can do, Turner said, but wearing masks will protect others.
"I'm asking folks to be adult about this," Hidalgo said.