Gov. mandates face coverings

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a sweeping state-wide edict – wear a mask or face fines.

Abbott’s executive order supersedes local authority to approve or disapprove such at mandate. Specifically, the state document requires “all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.”

The Burnet County Health Authority announced the county has 182 reported cases, since counting began in March.

According to the governor’s order, “following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of this face-covering requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.”

Abbott’s office cited the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt’s assessment that the coronavirus “continues to represent a public health disaster” thus giving him the authority to require face coverings.

“I have joined the medical experts in consistently encouraging people to use face coverings, and health authorities have repeatedly emphasized that wearing face coverings is one of the most important and effective tools for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott stated.

The coverings are mandated “when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household.”

The executive order offers exemptions from the mandate including those under the age of 10. The other exceptions are as follows:

• Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;

• Any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;

• Any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;

• Any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;

• Any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal-care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal;

• Any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water;

• Any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;

• Any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;

• Any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience; or

• Any person in a county (a) that meets the requisite criteria promulgated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and (b) whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form provided, however, that wearing a face covering is highly recommended, and every county is strongly encouraged to follow these face-covering standards.

The governor also attributed his action to the “recent substantial increases in COVID-19 positive cases, and increases in the COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations resulting from COVID.”

Abbott also said the face covering mandate would “achieve the least restrictive means for reducing the growing spread to avoid a need for more extreme measures.”

“I urge all Texans to wear a face covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”

— Greg Abbott Texas Governor