A month after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring most residents of the state to wear masks when in public, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city will issue citations to those who violate the order.
Turner made the announcement Monday, when the city reported 1,104 new cases of COVID-19 as well as six related deaths among residents. As of Tuesday, there have been a total of 78,105 cases in Houston and Harris County, with the disease having caused at least 766 deaths and 44,912 patients having recovered.
Per Abbott’s order, which took effect July 3, first-time violators of the mask-wearing mandate can receive only warnings. Subsequent violations are subject to fines up to $250.
Texans cannot be arrested or jailed solely for not wearing face coverings, which help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The City of Houston said in a news release that police will not respond to 9-1-1 calls about residents not wearing masks.
“For months, we have focused on education and not citations,” Turner said. “But now, I am instructing the Houston Police Department to issue necessary warnings and citations to anyone not wearing a mask in public if they do not meet the criteria for an exemption.”
According to Abbott’s order, residents must cover their mouths and noses “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 6 feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household.”
Among the exceptions to the statewide mask-wearing order are as follows:
- Any person younger than 10 years of age
- 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 exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and 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