Texas Is Banning This Starting Friday
An executive order will make requiring one of these a fineable offense.
By now, it's clear that many people are anxious to get back to "normal" after more than a year of living under a pandemic. And as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop, many states are beginning to loosen some of the public health restrictions put in place during the virus's peak surges. But now, Texas is going a step further after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning mask mandates in federal buildings.
"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up," Abbott said in a statement.
The Texas mask mandate ban comes days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) amended its guidelines to recommend that anyone who is fully vaccinated can be without a mask both indoors and outdoors. But the executive order is still at odds with the agency's guidance, which recommends that students remain masked in schools across the U.S. through the remainder of the school year as children under 12 are still not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to data from The New York Times, only 32.8 percent of Texas's population is fully vaccinated as of May 19, putting it below the national average of 37 percent. As such, the move to ban mask mandates has led some local officials to appeal to citizens and ask them to follow the public health measure independently.
"If you are a city of Houston employee or entering a city facility and you have not been fully vaccinated, you should wear your mask," Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, said in a statement to the press. "We are not mandating it, but I strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their family, and their co-workers," adding that the executive order was "a clear overreach."
The order exempts hospitals and state-run long-term care facilities from the ban, as well as state juvenile correctional facilities. Schools will only have until June 4 to comply, after which no student, teacher, or parent can be required to wear a face mask.
Any local state or county official in Texas that attempts to establish a mask mandate will be fined $1,000 under the new order. "The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said in the release.