Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s face covering order an abuse of power and “the ultimate government overreach.”
HOUSTON — Houston and Harris County residents ages 10 and older must wear facial coverings in public, Harris County Judge Hidalgo announced at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. Watch live here.
Anyone caught without their nose and mouth covered could be fined up to $1,000.
The 30-day order is set to begin Monday, April 27.
Facial covering order:
Punishment for breaking rules = Fine up to $1,000. Enforcement up to Harris County law enforcement agencies.Essential businesses must provide face coverings/training to workers whose jobs require them to come into contact w/colleagues or the public.Permitted garments: homemade mask, scarf, bandana or handkerchiefNot recommended: N-95 respirators/medical masks because first responders need them.Exceptions: when exercising, eating or drinking, alone and in a separate space, at home with roommates or family, or when doing so risks security, mental, or physical healthTakes effect Monday, April 27, and lasts 30 days.
“We have to use every tool in the tool box,” Hidalgo said.
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The Houston Police Officers Union called the order “draconian” and said they’ve reached out to the Texas attorney general to ask if it’s legal.
Criticism was also swift from Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
“Her abuse of the use of executive orders is the ultimate government overreach. These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger – and rightfully so,” Patrick said in a statement.
At least two other county judges in the Houston area say they won’t issue similar orders.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he thinks it would be unconstitutional to require face coverings.
And Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough announced masks will not be mandatory there and he doesn’t think he has the legal right to require them.
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Hidalgo said Houston and Harris County have surpassed 5,000 positive coronavirus cases but things are looking better. Still, she warned, it’s important not to get complacent.
“If we get cocky, we get sloppy, then we’re right back to where we started and all of the sacrifices people have made will have been in vein,” Hidalgo said. “We’ve made too much progress to backtrack now.”
Check back for updates to this developing story.
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