The Governor walked backed his weak position on masks by “allowing” local jurisdictions to mandate that businesses require masks.
As discussed yesterday, Governor Abbott removed the ability for local jurisdictions to enforce mandated masks. While local officials can still require it, no individual can be fined or jailed for it.
In yesterday’s conference (see the 42:20 mark), he responded to a question about the Dallas County Judge wanting more enforcement power:
The Governor says that the judge has “other tools” of enforcement without a real reference to what he means. He hints toward not following the protocols, but he isn’t actually helpful.
The Bexar County (San Antonio) Judge issued an order today that requires businesses to come up with health and safety policies—and enforce them—that must include requiring masks.
In an interview with KWTX in Waco, the governor gave the plan his blessing.
The problem, though, is I don’t see any reference within his plan on where this is allowed. I’ve looked through the Open Texas plan a couple of times. I see plenty of places where individuals are asked to adopt additional requirements over the protocols, but I don’t see a clear indication the local officials may enforce these protocols with the force of law.
The latest complete Executive Order (GA-23) says that everyone (inclusive of businesses) should “use good-faith efforts” to follow the minimum standard health protocols—which do not say people should wear a mask, but in some references suggest they do additional steps such as a mask, additional handwashing, etc.
There is this catch-all phrase at the end of GA-23 that was shared in previous editions:
This text says that the EO supersedes any local order that restricts a service mentioned in this EO (virtually everything). Does ordering everyone to wear a mask “restrict” access to a covered service? I guess not.
While I’m glad we’re finally able to find a loophole to require masks, this is a poor answer from Governor Abbott.
Instead of attacking the Dallas judge and jumping straight to a defense of why people shouldn’t be sent to jail for not wearing a mask, the Governor could have simply offered this solution. Or suggested it from the start.
In addition, by allowing a local patchwork of business regulations, I think it is further evidence that the Governor caved.
HEB already issued a statement saying they will require masks in their Bexar County stores, but apparently, not the rest.
Previously, Governor Abbott has pushed back against local officials from regulating businesses and push to remove local control. For recent example, he had come out against Austin twice—both for the regulation of the ridesharing industry and for the plastic bag ban—voicing that businesses having to navigate patchwork regulations is bad.
Until it allows him to save face.