Today during his press conference discussing the latest in the State of Texas regarding COVID-19, Governor Abbott repeated that he will not mandate nor allow local governments to mandate mask wearing.
Per the Governor’s executive orders, while the Texas Government Code 418.173 allows for fines of up to $1,000 or a year in jail for failure to comply with a disaster order, Governor Abbott overruled state law to disallow use of jail for any COVID-19 penalty and, specifically, stated that no jurisdiction can fine or jail anyone for failure to wear a mask.
Jail time—in general for a disaster—should be a last resort when the public needs someone to be removed from the general population for the safety of the community. Given the impact this particular disaster, a pandemic, actually decreases the safety of the community when more people are in jail, it definitely should not be used here except truly as a last resort.
That said, the Executive Orders removes local control and prohibits local health officials from attempting to force mask usage. While Austin’s orders still mandate masks, it is a joke as everyone realizes there is absolutely no possibility of enforcement.
Austin has been clear that enforcement is not the solution. We need voluntary compliance to make this as work. Hearing the mixed message that we’re fine to open up to 75% of capacity in a dining room—where people will have to not wear masks for a solid portion of time in order to eat or drink—but masks are very important right now hurts the public health. If this is so important, why is the Governor relaxing our response and specifically not requiring masks?
I applaud the various local mayors that wrote to Governor Abbott to ask him to allow them to enforce wearing masks and join them in asking Governor Abbott to modify his executive orders to restore local governments ability to act in the best interest of their local communities.
I believe his backpedaling to reduce the enforcement options is Governor Abbott bending to the demands of the extreme conservative elements of his base that see this as a “Freedom” issue.
In this instance, the primary benefit of wearing a mask is to help ensure that others are not infected if you are without your knowledge.
Texas Law requires motorcyclists wear a helmet with some exceptions and to wear seat belts. It’s also against the law for someone under 18 to ride in a boat that is being pulled by a truck.
That’s just me looking at the Texas Transportation Code for things that are mandated for the safety of the person. Wearing a mask is for the safety of the public.
Maybe we should look for something similar? The Texas Penal Code makes smoking in public places illegal. Being intoxicated in public in a way that endangers another person is illegal too.
If you smoking in my space is a bit annoying to me, but could cause cancer through second-hand smoke or an asthma attack in my daughter, thus is illegal, then why shouldn’t wearing a mask which would greatly prevent you from spreading an infectious virus that is spreading rapidly with great potential to swarm our healthcare system and cause the person infected potentially life-altering illness or death be enforceable?
For me, I think the answer is because Governor Abbott is weak and is catering to those who he needs to re-elect him.
Update: Here’s a copy of the letter sent to the Governor: