Texas Governor Threatens Fines for Local Officials Who Enforce Mask Mandates

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Texas governor Greg Abbott (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Texas governor Greg Abbott on Thursday threatened to issue fines to local officials who enforce new mask mandates.

Abbott’s warning comes after the CDC reversed course earlier this week and recommended that people in areas with substantial spread of COVID-19 should wear masks indoors — including vaccinated individuals. The new guidance is the result of concerns over the highly transmissible Delta variant.

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“Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities,” Abbott said in a statement.

The Republican governor issued an executive order on Thursday encouraging residents in areas with high transmission to “follow the safe practices they have already mastered,” such as wearing masks where social distancing is not feasible. 

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However, government entities including county, city, school-district, or public-health authorities cannot issue mask mandates. Local government entities that violate the policy and require face coverings may be fined up to $1,000.

The order adds that government entities cannot “compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.” 

Additionally, governmental agencies, public entities, and private entities that receive public funding cannot require proof of vaccination as a condition of receiving services.

The order does not prohibit nursing homes or living facilities from requiring residents to be vaccinated.

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