Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting state government entities from requiring mask wearing.
“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 news release.
The statement explicitly banned counties, public school districts, public health authorities and government officials from imposing a mask mandate. Local governments or officials attempting to do so will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000, beginning May 21, although public schools will be allowed to continue current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. State-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, state department of justice facilities and county and municipal jails are exempted from the order.
The governor’s order follows the updated guidance released by the CDC last week which allows fully vaccinated people to be both outdoors and indoors without masks. Other states have moved to roll back mask mandates, although many private businesses continue to ask customers to cover up.
“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 a statement on his latest order. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”
Teachers’ groups and Democrat leaders have voiced criticism of Abbott’s decision, for while 30% of Texans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the vast majority of children are unvaccinated. Teachers at public schools will likely be impacted most by the order.
Democratic Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called Abbott’s order “a clear overreach. His power is not absolute.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins also noted that it deviates from CDC guidance saying unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors.