Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued an executive order that requires all people 10 years or older wear face coverings while in businesses or on commercial properties, including employees and all visitors and customers.
The order states that all commercial entities in Harris County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop, post, and implement a health and safety policy. The Health and Safety Policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees or visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public.
Individuals will not be fined or cited. Per the order, only business owners offering goods and services who do not enforce the provisions of the order — including ensuring all customers and employees wear masks, maintaining social distancing guidelines and turning away employees who feel sick — may face a $1,000 fine per violation.
In addition to purchased masks, face coverings may include homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas or handkerchiefs.
On the same day that the Harris County order went into effect, Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference to update the state on the COVID-19 response as well as several steps the state is taking to mitigate the spread of the virus.
This was in response to several weeks of sharp increases in positive tests as well as hospitalizations.
“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas,” Abbott said, adding later “If those spikes continue, additional measures are going to be necessary.”
He said the state was rapidly increasing testing in hot spots and working with hospitals throughout the state to ensure they have the ability to treat Texans who test positive for COVID-19.
Although there has been a serious spike in the spread of the virus, he said he has no immediate plans for a second shutdown of businesses saying, “Closing down Texas again will always be the last option.”
That said, to avoid having to reinvoke “stay at home” orders, Governor Abbott implored Texans to follow public health protocols like staying home if you are sick or at risk, sanitizing your hands, practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings or masks.
“When you go out, you should wear a face covering or mask,” Abbott said, “I know that wearing a mask will help us keep Texas open.”
While this situation will continue to be fluid, we want to be responsible community partners as this pandemic persists. Our industry was fortunate to be deemed essential when the first “stay at home” orders were issued, so in most cases our members were able to continue working. But as our economy begins to recover from the first shut down, it is important that we do our part to help avoid another one. For more information on workplace health safety, visit https://open.texas.gov/.