Harris Co. judge sued over mandatory mask order

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's mandatory mask order, which she said is intended to further flatten the COVID-19 curve, has not won her fans, mainly from those in the conservative side of politics.

On Thursday, one political activist, who is also a medical doctor by trade, filed a lawsuit against Hidalgo to stop the 30-day order, labeling it as "unconstitutional."

In his lawsuit, Dr. Steven Hotze took issue with the enforcement of the order, which includes the adherence of social distancing guidelines.

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Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Turner want to flatten the curve, but the mandate already has been criticized.

"In Judge Hidalgo's Harris County, the heavy hand of local government will fine individuals who refuse to wear a mask, fail to wash their hands, get within six feet of another, or inadvertently touch their face," the lawsuit states.
Hotze's petition later states, "Will it be a little easier to force people to wear certain items? Today a mask, tomorrow a hazmat suit - where does it stop?"

Hotze, who operates Hotze Health and Wellness Center, has already sued Hidalgo over the county-wide "Stay Home - Work Safe" order.

The physician is also no stranger to confronting highly controversial social issues in the area. Back in 2016, he boycotted Target after it allowed people to use the restroom of their gender identity.

ABC13 reached out to Hidalgo's office about the lawsuit. Though it said they will not address the specifics of the litigation, here's what they said.

"The past couple of weeks have shown our community has come together - as we always do during times of crisis - to save human life. The public health interventions we've enacted with the support of our residents is already making a difference with over 4,500 lives saved, but we cannot let our guard down. Politicizing a public health crisis is the worst outcome imaginable for the long term health and safety and our community, and we urge everyone to continue taking this seriously."

Hidalgo's face-covering order comes as Harris County continues to lead the state with the most cases. About a quarter of the nearly 22,000 cases is in the county.

The mask order also comes weeks after other major cities like Dallas, San Antonio and Austin announced mandates of their own.

In the wake of the order, Hidalgo was the target of criticism by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who called her mechanisms to stem the spread of the virus "overreaching."

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"Her abuse of the use of executive orders is the ultimate government overreach," said Patrick. "These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger - and rightfully so."

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