New order signed requires customers to wear masks inside Harris Co. businesses

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Saturday, June 20, 2020
Customers must wear masks inside businesses in Harris Co.
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THE MORE YOU KNOW: The order was simply laid out as, "No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service," by Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo. How do businesses feel about the plan? Hit play.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an order today mandating businesses to require wearing of face coverings.

"They have to have a plan and implement a plan that requires anyone 10+ to wear a mask," she said at a press conference today.

Hidalgo added that this is not a free pass to discontinue social distancing.

The new order goes into effect on Monday, June 22 and the Disaster Declaration expires on June 30, Hidalgo said. Businesses will be fined $1,000, but individuals will not be fined.

FULL DETAILS: Read full mask order signed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

"This will only work if everyone does their part," Hidalgo said. "The intent is not to have police on every street corner."

Masks do not need to be worn while eating, exercising outside, driving, pumping gas or inside buildings that require screening like banks.

Mayor Sylvester Turner also said it's important for customers to feel safe so they'll venture out of their homes and visit businesses, helping many stay open and afloat.

"It's a health care crisis, y'all," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "For people who want to start moving around, including the fall, how we handle the summer will be critical."

H-E-B released a statement, saying all customers will be required to wear face masks starting Monday, June 22. H-E-B had previously required the wearing of face coverings inside their stores but cancelled it later.

"Effective Monday, June 22nd, in collaboration with the local order, H-E-B, Central Market, Mi Tienda and Joe V's Smart Shop stores located in Harris County, which includes the City of Houston and beyond, will require all customers to wear masks or facial coverings," said Lisa Helfman, Public Affairs Director for H-E-B Houston.

The first mask order issued by Hidalgo lasted for 30 days. It required residents 10 years old and older to wear a covering over their face to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Coverings could be a mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief.

The masks or coverings had to cover the nose and mouth, but the coverings are not limited to medical or N-95 masks. The only exceptions to the rule will be when exercising, eating, drinking, if you're alone in a separate place, or at your home.

The original order came with a $1,000 fine for violators, but that was later overruled by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in San Antonio issued a new mask order this week for that area.

RELATED: Mask face-off: San Antonio-area puts twist on own mask order

Instead of directing people to wear face coverings, Wolff's order targets businesses and requires them to issue mandates to employees and customers. It's a move that Abbott appeared to approve and one that Harris County appears to be replicating.

"Pursuant to my plan, local governments can require stores and businesses to require masks," Abbott said, according to Texas Monthly. "That's what was authorized in the plan."

Today's pending order in Harris County comes after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined eight other Texas mayors in asking Abbott for power to impose face mask rules.

As of June 17, the COVID-19 infection rate in the greater Houston area reached just under 25,000 cases, according to the Texas Medical Center. There were nearly 1,300 patients in ICU beds across Houston, which is less than two hundred fewer than the total normal ICU capacity.