In what appears to be open defiance to Governor Greg Abbott’s order, Houston City Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a directive to its city employees to wear protective masks inside the city hall premises in view of another surge in coronavirus infections.
With a city-wide directive now in effect since Aug. 4, Houston has become the first city that issued a mask mandate for its personnel.
Mayor Turner, however, clarified that employees may not wear protective masks if they’re alone in their office — or cubicle provided it is six feet away from the next cubicle or work station. Part of the exemptions delves into religious belief and one’s health condition.
Interestingly, Mayor Turner’s mandate may not be effective outside the walls of the city hall as Governor Abbott’s July 29 executive order specifically states that mask mandates could not be issued on a larger scale — in the case of Houston, its residents.
Abbott’s order prohibits any state or local agency and any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means from compelling the use of protective masks or requiring proof of vaccination.
Subsequently, the governor’s directive provides a penalty amounting to $1,000 to any government entity or official for forcing people to wear masks.
Relatedly, Austin City issued a press release which reads: “Masking is recommended for all employees and many are following that recommendation. We are certainly watching what is happening in Houston and other large cities closely to see what is working and what we can implement here in Austin.”
Abbott’s counterpart in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, likewise, imposed a restriction for the local governments from issuing mask mandates.
Aside from Houston, the City of Palm Beach and the counties for Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando have commenced requiring masks indoors, particularly inside local government buildings.
Interestingly, Texas and Florida accounted for one-third of all COVID-19 cases in the nation for the last several weeks. San Francisco and six other Bay Area counties, as well as Atlanta, are also imposing mask mandates.