Yesterday I wrote about a group of Bay Area counties joining other states around the country in requiring people to wear masks when they go out to essential businesses like grocery stores. Today a judge in the Houston area announced a plan to require masks for the next 30 days.
NEW: I’ve signed the order that requires face covers in public for the next 30 days, a critical period in our fight against an insidious & invisible killer. This is no time to let our guard down. pic.twitter.com/DJbjiW6Umt
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) April 22, 2020
But there has been some significant push back from law enforcement. Specifically, they are objecting to a $1,000 fine built into the order:
Under the order, residents 10 years old and older will be required to wear a covering, starting Monday, April 27. The order will last for 30 days. Coverings can be a mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief.
The masks or coverings must 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.
“We have to use every tool in the toolbox,” said Hidalgo. “If we get complacent, people will die. Those are the stakes.”
Hidalgo said the mask order will be enforced by a $1,000 fine.
A Fraternal Order of Police official put out a statement questioning the need for the fine. It reads in part, “It is clear the so-called leader of Harris County lacks any critical thinking skills, but let me assure the public, our officers do! The last thing any of us need to do is kick our community while they are down.” Later it continues, “We do not have time to be pawns in Hidalgo’s game of attempting to control the actions of law abiding, tax paying individuals of our community. Especially since this idiotic order is possibly an unconstitutional one from the County Judge.”
Everyone should be wearing a mask in public, I wear 1 everyday. But making not wearing 1 punishable by law, and asking our officers to enforce it, will do irreparable damage to our relationship with the community. We are already stretched too thin without having to enforce this. pic.twitter.com/BwxEJgHvkq
— Joe Gamaldi (@JoeGamaldi) April 22, 2020
The Houston Police Officers Union tweeted out the same statement and called the order “draconian.”
HPOU response to @LinaHidalgoTX draconian mask order: “Now we want to be very clear, HPOU believes everyone should be wearing a mask in public, in order to protect themselves from the virus and we are encouraging all of our officers to wear a mask. However, we draw the line…” pic.twitter.com/XbphfNYHii
— Houston Police Officers' Union (@HPOUTX) April 22, 2020
Harris County Deputies put out a statement asking “Who is going to enforce this order?” Their statement continues, “The citizens of Harris County are working hard together through this pandemic and do not need the added stress and fear of being fined or arrested for failing to wear a mask/face covering that they may not have.”
— Holly Hansen (@hollyshansen) April 22, 2020
Even the Lt. Governor was a critic:
On the same day they are moving to close $60M hospital because it wasn’t needed @LinaHidalgoTX orders mandatory masks in Harris Cnty — the ultimate government overreach. These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger — and rightfully so. https://t.co/TLgeG1TVFc
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) April 22, 2020
It sounds to me as if no one is going to be ticket under this order.
Looking at the Bay Area orders again, it seems most of those counties also included a $1,000 fine for violating the mask law, though that was not the case in Santa Clara county. They made their mask rule a “strong recommendation.”
“It’s not something I can ask my colleagues in law enforcement to enforce, however it is a critical and urgent recommendation,” said Dr. Cody.
That seems more sensible. Here’s a local news report on the announcement today and also some of the pushback.