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Houston law enforcement pushes back on mandatory mask order

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.

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.”

The Houston Police Officers Union tweeted out the same statement and called the order “draconian.”

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.”

Even the Lt. Governor was a critic:

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.