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FAQs: What to expect with Harris County mask order for businesses, customers

Starting Monday, Harris County will be under a new mask order, but it only applies to businesses.

HOUSTON, Texas — This is the second time County Judge Lina Hidalgo has issued some sort of mask order for Harris County. It goes into effect Monday.

Gov. Greg Abbott said she couldn't enforce her first order back in April, but this second order is a little different.

First, it only applies to businesses – not individuals. And second, it's already got the governor's stamp of approval.

We've seen a few Texas counties already jump on board. In San Antonio and Austin, businesses now have signs posted out front.

So what can you expect?

If they're in Houston or Harris County, the business must require all employees and customers 10 years and older to wear a face covering.

This includes bars, restaurants, and even grocery stores. The only time customers can take off their masks is when they're eating, drinking or exercising.

Businesses will have to post the rules up front, and they'll face a fine of $1,000 per violation if they don't.

Individual customers cannot be fined, but if a customer doesn't follow the posted mask rules, a business has the authority to refuse service. Essentially, it's the same as any 'no shoes, no shirt' policy.

One thing the county says its still figuring out is what happens when a business doesn't enforce their own rules.

And as for how long this will last, this order expires on June 30th, but the county expects it to be extended.

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Frequently asked questions

Question from Richard:

"I own an essential business that has 9 appliance repair technicians and together we enter 50 to 60 homes each day. Does the order for businesses to require their customers to wear masks extend into the customers home. Over the last 3 to 4 weeks we have experienced customers expecting us to wear masks, which we do but they themselves do not. Can we require our customers to wear a mask when we are in their home? Would we be subject to the fine if our customers refuse to wear a mask?

Answer: 

No, the order can not be enforced at peoples homes.

The county only has authority over commercial businesses not private residences, therefore it can not enforce it at private residences.

Business themselves can choose to have their own policies where if they don't feel comfortable, they don't have to enter homes.

There is no requirement saying they have to go inside homes.

Question from Robyn:

"You don't have to wear a mask while eating. Does that mean restaurants are exempt? Or wear a mask until your food comes?"

Answer: 

The county says it will not be policing the order at this level of detail. It will be up to business owners and enforcement agencies to decide what's acceptable, but there is a clear exception for eating and drinking in the order.

Question from Brian:

"How do you eat at restaurants? What if people don't wear the mask, right How will this be enforced?"

Answer: 

You do not have to wear mask while eating, but restaurants are not exempt. You will still have to wear the masks inside the restaurant.

It's up to the business to enforce. The order says masks have to cover nose and mouth when in a commercial entity.

You can report restaurants not complying, but the judge says the first thing they will do is try to educate the restaurant. If they still don't comply, agencies have authority to enforce by implementing the fine.

Question from @Neutron19 on Twitter: 

"Is there a definition of 'commercial entity?' What kind of businesses are excluded?"

Answer: 

All commercial businesses. if you provide goods or services directly to a customer, you are included.

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