HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — All businesses in Harris County must require employees and customers to wear face coverings after an order signed by County Judge Lina Hidalgo today.
Businesses that don’t comply with the order could face up to a $1,000 fine, though Hidalgo said the main focus is education and not fines. Customers 10 years and older must wear masks, though individuals aren’t subject to any fines for not wearing one.
“The only way we will advert a crisis is to take steps like these,” Hidalgo said at an afternoon news conference. “I understand how tired we all are. We’re all tired of this virus. Life is not back to normal.”
The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and lasts through 11:59 p.m. June 30, the same time the county’s disaster declaration is set to expire. Hidalgo said she expects to meet with county commissioners about extending the declaration and, too, likely the mask order.
Harris County, including Houston, reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Friday. Many of those came from Houston, which Mayor Sylvester Turner said was due to a backlog coming from a state lab.
The order comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier said cities and counties could not impose penalties directly on citizens who do not wear a mask.
Instead, the pressure is now being put on the businesses to enforce the rule.
Along with Bexar County, Hidalgo and Dallas counties have also modified their mask mandates in a similar way. So far the governor's office has not fought the new mask requirements for businesses, even giving Bexar’s a symbolic nod of approval, saying the order "is not inconsistent" with state mandates.
Local leaders across Texas have said they are working with the governor's office to stay within the guidelines of the state.
In April, Houston and Harris County's previous mask mandate essentially came to an end when a judge removed the $1,000 fine for individuals.
RESPONSE TO MASK ORDER FROM LOCAL BUSINESSES
H-E-B: “H-E-B fully supports our local government officials and their dedication to keeping the health and safety of Houston area residents a top priority. 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. H-E-B continues to require the use of masks or facial coverings by all of our Partners and vendors inside our stores. The CDC and State health officials strongly support the use of facial coverings in public as a proven way to slow the spread of COVID. Our Partners thank you in advance for also supporting this local order. #SlowTheSpread”
Randalls: "Throughout the COVID19 pandemic, the health and safety of everyone who walks through our doors has been our top priority.
We are aware of the Judge’s order and are quickly putting together plans to ensure our stores are in compliance.
As of Monday, customers will notice our updated Health and Safety plan along with signage at the entrance, which requires all who enter to wear a face covering or mask.
We will have a greeter at the entrance to remind customers of the order, and will have a mask immediately available for purchase for customers who do not have one."
Kroger: At Kroger, the health and safety of our customers, associates and communities is our first priority.
Effective Monday, June 22, in compliance with the Harris County mandate, we are continuing the requirement that all customers and associates wear a mask or face covering while in our stores.
Signage will be placed at entryways as a friendly reminder for all customers entering our stores.
If a customer forgets their mask or face covering, don’t worry - we have disposable and reusable masks available for purchase at our front end.
We would like to thank our customers and associates for their support as we work together to slow the spread and keep our communities safe.
(KVUE and KENS contributed to this story)
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