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Harris County mask order now in effect: Here's what you need to know

You ask, we answer! When do you wear a mask? How long will the order last? Will it be enforced?

HOUSTON — Harris County’s new mask order is now in effect, and many KHOU-11 viewers still have a lot of questions.

When do you have to wear a mask? How long will the order last? Will it be enforced?

The new mask order applies to all employees and customers and visitors of commercial businesses within the county.

RELATED: New mask order issued for Harris County businesses, customers

KHOU-11 sent out a solicitation for questions about the order on Saturday and received numerous responses. The vast majority of the questions fall into three general categories: enforcement, duration and scope of the order.

1. ENFORCEMENT

From Kiril:  “How are businesses expected to enforce this on their customers? How is the county going to make sure each and every establishment that has to, actually DOES SO?”

From Jamie: “How will businesses be able to enforce this?”

From Joshua: “Why are the businesses being held liable when it’s the selfish individuals who are choosing not to wea[r] masks?"

Local leaders say it is the responsibility of the businesses to make sure their employees and customers wear masks.

They have said it will be no different than a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo says law enforcement agencies will decide how to police the ordinance on their own and members of the public can report a business that is in violation.

Hidalgo says businesses in violation will first get the equivalent of a warning and could face a $1,000 fine for each subsequent violation.

2. DURATION

From David:  “Why only 8 days[?]”

From Jennifer: “Why is the mask order for only 8 days.. that’s kind of pointless[.]”

The short answer is this: the mask order will most likely be extended.

The order continues through June 30, which is the same day Harris County’s disaster declaration is set to expire.

Hidalgo says she expects the disaster order will be extended and subsequently, the mask order.

3. SCOPE

From Natalie: “Does this apply to gyms?”

From Favio: “Do we have to wear the mask when we work out heavily indoors?”

From Naomi: “How will this work at restaurants for customers?”

The answer to these questions is not simple because there are exceptions.

The County Judge’s office says masks are required while exercising  indoors, but not outdoors. The type of exercise doesn’t matter. 

When you enter a place that serves food or drinks, you will still have to wear a mask. You can remove the mask when you sit down to eat and/or drink. If you get up to go to the bathroom or walk around, you will have to put the mask back on your face.

Outdoors at a business? Masks are not required while outside (like at a pool or on a patio), however wearing a mask is strongly encouraged when not eating, drinking, or exercising.

Does the order apply to apartment buildings and churches? No. The mask order only applies to businesses that provide goods and services.

The questions and passionate comments posted to our Facebook solicitation show a clear division among respondents.

Some call the order tyrannical; others say the absence of a mask order would most certainly lead to avoidable illness and death.

RELATED: Bars, restaurants prep to enforce Harris County mask order

RELATED: What you need to know about mask order for Harris County businesses, customers

RELATED: These states require face masks be worn in public

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