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Growing Number of Texas Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Face Mask Order

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Although Governor Abbott issued an executive order for compulsory wearing of face masks, there is a growing list of Texas law enforcement officials who are refusing to enforce it. The order was made on Thursday, July 2, 2020, requiring that all Texans wear a face mask over their mouth and nose in public places, in counties where 20 or more positive pandemic cases have been reported.

The face mask order went into effect at 12:01 p.m. on Friday, July 3, 2020. A written or verbal warning will be given to those considered to be a first-time violator, a second violation is punishable by a fine not exceeding $250. No one can be jailed for violating the order.

Growing Number of Texas Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Face Mask Order

Photo: @Chalabala via Twenty20

Among those in East Texas issuing statements about the face mask order, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office has advised that they won’t be issuing citations to residents for failing to observe it. The Tyler Police Department has advised that they will “maintain the same position” as they did during the quarantine phase, working more toward educating the public about regulations. However, the City of Tyler stated that the Tyler PD would, in fact, be enforcing the order. The Gladewater PD will be issuing citations only as a last resort, as will the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office. Harrison County released a statement advising residents to please be considerate of others when the matter of face coverage comes up, but didn’t reference whether there would be warnings or citations involved. Upshur County will not be enforcing the order, according to a statement released by County Sheriff Larry Webb.

Growing Number of Texas Sheriffs Refuse to Enforce Face Mask Order

Photo: @RLTheis via Twenty20

In advance of the Fourth of July weekend, Wood County Judge Lucy Hebron released a video message requesting residents to be careful during their holiday celebrations but did not suggest citizens should cancel plans or make any additional restrictions. The Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the face mask order, and, as of this writing, Camp County, Marion County, and Morris County will be able to opt out of it since there are fewer than 20 COVID-19 cases reported in their area. Likewise, Panola County as well as the Winnsboro Police Department have released statements advising that they will not be issuing citations.

Police officials in other counties such as Denton, Houston, Montgomery, Gillespie, and Kerr, have said they will not enforce Governor Abbott’s statewide face mask order with either verbal or written citations. Further updates with respect to county decisions on enforcement will be provided as they’re released.