Texas Gov. Abbott issues order barring government entities from mandating face mask wearing

Local governments or officials can be subject to a fine of as much as $1,000 for failing to comply.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2017
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2017
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday barring government entities from mandating that people must sport face masks.

"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up," said Abbott, a Republican.

Starting at 11:59 p.m. on May 21 local governments or officials can be subject to a fine of as much as $1,000 for failing to comply.

The state's pubic schools can keep following current mask guidelines through June 4, but past that point people may not be compelled to wear masks on school campuses.

"The Texas Education Agency shall revise its guidance such that, effective 11:59 p.m. on June 4, 2021, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor may be required to wear a face covering," the order states.

There are carve outs saying that "state supported living centers, government-owned hospitals, and government-operated hospitals may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings" and that "the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and any county and municipal jails acting consistent with guidance by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings."