Gov. Greg Abbott Reverses Course on Face Masks

COVID-19 roars back and Abbott fails to lead … again

As COVID-19 roars back with a vengeance all over Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott reversed course on June 17 and gave local authorities his blessing to require face coverings in public. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe have responded with new public health orders in the past 48 hours.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Because he is a coward who wants to maintain a healthy political distance from COVID-19, Abbott is pretending this was his position all along, and silly big city Democrats just didn’t do the reading. To make this gaslighting plausible, Abbott has granted the Texas cities and counties pressuring him to take action (led by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff) not the authority to require the public to wear masks, but to require businesses to require their patrons and employees to do so. (Do not try to figure out why that makes it different or better. Life is too short.)

Good enough for Adler, whose order requires “all commercial entities … providing goods and services directly to the public” to develop and implement a COVID-19 safety plan or policy that, at a minimum, requires mask wearing. It grants now-familiar exceptions for when people are alone, outside and six feet apart, etc., and also “when the person is eating or drinking in a restaurant or bar.” Safety plans can also include temperature checks, health screenings, or other measures, and must be posted where visible to employees and visitors.

Biscoe’s order covers the same ground, but includes more details, including a sample policy and signage businesses can make their own, and highlights the up-to-$1,000 fine for violations. (That penalty is still in effect in Adler’s current “stay home, work safe” order, to which his mask order is a supplement.) Both orders are set to expire August 15. Mask orders are also in effect in Hays County but not yet in Williamson County.

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