Masks will now be mandatory in Harris County until August 26, per a Tuesday, June 30 vote by the Harris County Commissioners.
The vote directs any businesses providing goods or services to require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public.
On Monday, June 29, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo expressed a desire to extend the county's COVID-19 disaster declaration, which would allow for the mask order extension.
“I will be requesting an extension on the disaster declaration, and if I’m granted that extension from my colleagues, then I do plan to extend the requirement for businesses to require masks from their employees and their patrons,” said the judge on Monday during a Zoom meeting.
Businesses must have a plan that requires anyone 10 years of age or over to wear a mask when on premises. “It gives businesses a tool they’ve needed but don’t have,” said Hidalgo at a June 19 press conference with Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The idea is to see this as a no shirt, no shoes, no mask — no service.”
Coverings can be a face mask (including medical and N-95), scarf, bandanna, or handkerchief. Exceptions include dining at a restaurant, going to a bank, or pumping gas.
As CultureMap news partner ABC13 reports, Hidalgo discussed the county’s efforts to flatten the curve, her discussions with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and her fight for the authority to issue another stay-at-home order after local officials lifted the previous one.
“The governor has taken some steps, which are great and they're necessary [such as] making sure that the bars are closed,” explained Hidalgo. “My fear is we don’t have any proof that alone will do it. There is no evidence from a community that was on the verge of disaster, and they put the restaurants at 50 percent capacity and suddenly, everything is fine. The only thing we know works is a stay-at-home order, and anything short of that is a gamble on our own people.”
Hidalgo is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 via a staffer who tested positive for the virus. The judge shared her status on the Zoom call.
“I am feeling great. I don't feel anything different. I feel strong and have plenty of work to do. I’ve had a lot of people send me messages saying, ‘I’m so glad you’re resting,’ but resting is the last thing I’m doing.”