Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning government entities and officials from enforcing mask mandates, including counties, cities, school districts and public health authorities.
Announced on Tuesday, the order allows public schools to continue with their current mask protocols to protect against the spread of COVID-19 through June 4, after which they can no longer require teachers, students, parents or staff members to wear masks on campus.
For local government bodies and officials, the order goes into effect this Friday. Any official who puts in place a mask mandate that violates the governor’s executive order could wind up facing a fine of up to $1,000, the governor’s office said in a statement.
“The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities,” Abbott said in the statement.
“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” the governor added. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”
The executive order, however, did allow exemptions for state-supported living centers, government-owned or government-operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities and county and municipal jails.
As of Tuesday, around 21.3 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Texas. Some 9.46 million Texans are fully vaccinated.
But late last month, Texas officials said they began to see a sharp drop in demand for the vaccine, as reported by the Texas Tribune at the time.
According to The New York Times, Dallas County currently averages around 141 new cases of the coronavirus each day. More than 51,000 people have died in Texas from COVID-19 since the pandemic first hit early last year.
On Monday, President Joe Biden said the number of new coronavirus cases was down in all 50 states for the first time since the pandemic struck.
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