Steve Adler, Sylvester Turner among group of Texas mayors to ask Gov. Greg Abbott for authority to enforce facemask rules

Austin Mayor Steve Adler speaks to the media at a press conference March 6 at Austin City Hall. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Mayor Steve Adler speaks to the media at a press conference March 6 at Austin City Hall. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Mayor Steve Adler speaks to the media at a press conference March 6 at Austin City Hall. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texans to wear face masks in public to protect their communities from further spread of COVID-19 in a press conference June 16. Abbott said state residents who could be asymptomatic carriers are "doing the right thing" by wearing a mask in public because they are reducing the chances of spreading the virus to someone else.

However, Abbott's recommendation to wear masks in public is not a mandate, and he has prevented any city or county governments from imposing any penalties or fines to enforce face mask requirements.

A group of mayors from nine large Texas cities, each with populations of more than 100,000, signed a letter to Abbott on June 16 hoping to change the governor's mind, asking Abbott for authority to create and enforce their own rules in their communities about whether face masks should be mandatory.

"This one step could prove to be the most effective way to prevent the transmission of this disease. Yet many people in many of our cities are still refusing to wear these face coverings even though these coverings are scientifically proven to help prevent the disease from spreading," wrote the mayors.

The letter was signed by mayors Steve Adler of Austin, Sylvester Turner of Houston, Harry LaRosiliere of Plano as well as their counterparts from Arlington, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and San Antonio.

"We should trust local officials to make informed choices about health policy. And if mayors are given the opportunity to require face coverings, we believe our cities will be ready to help reduce the spread of this disease," the letter reads.

Many of the urban areas the mayors represent have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in the past week. Austin's spike in cases caused local leaders to warn of hospitals possibly exceeding their capacity by this summer. In Harris County, occupancy rates for intensive care unit beds have hovered around 90% in the past two weeks, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

Statewide, Texas announced its highest daily positive COVID-19 case count yet June 16 with 2,622 new cases. To continue opening the economy while keeping the community safe, John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, encouraged residents to stay disciplined and continue safe habits.

“There is some evidence that we see in certain instances that people believe it’s not important for them to take those precautions, and I want you to understand that nothing could be further from the truth,” Hellerstedt said.

Correction: This article has been updated with the correct spelling of Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere's name.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at


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