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 jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

The Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin is one of the locations where residents can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jack Flalger/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin vaccine updates: Demand slows as state begins marketing push

Appointments are beginning to go unfilled, and local health officials say demand has caught up to supply. All adults in the U.S. are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Blue Corn Harvest Leander is located at 11840 Hero Way W., Bldg. A, Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Blue Corn Harvest opens in Leander; park, pizzeria launches social club and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of two performers on an outdoor SXSW stage
South by Southwest sells ownership stake in company to Rolling Stone owner Penske Media Corp.

SXSW leadership called the sale a "lifeline" for the conference and festivals.

Photo of people receiving vaccines in a gym
Austin Public Health lengthens windows for vaccine appointment signups

Residents age 18 and up can now sign up for appointments with APH any time from Saturday to Tuesday morning.

Austin Anthem watch party
Crowds of fans converge on North Austin to watch inaugural Austin FC game

Breweries around Q2 Stadium in North Austin brought in large outdoor screens and new employees to host fans of Austin FC for the team's historic first match.

Austin Police Department
UPDATE: Loop 360 closed in both directions in Northwest Austin due to a shooting incident

Residents who live in the Arboretum area in Northwest Austin are advised to shelter in place.

Early voting for the May 1 election opens April 19 at a 7 a.m. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Early voting in Austin opens April 19: See what’s on the ballot, where to vote

City residents will be making decisions on eight propositions ranging from whether to adopt a strong mayor government system to whether to reinstate public camping bans.

Austin transportation officials said April 15 the range of corridor construction program projects initiated through the city's 2016 Mobility Bond remain on track for completion by late 2024. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Several Austin corridor mobility projects moving forward in 2021, program on track for 2024 completion

Transportation officials said some corridor program improvements previously planned along Guadalupe Street and East Riverside Drive are being reduced ahead of Project Connect expansions.

Jack Allen's Kitchen will be at 1345 E. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park. (Rendering courtesy Jack Allen's Kitchen)
7 restaurants coming to Cedar Park, Leander; new murals to go up in Georgetown and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the Central Texas area from the past week.

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Courtesy Amazon)
Amazon begins rollout of statewide vaccination clinics for employees

The program, which began this week in San Marcos, gives Amazon and Whole Foods employees and contractors direct access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

Photo of a home for sale
Central Austin housing market remains steep as area median home price reaches all-time high

Home prices in the Austin-Round Rock area have climbed more than 28% in the past year.

Residents ride bikes on Shoal Creek Boulevard in this photo from February 2020. Austin Water is taking on a project to replace water and wastewater lines in the Allandale neighborhood. (jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Water line construction project begins in Allandale neighborhood

Once the improvements are made, customers can expect water and wastewater outages typically lasting a few hours as their service is connected to the new lines.