Gov. Abbott: Harris County cannot issue fines or penalties to people not wearing face coverings

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Harris County's face coverings order, which went into effect April 27, cannot be enforced with penalties or fines. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Harris County's face coverings order, which went into effect April 27, cannot be enforced with penalties or fines. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Harris County's face coverings order, which went into effect April 27, cannot be enforced with penalties or fines. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Harris County cannot issue fines or penalties under its "Use of Face Coverings" order that went into effect April 27, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Gov. Abbott hosted a press conference April 27 where he announced the next steps in his plan to reopen businesses across the state. At the end of the conference, said his order supersedes any order passed by a county judge, including Harris County's face coverings order.

"We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask," Abbott said. "However, it's not a mandate, and we made clear that no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine."

Harris County's order, as passed, states that violators can be hit with fines of up to $1,000. In a statement issued after Abbott's conference, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county will amend the order to keep it in compliance with the governor's. She said she did not think Abbott's comments changed much in practical terms.

"The fine was there as a signal of how vital mask wearing is, and in many ways, the community got that message," Hidalgo said. "It’s been disappointing to see folks politicize public health, and I hope this means they'll go back to focusing on health and safety instead of politics. As we have in the past, we will amend this order to conform with the governor’s.”

In a press conference that took place prior to Gov. Abbott's announcement, Hidalgo said she did not expect law enforcement to issue citations, but the language of the order was needed to make it enforceable. She compared the face coverings order to the Stay Home-Work Safe order and the order closing bars and restaurants, both of which included enforcement measures, such as fines and jail time. Hidalgo said as far as she knew, police have not issued any citations or arrested any people for violating those orders.

"If you don’t wear a mask, it’s not about you. It’s about the people around you," Hidalgo said. "You might get somebody sick. This is something serious, and that’s why we need to make clear that it’s not optional. We would ask, 'Please'; we tried that two or three weeks ago. Most people did, but not enough."

In a series of tweets April 27, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his office did not plan on issuing tickets.

"We're going to continue to use discretion and messaging for our compliance," Gonzalez said. "But keep in mind, if a private business requires masks, then, that's within the law as well."
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


Cy-Fair ISD recently added 266 propane buses to its total fleet. Funded by the 2019 bond package, the buses account for approximately 30% of the district’s total fleet and provide cleaner emissions. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD's 2019 bond program funds new propane buses to replace diesel vehicles

Propane buses now account for about 30% of the district's entire fleet.

ExxonMobil moved employees from its Springwoods Village campus to a Hughes Landing to cure a default on a Montgomery County tax abatement. (Courtesy ExxonMobil)
ExxonMobil resolves tax abatement default; Home Depot distribution center taking over superfund site; and more top Houston-area news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

The University of St. Thomas is a private Catholic college in Houston. It also has a microcampus in downtown Conroe. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of St. Thomas offering free tuition to first 500 students who apply

The online degrees are in the following fields: cybersecurity, network technology, electronic technology, general business, and alcohol and drug dependency counseling.

Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 has begun construction on the first of three phases for its new 43-acre, state-of-the-art campus located in Spring, according to a May 7 news release. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 begins construction on new 43-acre campus

The campus will house ESD No. 11's new ambulance service, which is scheduled to launch Sept. 4 when the district's contract with current service provider, Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services, expires.

King and his team constructed the Ringing Singing Tree, a 17-foot-tall, 20-ton wind powered sound sculpture, in 2015. The project is on display outside of Austin. (Courtesy JK Welding)
Cypress-based JK Welding takes on unique, challenging projects

Motorists might recognize the FM 529 facility by the large projects that can be seen from the street, which have included an oil derrick, a pirate ship and a massive wind chime.

The new campus will be modeled after the comprehensive Houston Methodist West and Houston Methodist The Woodlands facilities. (Courtesy Houston Methodist)
Houston Methodist announces plans for new 400-bed hospital in Cypress

The new hospital could open as early as 2024 and ultimately employ more than 500 people, officials said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services projects a significant shortage of nurses by 2032. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Q&A: Why Texas faces a growing nursing shortage and what can be done to address it

In 2018, the state health department estimated about 11% of the demand for nurses was not able to be met, and that number is expected to rise to 16.3% by 2032.

The practice is led by Stoni Johnston, who is a licensed and board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. (Courtesy Sulcata Psychiatry)
Sulcata Psychiatry in Vintage Park now scheduling appointments for June

Patients who schedule appointments for June prior to May 31 will receive a 15% discount.

Jersey Village City Hall is located on Lakeview Drive, but city officials have plans to break ground on a new facility in Village Center this summer. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact Newspaper)
Village Center, new Jersey Village City Hall slated for groundbreaking this summer following delays

If construction begins this summer as planned, the entire project could be completed within three to four years, officials told residents during a May 4 information session about the project.

Houston, Harris County annual addresses no longer hosted by Greater Houston Partnership over Texas voter bill dispute

Local leaders criticized the area chamber of commerce for not taking a definitive stance on two voting access bills currently being deliberated in the Texas Legislature.

The new location is Chipotle's first in Magnolia. (Courtesy Chipotle Mexican Grill)
Chipotle opens in Magnolia; get a sneak peek of new Houston aquarium and more metro news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.