Burden of compliance falls on law enforcement

Burden of compliance falls on law enforcement

Bay City Police and the Matagorda County Sheriff’s office will adhere to the mandatory mask order issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott but neither agency have the manpower issues when it comes to enforcing the order.

“The (Bay City Police) department will recommend voluntary compliance before any enforcement will be taken, citations will be a last resort,” Lister said. 

According to Lt. James Orr with the Matagorda County Sheriff’s office, “ acknowledges the mandatory mask order issued by Gov. Abbott and will adhere to it.”

“Enforcement of this order will be on a case by case basis due to manpower issues but will respond to any calls related to the order,” said Lt. James Orr with the Matagorda County Sheriff’s office. “Citations issued would be a last resort.”

But the several Texas counties and law enforcement agencies are pushing back against Abbott’s executive order by refusing to enforce it at a local level.

The order states “I have issued executive orders and suspensions of Texas laws in response to COVIP-19, aimed at using the least restrictive means available to protect the health and safety of Texans and ensure an effective response to this disaster,” states the order. “As Texas reopens in the midst of COVID-19, increased spread is to be expected, and the key to controlling the spread and keeping Texans safe is for all people to consistently follow good hygiene and social-distancing practices. Due to recent substantial increases in COVID-19 positive cases and increases in the COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations resulting from COVID 19, further measures are needed to achieve the least restrictive means for reducing the growing spread of COVTD-19, and to avoid a need for more extreme measures.

“I have joined the medical experts in consistently encouraging people to use face coverings, and health authorities have repeatedly emphasized that wearing face coverings is one of the most important and effective tools for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” states the order. “Given the current status of COVD-19 in Texas, requiring the use of face coverings is a targeted response that can combat the threat to public health using the least restrictive means, and if people follow this requirement, more extreme measures may be avoided. Wearing a face covering is important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming fellow Texans, especially given that many people who go into public may have COVID-19 without knowing it because they have no symptoms.”

The order states that every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; provided, however, that this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following: 1. any person younger than 10 years of age; 2. any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering; 3. any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink; 4. any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household; 5. any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver; 6. any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal; 7. any person while the any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water; 8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged; 9. any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged; 10. any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience; or 11. any person in a county (a) that meets the requisite criteria the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and (b) whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form—provided, however, that wearing a face covering is highly recommended, and every county is strongly encouraged to follow these face-covering standards. Not excepted from this face-covering requirement is any person attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people and who is not practicing safe social distancing of six feet from other people not in the same household.

The order states following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of this face-covering requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation. 

“Local law enforcement and other local officials, as appropriate, can and should enforce this executive order, Executive Order GA-28, and other effective executive orders, as well as local restrictions that are consistent with this executive order and other effective executive orders,” the order states. “But no law enforcement or other official may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this executive order or for related non-violent, non-felony offenses that are predicated on a violation of this executive order; provided, however, that any official with authority to enforce this executive order may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner. This executive order hereby prohibits confinement in jail as a penalty for the violation of any face-covering order by any jurisdiction.”



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