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After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott commended a Democrat Bexar County official for discovering a way to implement a mask mandate for businesses, county judges in the Rio Grande Valley wasted no time drafting their own orders.

On Wednesday, Abbott said Bexar County’s mask order, which requires businesses to mandate that customers wear masks, did not conflict with his previous executive order that banned governments from issuing mask orders. The distinction, Abbott explained, was that under such a scenario, citizens were not directly ordered to wear masks and were not at risk of fines or jail time. Rather, the mask order would be issued to businesses instead of citizens.

Abbott said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff “finally read what we had written, and what they now realize they are capable of doing is that we want to make sure individual liberty is not infringed upon by government, and hence government cannot require individuals to wear masks. … Now, local officials are just now realizing that that was authorized.”

Before the day ended, County Judges Richard Cortez and Eddie Treviño issued their own mask orders in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, respectively. Both county judges have previously been among the fastest to enact restrictive orders during the pandemic. 

“Despite abundant publicity that the rate of infection is increasing locally, too many residents appear to be ignoring common-sense, preventive measures,” said Cortez.

Failure to comply with the order in Hidalgo County will result in a $1,000 fine against the commercial entity for each violation, with a $500 fine in Cameron County.