A county judge in North Texas is asking Gov. Greg Abbott for the green light to fine Texans for not wearing masks, despite the authority already being in Abbott’s mask mandate. Citizens, doctors, and state legislators have expressed strong disagreement with such measures.
Since July 2, Texas has been under a statewide mask mandate from Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott’s mandate states that after “a verbal or written warning to a first-time violator,” a citizen who still won’t wear a mask can be punished with a maximum fine of $250 per instance.
Some local officials have complained that they are unable to collect those fines because the mandate says “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.”
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley—who serves as spokesman for the county commissioners—is among these local officials, and he is asking Abbott for permission to fine people who aren’t wearing masks. In addition, Whitley wants to cancel all youth sports activities in the county.
“That request is beyond the absurd because there is no evidence that supports wearing of a mask to reduce the spread of a COVID,” State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) told Texas Scorecard. “Dr. Fauci himself said that masks are ineffective and do no good.”
Hall’s statement is backed by Dr. Simone Gold of America’s Frontline Doctors.
“You need to google surgical masks and look in any scientific journal before 2020,” she told Texans at a gathering in September. “There is never a pretense of pretending that surgical masks worked for viruses. It’s a ludicrous, ludicrous statement. It’s like … using a chain-link fence to keep out a mosquito. It’s totally irrelevant.”
“There are studies out there that say the Spanish flu was made worse by the wearing of the mask,” Hall added, “because it caused the viral infection to grow greater in people than it would if people weren’t wearing a mask. And the CDC and the FDA both have said if you are sick and you wear a mask, you’re going to make yourself sicker.”
Former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi agrees, writing, “Mask use has correlated with an increase in cases since the start of this pandemic.”
“The countries that have not required a mask, like Sweden, have fared far better than what we have,” Hall continued. “It’s unfortunate that we have people in offices who act and react based on emotion for show. That is, What will people think about it?, not what is actually the science, the data, or the facts.”
Whitley’s request comes after a recent announcement that Chinese coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas have increased to over 6,900. The estimated population of the state of Texas is over 28 million, and state government data estimates over 838,000 have recovered from the virus, while over 19,000 have died.
“The fact is that most of the people who get COVID-19 will recover,” Richard Hill of Tarrant County Public Health told Texas Scorecard in June.
Whitley believes if he is allowed to fine citizens, another government-mandated shutdown would be unnecessary. But Dr. Bartlett has argued shutdowns are actually counter-productive in combatting the coronavirus.
“The failed strategy of Communist China of shutting businesses and closing schools is a failed strategy,” he said. “That same failed strategy failed in Italy with 30,000 deaths, and then it went to France with 30,000 deaths, and then it went to Spain with 30,000 deaths.”
Dr. Bartlett went on to say, “Compare that failed strategy with what they’re doing in Taiwan, where seven people died during the whole nine-month pandemic with [a population of] 24 million people.”
There is also the question of Texans’ liberties.
“I would urge all governors to keep the United States Constitution first and foremost in their priorities and to weigh all risks and dangers to their citizens against the risk of demolishing the Constitution,” Dr. Gold argued. “There’s good information out there, but this is not the public health threat that governors that are locking down states believe it to be.”
Hall wasn’t the only member of the Texas Legislature to weigh in on Whitley’s request. Newly elected State Representatives Jeff Cason of House District 92 and Bryan Slaton of House District 2 also replied to inquiries from Texas Scorecard.
“While Joe Biden is discussing nationwide mask mandates, Glen Whitley is fighting to fine those who don’t wear a mask,” Cason said .“If you don’t pay the fine, you go to jail. This is absurd.”
“Freedom-loving Texans should come spend some time in rural Texas,” Slaton said. “We don’t live in fear, and we don’t believe mask mandates and fines help improve anything.”
When asked the odds of Abbott granting Whitley’s request, Hall was uncertain.
“If it was [Florida Gov. Ron] DeSantis, zero,” he replied. “But I have no way of knowing how Abbott will react to that. It’s going to depend on what the polls say.”
On social media, a number of Texans expressed a strong distaste for such a decision.
“This is something so extreme not even Chicago, LA, or NYC does it,” said Brian Jennings.
“That’s a big no,” said Linda Davis-Hughes. “I cannot tolerate wearing one for more than 30 minutes in the grocery store.”
As the 87th Legislative Session approaches, Cason, Hall, and Slaton told Texas Scorecard what they believe should happen if the fines are put in place.
“If this is what is going to happen, the legislature definitely needs to get some legislation that shores up our Constitution and limits elected officials’ [ability] to violate existing law and to violate the Constitution,” said Hall.
“The Senate and House should have a say-so in this,” Slaton said. “If they approve of it, the governor can veto or sign it. That’s his choice, after we decide.”
“The legislature will be involved very soon, and Republicans aren’t ok with the overreaches we are seeing at all local and state levels,” Cason added.
State Rep. Matt Krause (R–Fort Worth) did not respond for a request for comment before publication time.
Concerned Texans may contact their elected state representative and state senators.
The 87th Legislative Session starts on January 12, 2021.