On July 2, Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate with medical and disability exceptions that many say haven’t been adequately broadcast to the public, putting businesses in a tough position.
Last week, the Tarrant County Commissioners voted to extend their county mask mandate to August 31. Except for Commissioner Devan Allen, who was absent, the vote was unanimous. Sources have said Commissioner J.D. Johnson told angry grassroots he was against the mandate, yet he still voted for it, along with Commissioners Gary Fickes and Roy Brooks and County Judge Glen Whitley.
However, Whitley, spokesman for the commissioners court, and Tarrant County District Attorney Sharon Wilson have both publicly raised questions about the enforceability of Abbott’s mandate.
“It appears that law enforcement cannot legally enforce” the governor’s mandate, said a spokesman for Wilson’s office. Whitley went so far to say Abbott’s mandate isn’t enforceable.
Wilson has even said the same about Tarrant’s mandate. In a document published by the City of Colleyville, they claim Wilson told the city that “prosecution of the order would be challenging and not to write tickets.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is charging forward with $250 fines for those not wearing a mask.
Both the state and county mandates provide exceptions for those who cannot wear a mask due to medical reasons or a disability, such as asthma or post-traumatic stress disorder. Because federal law also protects the right of those who are exempt, it is difficult to enforce mask mandates.
The pressure—and in some cases, harassment—from the public and businesses on those who legitimately cannot wear a mask has been pitting Texans against each other.
“[The Americans with Disabilities Act] prohibits businesses from asking about disabilities,” said healthcare lawyer and former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R–Irving). “A business is risking liability if they ask anything beyond whether a disability prevents them from wearing a mask.”
Taking all of this into account, why did elected officials decree mask mandates, especially if they are questions over whether they can be enforced?
Wouldn’t a proper course of action have been to strongly recommend mask usage to the public instead of stitching together mandates that divide Texans?
“I encourage folks to wear a mask; I also encourage them to eat their vegetables,” Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch said when Dallas commissioners enacted Abbott’s mask mandate against Koch’s and Commissioner John Wiley Price’s objections. “But I cannot put a guy with a gun out there to enforce either.”