Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Tuesday announced he is banning local governments from imposing mask mandates, exacting a fine of up to $1,000 on localities and officials defying the order.
The Republican governor issued the executive order Tuesday, which prohibits localities — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from mandating that individuals wear a mask. Beginning May 21, entities or officials defying the order can face a fine of up to $1,000.
The exceptions are limited and include “state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails,” per the governor’s office.
“The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities,” Abbott said in a statement.
The governor emphasized that “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities.”
“We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up,” he added:
TX is prohibiting mask mandates by gov’t entities.
Starting May 21, local govts attempting to impose mask mandates can be fined up to $1K.
We're also prohibiting public schools from mandating masks after June 4.
Texans, not gov’t, should decide their best health practices. pic.twitter.com/M7iN4sLBJV
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 18, 2021
The order itself cites the state’s decision to lift the statewide mask mandate in early March. Since then, hospitalizations related to the Chinese coronavirus, as well as new cases, have continued to decline.
On May 16, Abbott announced Texas had reported zero deaths from the Wuhan virus for the first time in 14 months:
Today Texas reported:
* 0 Covid related deaths–the only time that's happened since data was tracked in March, 2020.
* the fewest Covid cases in over 13 months
* the lowest 7-day Covid positivity rate ever
* the lowest Covid hospitalizations in 11 months.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 17, 2021
Abbott’s decision to reopen the state and lift the mask mandate was followed by severe criticism from members of the far-left, including President Biden, who dismissed state decisions to lift mask mandates as a form of “Neanderthal thinking.”
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it,” Biden commented at the time.
Similarly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who never implemented a statewide mask mandate, has canceled coronavirus-related fines in the Sunshine State and has suspended all local coronavirus restrictions imposed by localities across the state.
Despite the steady stream of criticism — particularly after Abbott’s March decision to reopen the state and lift the Lone Star State’s mask mandate — Texas has continued to report fewer new cases of the virus per capita than pro-mask blue states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.