Houston mayor warns of $250 fine for not wearing face mask

Houston mayor warns of $250 fine for not wearing face mask
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Houston's mayor warned Monday that city residents who disobey a statewide mandate requiring masks to be worn in public spaces will risk a $250 fine.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Mayor Sylvester TurnerSylvester TurnerHouston mayor warns of 0 fine for not wearing face mask Houston mayor proposes 2-week shutdown 'at the minimum' to quell COVID-19 spread Texas Republicans sue Houston mayor over canceled convention MORE (D) said at a press conference that Houston police have been directed to enforce Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) directive, which carries a verbal warning for first offenses and a $250 fine for second offenses. 

"For months, we have been focusing on education and not citations, but now I am instructing the Houston Police Department to issue the necessary warnings and citations to anyone not wearing a mask in public if they do not meet the criteria for an exemption," the mayor reportedly said.

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Turner had previously shied away from fining residents over mask mandates; in April, he directed officers to issue masks to residents who were not in compliance with a similar order issued by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo as part of a countywide disaster declaration.

“Masks over citations. We don’t give citations. We give masks,” Turner said at the time. “If we run into someone without one, we will give them a mask.”

Abbott issued an order directing Texans to wear a face covering of some kind while in public in early July, as the state has faced a surge in new coronavirus infections. Texas has seen its rate drop in recent weeks from a peak in mid-July, though the rate has not decreased to the levels seen in late June or earlier and has flattened to a seven-day average of around 8,000 in recent days. 

"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 COVID-19, and to avoid a need for more extreme measures," the governor said upon issuing the order.