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 TurnerAfrican American Mayors Association says they'll coordinate with White House, others to take in Afghans Texas lt. governor faces backlash after claiming unvaccinated African Americans responsible for COVID-19 surge Climate Mayors are building back better — now Congress must act MORE (D) said at a press conference that Houston police have been directed to enforce Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottOn The Money — Big businesses side with Biden in Texas vaccine standoff The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations - US opens to vaccinated visitors as FDA panel discusses boosters Chicago sues police union over refusal to comply with vaccine mandate MORE'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.
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.