What does Texas’ face mask mandate mean and who is exempt?

Governor Greg Abbott's face covering requirement, explained

SAN ANTONIO – On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring Texans to wear face-coverings over their noses and mouths in public spaces in counties that have reported 20 or more cases of COVID-19. The order goes into effect Friday, July 3.

In addition to the order regarding face coverings, the governor also issued a proclamation on Thursday that restricts many outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, unless local officials approve, and encouraged all Texans to maintain six feet of social distance between one another.

So, what does this all mean?

According to the order, face coverings must be worn, both over the nose and mouth, by every Texan in counties with more than 20 cases “when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public or when in an outdoor space, whenever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distance from another person not from the same household.” Most of Texas’ 254 counties have more than 20 cases. (See a full list of cases by counties from KSAT partner Texas Tribune.)

Am I exempt from wearing a mask?

There are a few exemptions to the governor’s order, they are listed below.

Some exceptions to the order include the following:

1. Any person younger than 10 years of age;

2. Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face-covering;

3. Any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;

4. Any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;

5. Any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;

6. Any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face-covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal;

7. Any person in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water;

8. Any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face-covering is strongly encouraged;

9. Any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face-covering is strongly encouraged;

10. Any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience; or

11. Any person in a county (a) that meets the requisite criteria promulgated the Texas Division of Emergency Management regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and (b) whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form—provided, however, that wearing a face-covering is highly recommended, and every county is strongly encouraged to follow these face-covering standards.

Abbott said masks, or face-coverings are proven to be effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a news conference Thursday. “We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another—and that means wearing a face-covering in public spaces.

What about people at protests?

Protesters are also not exempt from this order, even if the protest itself is happening outdoors.

According to the order, protesters must wear masks if the demonstration is larger than a group of 10 people or if individuals participating in the protest cannot maintain six feet from other people not in the same household.

The order states that the Texas Division of Emergency Management will maintain on its website a list of counties that are not subject to this face-covering requirement. However, as of July 2, no county is on the list to be exempt from the governor’s order. The majority of Texas’ 254 counties currently meet the minimum criteria for facial covering enforcement. The list can be accessed by clicking here.

What happens if I don’t wear a mask?

According to the order, violators will be given either a verbal or written warning for the first infraction of the order.

“A person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250,” the order states. “Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.”

Will routine violators be jailed?

This executive order prohibits confinement in jail as a penalty for the violation of any face-covering order by any jurisdiction.

Who’s enforcing this executive order?

Local law enforcement and other local officials are enforcing the governor’s order on face-coverings in Texas.

“But 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; provided, however, that any official with authority to enforce this executive order may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner,” the order states.

Ban on gatherings larger than 10

Not necessarily. The governor’s proclamation, which adds restrictions on gatherings of 10 people or more, encourages individuals in groups must maintain six feet of distance from others if they are not from the same house.

Abbott said large groups of people are clear contributors to the spread of COVID-19 and was why he decided to restrict large gatherings.

“Restricting the size of group gatherings will strengthen Texas’ ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe,” Abbott said in a news conference on Thursday. “We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe. If Texans commit to wearing face coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, we can both slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Texas open for business.”

What about San Antonio?

San Antonio’s COVID-19 tally stands at 12,504 total cases as of Thursday afternoon.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff reported 374 new cases, four deaths, and 1,074 hospitalizations on Thursday — just minutes after Abbott announced the mask order.

Read the Executive Order in full:

Read the proclamation in full:


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