SAN ANTONIO – On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas would reopen businesses 100% on March 10. In addition, Abbott said masks would no longer be mandated in the state.
Abbot’s directive, Executive Order GA-34, means cities and counties can no longer enforce mask-wearing with citations and fines. But it doesn’t mean masks won’t be required in many privately owned places, and it also doesn’t mean that a person can avoid consequences for not wearing masks where they are required.
Below is a list of some places where masks will still be required, and what officials say about potential consequences.
For starters, there are still some places where masks are required by federal law.
Under a federal Executive Order signed by President Biden on Jan. 20, people are required to wear masks in federal buildings and on federal land. That means masks are required at the federal building and federal courthouse in San Antonio, as well as at the San Antonio Missions.
Masks are also required on public transportation because of a CDC order issued on Jan. 29.
On Jan. 29, the CDC issued an order requiring masks to be worn by travelers and operators on public transportation including airplanes, subways, buses and ride-shares.
Under state policy, school districts can also require masks in school. The Texas Education Agency has issued new guidance this week saying schools should continue to require masks for anyone over the age of 10 but did say local school boards have the authority to modify or eliminate the policy.
Many business owners announced this week that mask requirements would continue at their establishments. If customers refuse to comply, the businesses can legally refuse service and even ask customers to leave. If customers refuse to leave the property, they could be warned, cited or even arrested for misdemeanor trespassing.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff talked about the enforcement of criminal trespassing violations during Wednesday night’s COVID-19 briefing.
“If a business calls (law enforcement) and says, ‘This guy is trespassing on my property and not following the rules that I have, will you come out and remove him,’ and the sheriff said he would go out and remove them,” Wolff said.
KSAT reached out to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office for details.
“The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office will continue to respond to calls for service regarding criminal trespass complaints and enforce state law when applicable,” a spokesperson said.
The San Antonio Police Department public information office had a similar response.
“Nothing changes for SAPD in how we handle these cases. We will respond if a business calls that informs us someone is refusing to leave. We recognize businesses have the right to refuse their services if the safety measures they set in place are not being abided by. And we want them to know that if someone is refusing to leave we will respond when they call for our assistance.
“Also, for clarification, we will not enforce house rules but we will handle any law violations that are taking place for any call we make. We first will give the individual a warning and the opportunity to leave the property. If they refuse the officer will use their discretion in how they proceed, be it arrest or citation. SAPD officers will continue to use discretion and make arrests based on probable cause for any offense as we have always done.”
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