SAN ANTONIO – With Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s new executive order going into effect Wednesday, businesses can now reopen to 100% capacity while masks are no longer mandated by the state.
Abbott’s order stipulates that local governments, like San Antonio or Bexar County, cannot enforce a mask requirement or impose penalties for people who do not wear one. There are some exceptions for places like private businesses and federal property.
The governor first announced the order last week inside a Lubbock restaurant, citing increasing vaccinations and declining COVID-19 hospitalizations as the reason it was time to roll back restrictions.
Here’s what you need to know:
What the order does
But there are some strings attached.
If COVID-19 hospitalizations make up more than 15% of all hospitalizations in a region for seven consecutive days, county judges in the affected area have an option to limit business capacity by up to 50%.
Even under those circumstances, though, county judges cannot impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a mask.
“No jurisdiction may impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear face coverings,” the order reads.
Where masks are still required and the potential consequences
Places that are excepted from the lifting of the statewide mask mandate include:
- Some businesses
- Federal property
- Indoor City of San Antonio-owned spaces (libraries, police and fire department headquarters, convention centers)
- Public transportation
- Public schools
“Nothing in this executive order precludes businesses or other establishments from requiring employees or customers to follow additional hygiene measures, including the wearing of the face covering,” according to the governor’s order.
While you can’t be fined for not wearing a mask, you can be charged with misdemeanor trespassing if you refuse a business owner’s request to leave the property, authorities said.
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.
Both the San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office have said they stand ready to assist businesses who report any trespassing complaints.
Masks are also required on public transportation because of a CDC order issued on Jan. 29. Similarly, federal properties continue to require face coverings.
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.
According to the Texas Tribune, municipal buildings in the state’s largest cities, including San Antonio, will still require face masks.
“Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and El Paso’s leaders announced Wednesday and Thursday that masks will be required to enter city-owned indoor spaces like libraries, police and fire department headquarters, convention centers and transportation hubs,” the Austin-based news outlet wrote.
The NCAA women’s basketball tournament, hosted in San Antonio and surrounding cities this year, will still require masks despite the limited attendance measures that will be in place.