Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
NOTE: This article was updated on June 24, 2020.
Between June 17 and June 21, 2020, eight Texas counties and two cities issued orders mandating that businesses develop and implement a “Health and Safety Policy” that requires all employees or visitors to wear face coverings in areas or while performing activities where six feet of separation between co-workers or the public is not feasible. The Health and Safety Policy must also include the implementation of other mitigating measures designed to control or reduce the transmission of COVID-19 such as temperature checks or health screenings. Businesses are required to post their Health and Safety Policy in a conspicuous location sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors of all health and safety requirements.
These city and county orders are being issued because, according to the issuing authorities, the transmission of COVID-19 has not dissipated in Texas and remains a significant health and safety threat resulting in increased infection rates, hospitalizations, ICU patients, and ventilator usage. Trade groups and other organizations are pressing Texas Governor Greg Abbott to issue a statewide mask order to avoid having a patchwork of local or county orders. So far, the Governor has not done so, nor indicated that he intends to do so.
Below are the effective dates and penalties for each jurisdiction that has issued a mask order. Although businesses can be fined for failure to implement the required policy, individuals cannot be fined or penalized. Because several other counties within Texas are considering issuing similar orders, the list below is likely to change. We will provide updates as new orders are issued.
Executive Order NW-10 is effective from June 17 until June 30. Businesses that do not develop and implement the required policy within five (5) calendar days following June 17 may be issued a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each violation. San Antonio, which is located in Bexar County, also issued a similar order.
On June 17, Cameron County issued an Amended Emergency Management Order effective through June 30. The order requires businesses to implement the mandated policies no later than five (5) calendar days following June 17, 2020. Failure to do so could result in a fine not to exceed $500 for each violation.
The Supplemental Order On Continuing Requirements After Expiration of Stay Home, Stay Safe went into effect on June 19 and continues until August 4. Businesses that do not abide by the order within five (5) calendar days following June 19 may be issued a fine not to exceed $500 for each violation.
El Paso County
On June 18, El Paso County issued its First Amendment to the Fourth Local Emergency Directive, which required businesses to develop and implement the necessary polices no later than June 22 or face a fine not to exceed $500 for each violation.
On June 19, Harris County issued an Order Regarding Health and Safety Policy and Face Coverings that takes effect on June 24 and expires on June 30. Similar to other county orders, this order requires businesses to generate, post, and implement health and safety policies which include, at a minimum, a requirement that workers, customers or visitors wear face coverings. Violations are subject to a maximum $1000 fine per violation. The county also released a sample policy along with its general business guidelines.
The 4th Order Related to COVID-19 went into effect on June 18 and continues through July 20. The order requires that businesses abide no later than June 22. At this time, there is no fine for failure to comply.
The Supplemental Emergency Order Related to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency went into effect on June 18. Failure to comply with the requirements therein by June 20 could result in a fine not to exceed $1,000.
The Mandatory Health and Safety Policies for Commercial Entities became effective on June 18 and continues through August 15. Businesses must comply with the order no later than June 23 or be issued a fine not to exceed $1,000. Austin, which is in Travis County, also issued a similar order that became effective on June 17 and expires on August 15.