On July 2, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-29 mandating that Texans wear face coverings beginning July 3 and continuing until further notice.
Under GA-29, Texans living in counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases must wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household. As set forth in the order, face coverings are not required for individuals in the following instances:
- Any person younger than 10 years of age;
- Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
- Any person who is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;
- Any person who is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;
- Any person who is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;
- 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;
- Any person in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water;
- 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;
- Any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged; or
- Any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience.
For counties with 20 or fewer coronavirus cases, the face coverings requirement does not apply only if the county judge affirmatively opts-out by filing with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (“TDEM”) the required face-covering attestation form. TDEM will maintain on its website a list of counties that have successfully opted-out, available here.
A person violating the face covering requirement for the first time will be issued a verbal or written warning. Subsequent violations will result in a fine not to exceed $250. However, no violator may be detained, arrested, or confined in jail for failing to wear a mask.
GA-29 does not supersede Executive Order GA-28, which provided amended operating restrictions and limitations on businesses operating throughout Texas. Rather, it requires that face coverings be worn subject to the exceptions discussed above.