Mask orders and requirements have been a hot topic in Texas since the state order that individuals must wear masks or face coverings in most public places is no longer in effect. Despite this, many businesses are still requiring masks for their employees and customers. Private companies remain free to demand masks, but state law prohibits them from requiring proof of vaccination. Meanwhile, cruise lines operating out of Galveston require documentation of vaccinations from passengers, saying they are exempt from that rule.
Governor Greg Abbott has "strongly encouraged" people to wear masks when it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distance from another person. However, he has made it clear that no Texas government entity can require a face covering, except in counties where the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 patients exceed 15% of the total capacity of the hospital. Any company that violates this provision is not eligible for state contracts, and allows state agencies to enforce that subsection as a condition of obtaining a license, permit, or other state authorization necessary to conduct business in this state. Austin Mayor Steve Adler has urged City Manager Spencer Cronk to enforce a vaccination requirement for city employees.
Business owners will be able to decide for themselves if they are going to serve customers who do not wear masks. Ron DeSantis is contradicting his stated commitment to deregulation and economic freedom by supporting a law that tells private companies that they cannot take the precautions against COVID-19 they deem appropriate. Local officials opposing Abbott's order say it exceeds authority under Texas Disaster Act. More than 60% of Texans support mask requirements in public places, including retail stores, schools, offices and restaurants, according to a Spectrum News Ipsos survey.
Although the Texas Supreme Court ruled to temporarily allow Abbott's ban on mask mandates to be maintained, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says his order for schools and businesses to require masks indoors is still in effect. El Paso County also joins Dallas County to challenge the governor's order and issue an indoor mask requirement for businesses that goes into effect early Wednesday morning, just after midnight. Private companies still have the right to demand masks from customers and employees, but most state and local government entities can no longer do so. It is important for businesses to understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to mask requirements in order to protect their employees and customers.