"The latest research on this virus tells us that even if you are not symptomatic, you still could carry the virus and so those particles when you sneeze, when you cough,or even just close proximity to others, you could end up being a carrier and giving the virus to somebody else," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
Hidalgo made her expected announcement of the order she is signing, backed up by Mayor Sylvester Turner. The mandatory order is far from the first such ruling in Texas but it was met almost immediately with howls of protest among some such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who called it "the ultimate government overreach." Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he believes it is unconstitutional to make it mandatory and Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said he did not see any legal basis that would allow him to require that people wear a mask.
"We are not asking people to wear a medical mask or an N95 mask," Hidalgo said. "Just what you need to cover your nose and mouth," she said adding that this can be a homemade mask, bandanna or any type of cloth covering.
With exceptions built in for people with mental and medical disabilities, the order comes with a fine of up to $1,000 for violators. People are not required to wear facial coverings when they are exercising or at home, driving or eating.
The city and county's stay-home, work-safe order is still in effect through April 30, Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to announce new directives next Monday but until then his own stay at home order through April 30 remains in effect.
Turner began his remarks with the good news that for the third straight day there were no new COVID-19 related deaths in the city (leaving the city at 34 deaths total) and that 27 new cases were reported.
Moving to the judge's new order, "The evidence is clear, wearing a face covering will help slow the spread of this coronavirus." Turner said. "wearing a face covering protects other people from you."
Turner said that he will be announcing a plan on Thursday to distribute thousands of face coverings and sanitizers to people in vulnerable communities in an effort with Lone Star College.
Harris County was reporting one more death bring its total to 46 and a total of 2,236 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 41 over the day before.
The judge's order: