Mayors of Texas’ largest cities pressure Abbott for final say on COVID-19 face masks

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Mayors from nine major Texas cities, including Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, are asking Gov. Greg Abbott for more authority in determining whether their constituents should be required to wear face masks. 

In a letter penned to the governor, the mayors said face masks are the most effective way to keep businesses open and keep people safe.

“Yet many people in many of our cities are still refusing to wear these face coverings even though these coverings are scientifically proven to help prevent the disease from spreading,” the letter read.

“We are writing to you for the authority to set rules and regulations on the use of face coverings in each of our cities,” the letter continued. “A one-size-fits-all approach is not the best option. We should trust local officials to make informed choices about health policy. And if mayors are given the opportunity to require face coverings, we believe our cities will be ready to help reduce the spread of this disease.”

As Texas began to reopen in May, Abbott made it clear no Texan would be required to be a face mask and said no jurisdiction would be able to impose any type of penalty or fine to force them. 

“My executive order, it supersedes local orders, with regard to any type of fine or penalty for anyone not wearing a mask,” Abbott said at the time, referring to his executive order that allowed restaurants and movie theatres across the state to open with limited capacity.

The letter from the elected officials comes as hospitalization rates in major metro areas have seen a spike in recent weeks, coinciding with Abbott’s aggressive and near-complete reopening of the state that began on May 1. 

On Tuesday, Abbott blamed the rise in cases on young Texans going to bars  — bars and restaurants the governor himself allowed to open in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend, the timespan he said was partially responsible for the increased COVID-19 activity.

As of Tuesday, 93,206 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the state and 2,029 Texans have died from the virus. A little more than half of those confirmed cases can be found in Texas’ five largest counties (Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Travis, and Bexar). 

Photo: Nickolay Romensky/Wikimedia Commons

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