Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday that will bar public schools and most other government entities from requiring masks. The order is Abbott's latest effort to roll back coronavirus protective measures in the state.
The order bans any government entity — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities and government officials — from mandating masks, with fines of up to $1,000 for those who don't comply.
There are some exceptions. Public schools can continue to require masks through June 4, and state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, criminal and juvenile justice facilities, and county and municipal jails are exempt from the order entirely.
"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities," Abbott said, according to CBS affiliate KHOU. "We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."
Abbott's executive order follows his March decision to lift the statewide mask mandate and end most capacity restrictions on local businesses, despite warnings from health experts about reopening prematurely.
The order also comes at a promising time for Texas' battle against the coronavirus. Nearly 50% of eligible Texas residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, and nearly 40% are fully vaccinated, according to state data. Abbott said Sunday that the state reported zero COVID deaths that day, and had its lowest-ever COVID positivity rate.