One Texas county orders use of face masks to fight COVID-19

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Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 2:27 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2020 at 3:32 PM CDT
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SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KWTX) - San Antonio-area officials have ordered residents to wear face masks in public when social distancing isn't possible and warn that that businesses that don't comply with county health policies could face fines as Texas' hospitalization rates for the coronavirus continue rise.

The executive order from Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff requires employees and visitors at all businesses in the county to wear face coverings.

Businesses that don’t comply within the next five days could be fined as much as $1,000.

H-E-B says it will require all customers in its stores in Bexar County to wear face masks starting on Monday.

“The CDC and State health officials strongly support the use of facial coverings in public as a proven way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the chain said in a statement.

Waco and McLennan County officials, however, said Wednesday they don’t have the authority to issue such an order.

“I am getting many requests for (County Judge Scott Felton) and I to enforce masks but the governor and the state have made that almost impossible,” Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

“The governor has taken away any local control to do that,” he said.

“If the governor allowed us to enforce wearing masks we would need to discuss this with city council,” he said.

“It’s a hard thing when you start mandating how people dress,” Felton added.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said during an interview Wednesday, however, that while government cannot require people to wear face masks, his COVID-19 plan does allow local governments to require stores and businesses to require customers to wear masks.

“That’s what Bexar County is doing and what every county is authorized to do,” he said.

“Businesses, whether it be in Waco or San Antonio or whenever, they always had the opportunity. Just like you can require businesses to wear shoes and shirts they can require people to wear face masks if they come into their businesses,” he said.

The issue of face masks in public places is taking on new urgency as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Texas and around the state.

McLennan County reported 26 new cases Wednesday, a record high for a third straight day.

Bell County reported nearly 40 new cases and Brazos County reported 145 new cases.

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