Central Texas cities tell 6 News they are requiring masks or face coverings at facilities and parks, and have the right to enforce it.
TEMPLE, Texas — March 10 marks the first day in months that Texans are no longer required to wear masks in public, sort of.
According to Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA 34, “Individuals are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household, but no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering.”
Despite that wording, the Cities of Waco, Temple, Killeen and Copperas Cove have all adopted policies stating that masks will still be required at city buildings, parks and attractions. At the same time, businesses may still require employees and customers to wear masks and public transportation systems will still require them due to CDC rules.
City representatives that 6 News spoke to Wednesday said local cities have the same right businesses have and can use trespass statutes to make people either mask or leave.
“This order, GA-34, does not restrict what cities can do on city property,” Waco City Attorney Jennifer Richie said. “The city is a property owner just like any other business and so we hope people will comply with our rules and treat our employees with dignity and respect and kindness and comply with those rules. Ultimately if they refuse to comply with those rules we will take all measures available to us.”
The governor’s new executive order does provide an option for businesses to enforce trespassing laws.
GA 34 states, “No jurisdiction may impose confinement in jail as a penalty for violating any order issued in response to COVID-19; and no jurisdiction may impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face-covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear face coverings, except that a legally authorized official may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.”
City representatives said city buildings, such as city halls and utility buildings, and city attractions like the Cameron Park Zoo would all require people to wear masks or face coverings.
Parks are also city property, though not all cities have the same policy in place when it comes to parks.
“We’ve not actually put any restrictions on parks to date,” Killeen Spokeswoman Hilary Shine said. “If you are participating in a sporting event and parents are there, we do mark spaces to try to keep people spread out a little bit more.
Richie said Waco, in contrast, would still require masks in parks if people were not social distancing.
“In the outdoors, if people cannot consistently social distance from each other we are requesting face masks. This is for the safety of employees, visitors and even for our animals,” Richie said.
The City of Temple told 6 News regarding parks, “They should follow CDC guidelines.If you are unable to socially distance, we recommend you wear a mask.”
Not all local governments are taking the same approach at this time. Bell County Judge David Blackburn is not currently requiring masks at county facilities without further clarification from the state.
County Spokesman James Stafford told 6 News Wednesday, “Judge Blackburn has inquired into the Governor’s office and the Attorney General’s Office seeking further guidance and clarification on this issue. Until he gets clarification, he continues to strongly encourage the use of face coverings in county facilities.”