Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made masks mandatory in public as the number of new coronavirus cases exploded in the state.
The order requires Texans living in counties with more than 20 coronavirus cases to wear a face-covering over the nose and mouth while in a business or other building open to the public, as well as outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. Failure to do so will result in a fine of up to $250 for repeat offenders. Gov. Abbott’s edict also states that violators cannot be detained or jailed. First-time offenders will be issued a warning.
But, some sheriffs are simply refusing to enforce the order.
According to the Washington Post, sheriffs in at least eight counties– Denton, Nacogdoches, Smith, Upshur, Kerr, Gillespie, Panola, and Montgomery– are refusing to fine or cite Texans who defy Gov, Abbott’s order.
Don’t have the time
Denton County Sheriff, Tracey Murphree said: “I don’t have the time or manpower to worry about whether people are wearing masks or not. I believe the Constitution trumps everything, and I believe in personal responsibility.”
“Business can require a mask, and people who don’t want to wear a mask don’t have to go to those businesses,” Murphree said. “I think people will rebel and purposefully try to go into establishments without masks. When people are told to do something that violates their civil rights, it invites chaos and protest.”
The Gillespie County Sheriff’s office has claimed that “the wearing of objects near the face and neck provides an offender possible tools to impose harm to an officer.”
The Montgomery County Sheriff office said in a statement, “stopping someone for a face covering related issue could be construed or misconstrued as a detention,” and thus subject the agency and the county to civil liability.
Local sheriffs in other parts of the state like Panola and Nacogdoches say they lack the resources to enforce the order or keep track of repeat offenders.
Photo: Office Of Governor Greg Abbott