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COVID-19 & Texas Law

This guide is updated to reflect information pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Information in this guide is subject to change at any time.

Mask Laws


Contents

This page contains information on the following. Click the link to jump to each topic:

Mask Orders & Requirements

Local Governments May Not Require Masks
Local governments are prohibited from requiring people to wear masks, with some exceptions. The latest order on this topic was issued July 29, 2021.

Disabilities & Mask Requirements
Individuals who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask can request a reasonable accommodation to a mask policy at work or when obtaining service at a business.

Masks and Weapons
We have not been able to locate any laws that would prevent a person from carrying a weapon while wearing a mask in Texas. Please see our FAQ “Can I carry a weapon while wearing a mask?” for more information.

Mask Policies by Place

Mask Policies at Stores or Businesses
Even if not required by law, businesses can require customers and/or employees to wear masks.

Masks at Schools
TEA has issued guidance for schools to bring them into compliance with the statewide mask order.

Masks at the Polls
The Governor's statewide order does not require Texans to wear a face covering at polling places. However, there is an ongoing lawsuit that aims to change that.

 Masks on Federal Property
On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order requiring masks and physical distancing in federal buildings and on federal land.

 Masks while in or on Airports or Public Transportation
The executive order requiring masks while at or on airports or public transportation has been struck down by a recent court ruling.

Government Mask Requirements Prohibited Under GA-38

As of July 2021, state and local governments cannot require masks. This is according to Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38:

No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering;

The order includes exceptions for certain local government entities:

  • State living centers
  • Government hospitals
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) facilities
  • Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) facilities
  • County and municipal jails

These facilities can "continue to use appropriate policies" regarding masks.

GA-38 supersedes any mask requirement issued by a local government. A "failure to comply with this order" is subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

GA-38 was renewed in December 2022 along with several other executive orders related to the COVID-19 response.

Current Order

Previous Orders

A statewide mask mandate was in place in the earlier stages of the pandemic, but it is no longer in effect. Governor Greg Abbott ended the mandate with Executive Order GA-34 in March 2021. 

Earlier executive orders allowed state and local governments to require masks in certain circumstances, but these orders have also been rescinded.

Disabilities & Mask Requirements

If you want to know whether you should avoid wearing a mask due to your disability or medical condition, you should consult with your doctor. People with certain disabilities may be entitled to reasonable accommodations to face mask policies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability laws.

Masks and Weapons

We have been unable to locate a Texas law that would prevent someone from carrying a gun or other weapon while wearing a mask or other face covering.

Mask Policies at Stores or Businesses

Private businesses still have the right to require masks for customers and employees, but most state and local government entities can no longer do so.

Policies for Customers

Governor Abbott's Executive Order No. GA-38 states the following regarding a private business's ability to require masks:

In providing or obtaining services, every person (including individuals, businesses, and other legal entities) is strongly encouraged to use good-faith efforts and available resources to follow the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) health recommendations, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus

Generally speaking, a business can set their own rules and policies — similar to a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule — as long as they do not discriminate against a protected class of people (e.g., on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or disability). Please see the Disabilities & Mask Requirements box on this page for information about requesting accommodations related to a disability.

Policies for Employees

According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (see FAQ G.2) an employer can require employees to wear protective gear (such as face coverings or gloves). Employees may make a request for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (such as a modified mask that can be worn with a religious head covering). Employers should provide the modification or an alternative modification unless it would create an “undue hardship” for the employer.

Masks at Schools

Note This is a rapidly changing issue, so check back for updates.

Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-38, which prohibits school districts from requiring face coverings, is back in place after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a previous federal order prohibiting the ban. Paragraph 4 of GA-38 states:

no governmental entity, including a [...] school district [...] may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.

The 5th Circuit order allows the school mask mandate ban to remain in effect until the court issues a final ruling on the case. The initial suit was filed by Disability Rights Texas, an advocacy group. The group argues that the school mask mandate ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it prevents children with disabilities from accessing public education. Previously, the school mask mandate ban was overturned by a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has issued guidance for public schools prohibiting school systems from requiring students or staff to wear a mask in line with GA-38

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has also announced that they have opened a civil rights investigation. The investigation will determine if the Texas mask policy violates federal law by keeping students with disabilities from accessing safe, in-person education. OCR issued a letter to TEA announcing the investigation on September 21st, 2021.

Texas Guidance

Recent Developments

Masks on Federal Property

On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to take immediate action to require masks and physical distancing in all federal lands and federal buildings.

The order allows for case-by-case exceptions.

Masks at Airports and on Public Transportation

Note At this time, the federal mask mandate for airports and public transportation has been halted by a ruling from the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida.

On January 21, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to take immediate action to require masks while in or on:

  1. Airports
  2. Commercial aircraft
  3. Trains
  4. Public maritime vessels, including ferries
  5. Intercity bus services; and
  6. All public transportation as defined by 49 U.S. Code 5302.

The order allows for case-by-case exceptions. As a result of President Biden's order, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued security directives requiring masks to be worn in airports and on airplanes. These security directives were originally set to expire on March 18, 2022, but have been extended through May 3rd, 2022.

Federal Orders & Guidance

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