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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:

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.

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

Statewide Mask Requirement for Individuals
The statewide order that individual people must wear masks or face coverings in most public places is no longer in effect. It was superseded on March 10, 2021.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.

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
On January 21, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to take immediate action to require masks while at or on airports or public transportation.

Local Governments Prohibited from Requiring Masks

Executive Order GA-38

After Governor Greg Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate with executive order GA-34 [PDF] in March 2021, he issued several more executive orders related to the COVID-19 response. In order to simplify the information, on July 29th Governor Abbott issued an executive order that combined, rescinded, and replaced many of the previous orders. Orders GA-13 [PDF] and GA-37 [PDF] remain in effect. 

The newest order, GA-38, includes language that was previously included in order GA-36 [PDF] prohibiting local governments from requiring a person to wear a mask or face covering: 

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;

State living centers, government hospitals, TDCJ and TJJD facilities, and county and municipal jails can continue to use appropriate policies regarding masks.

Order GA-38 supersedes any face-covering requirement issued by a local government. Any conflicting limitations issued by a local government is considered a "failure to comply with this order" and is subject to a fine of up to $1,000. 

One notable change in this order is that it removes the ability granted by GA-34 [PDF] for local governments in areas of "high hospitalizations" to implement local mask orders.

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

Previous executive orders related to the COVID-19 response explicitly stated that nothing in the orders prevented a business from requiring their customers to follow certain hygiene measures, including masks, but this language does not appear in GA-38.

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.

Statewide Mask Requirement for Individuals is No Longer in Effect

Executive Order GA-34

Note: GA-38 supersedes executive order GA-34. 

Effective March 10, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order superseding the previous Executive Order GA-29, which required Texans to wear a mask or face covering.

The order stated:

[No] person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering.

Although this language has since been superseded, GA-34 permitted counties in an area of high hospitalization, defined as Trauma Service Areas that have had seven consecutive days where more than 15% of hospitalized patients are COVID patients, to implement local mask orders. GA-34 also explicitly stated that businesses and other establishments may require employees or customers to wear masks. It also allows law enforcement to enforce trespassing laws and remove individuals who refuse to wear a mask at a business that requires them. 

A list of areas with high hospitalizations can be found on the Department of State Health Services' website.

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.

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, was recently overturned in federal court. 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 federal ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel states that GA-38 violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it prevents children with disabilities from accessing public education. The ruling bars enforcement of Paragraph 4 of GA-38:

Having concluded that GA-38 violates and is preempted by federal law, the court will permanently enjoin Paxton from enforcing or giving any effect to the provisions of GA-38 prohibiting school districts from requiring masks.

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. It is possible that the TEA will revise its guidance regarding face coverings in the future to reflect the federal ruling. 

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

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.

Masks at the Polls

Governor Abbott's Executive Order requiring face coverings in many public places [PDF] specifically does not require individuals to wear a face covering while voting, working as a poll watcher, assisting a voter, or administering an election. There is an ongoing lawsuit challenging this. If the lawsuit succeeds before election day (Nov. 3rd), Texans may need to wear a face covering while at a polling place. Below is information about the ongoing lawsuit. Please check news outlets for up-to-date information as election day approaches.

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