A disaster declaration does not justify imposing civil or criminal penalties for the failure to wear a mask in public.

Key points:

  • Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code grants state and local authorities temporary emergency powers to protect public health and safety.
  • In some cases, these emergency powers have given rise to government overreach, as was evidenced by Harris County’s executive order criminalizing not wearing a mask in public.
  • Forgetting a face covering could have cost some people as much as $1,000 per violation.
  • The effectiveness of wearing a mask in public is uncertain.