Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer began fielding calls late Thursday afternoon Governor Greg Abbott’s newly-signed executive order mandating a statewide requirement for the use of face masks in public places by all Texas citizens residing in counties with 20 or more active COVID-19 cases.
“My phone is blowing up with people asking me if I am going to enforce this order,” Hierholzer said. “That’s a tough question. It’s hard enough for law enforcement right now and I am not going to make my officers write citations for violating this order.”
Hierholzer said he is not debating the need for public use of face masks, but rather the use of local manpower to enforce a state order.
“Don’t get me wrong. I believe this virus is real and I believe face masks can help stop the spread,” Hierholzer said. “My officers will be wearing face masks. We will try to educate the public on the importance of wearing them, but if Governor Abbott wants citations issued, he needs to use state officers to do so. He has more officers at his disposal than I will ever have.”
Abbott’s executive order was signed Thursday afternoon and states: Local law enforcement and other local officials, as appropriate, “can and should” enforce this executive order.
“The order says ‘can’ and ‘should,’ but does not say ‘shall’,” Hierholzer said. “So, as I see it, enforcement is not a mandate.”
Hierholzer said his department will also implement the use of face masks inside the office setting when social distancing of 6 feet cannot be obtained. He also said he and his wife already wear face masks when out in public.
According Executive Order GA-29, no person can be detained or jailed for not wearing a face mask in public places, but a fine of $250 per infraction can be issued.
Kerr County has 76 active COVID-19 cases, encompassing all citizens within to abide by Abbott's executive order.