More and More Texas Sheriffs Resisting the Order to Enforce Governor's Mask Order, but Does It Matter?

AP Photo/LM Otero
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Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, salon owner Shelley Luther wears a mask as she opens the door for a visitor to enter her just reopened Salon A la Mode in Dallas, Friday, April 24, 2020. Hair salons have not been cleared for reopening in Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

To say that the mask order issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott didn’t go over well with Texans would be an understatement. Texans all over the internet have expressed everything from respectful disappointment to all out calls for Abbott to be removed from office.

Texans have declared that they won’t be following suit and donning the mask in spite of the law, and it would appear that many Sheriff’s departments are now refusing to punish those citizens by enforcing the law.

According to National Review Online, the number of sheriffs revolting against the Governor’s order by declaring that they won’t enforce the new law are only going up:

Law-enforcement officials in at least nine counties have said they will not issue citations for those who flout the governor’s order mandating face masks for residents in counties with 20 or more coronavirus cases. All of the counties in question — Denton, Houston, Montgomery, Gillespie, Upshur, Kerr, Gregg, Nacogdoches, and Panola — have more than 20 positive cases of the virus.

As the National Review reported, some law enforcement bodies are declaring the law unconstitutional while others are simply the logistics of enforcing such a law make it undoable:

The Kerr County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that the mask requirement may be “unconstitutional” because it imposes the restriction on some but not others, like poll workers and those attending church services, who are exempt, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Other sheriff’s offices, including Panola and Nacogdoches counties, have said they lack the staffing and resources to enforce the order, and the Smith County sheriff’s office said it will “strongly encourage voluntary compliance.”

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s offices of Montgomery, Kerr, Gillespie, and Upsurge counties expressed concern about the order’s language prohibiting detaining those who do not wear a mask, saying that their officers are hampered in stopping people for neglecting to wear a face covering because that could be seen as detaining them.

Sheriff Tracy Murphree of Denton County also complained about the wording of Abbott’s order and said that while he himself plans to wear a mask, his office’s deputies will not enforce the requirement.

Abbott issued the mask order when Texas had seen a sudden spike in coronavirus infection rates with some hospitals quickly becoming overwhelmed. Abbot said that the mask order was a result of advice given to him by doctors. Though he has issued the mask order, he is still refusing to shut down the entire state.

According to KPRC, Abbott responded to local leaders who want him to shut the state down by telling them to enforce the current executive orders on the books. Abbott said that these same county judges and city leaders who are asking him for more power “do absolutely nothing” when it comes down to it:

“If you look at the county judges or mayors who are asking for more authority to take action or to really shut things down completely back into lockdown mode that really force Texans into poverty,” Abbott said. “I found one thing consistent: All of these local officials who are asking to shut Texas back down – they’ve absolutely refused to enforce the current executive orders that are already in place.”

Abbott went on to call out local leaders for their inaction, but yet asking for more authority.

“What they need to show is action, not absenteeism. They need to show up, enforce the law as it is before they’re given any further authority,” Abbott said. “They ask for more and more, but they do absolutely nothing.”

While Abbott didn’t mention any of the Sheriff’s or law enforcement bodies of any kind within Texas, we can conclude a few things at this point.

It’s unlikely that any city or county leaders are going to test the limits of their power as the last time that happened they were smacked down by Abbott and rightfully so. In Dallas, enforcing orders handed down by County Judge Clay Jenkins ended up becoming a national incident that painted the left as the bad guys.

Abbott’s well-meaning mask order will mostly be complied with but there will be quite a few Texans out there who, in their Texas nature, will buck authority and not wear a mask for various reasons. Nevermind those who have arguments about its unconstitutionality, without the resources to enforce the mask law in place, making this order doomed from the start.

In the end, Abbott would have done well to send aid to those cities that needed it, but probably should have kept the mask order just an idea in a doctor’s head. Texas is a very large state with a lot of people in it, most of whom are so freedom-oriented that ordering them to wear something is going to trigger a very real sense of rebellion. It was well-meaning but likely unwise in the grand scheme.

What’s likely going to happen is that Texas will experience its record-breaking spike and then see a rapid decline as people get over it. Abbott has the benefit of not being a leftist governor who has a need to assist the virus for headline reasons, so the death count won’t reach the heights that New York did.

According to recent data, new cases are on the rise but Texas’s death rate is 1.29 percent and likely lower due to many getting the virus and never reporting it, or never knowing they even had it. Texas Senator John Cornyn has been keeping track and posted about them to Twitter. According to Cornyn, while hospital capacity is a concern, at this time Texas is doing fine.

It is, of course, a tragedy when anyone succumbs to the virus, but if you do contract it, then the chances are that you’re going to survive it. That being the case, the spike experienced by Texas may lead to a greater herd immunity than other states.


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