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Austin Businesses That Don't Comply With Face-Covering Requirement Could Face Fines

People wear masks while waiting in line to enter a business on South Congress.
Michael Minasi
People wear masks while waiting in line to enter a business on South Congress.

Businesses in Austin must require their employees, customers and visitors to wear face coverings starting Tuesday, otherwise they could face a fine of up to $1,000.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the requirement last week, but didn't establish what the penalty would be for not adhering to it. A new order signed Monday explains that violating the requirement is punishable by a fine, but not jail time. Peace officers, code department inspectors and the Office of the Austin Fire Marshal are authorized to enforce the order.

Enforcement, though, is “substantially reliant on self-regulation,” the order states, and “a community commitment to public health and safety under the threat of COVID-19." If there isn’t widespread compliance, the order says, the city will increase its enforcement efforts.

Under the order, all businesses – both those that the public can go to and those that are accessible to employees only – must implement a health and safety policy that requires employees, customers and visitors to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth. Businesses need to post a sign displaying the health policy at or near their entrances.

The order also states that people over the age of 6 must wear a face covering that “fits snugly over their nose and mouth” – such as homemade fabric masks, scarves or bandanas – when in public. But, as the Gov. Greg Abbott's order states, penalties cannot be imposed on individuals – only on businesses.

There are some scenarios in which masks aren’t required:

  • when alone, or with only other members of your household, indoors
  • when wearing a mask poses a mental or physical health risk because of a medical condition or disability
  • when your mouth needs to be visible to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired
  • when eating and drinking at a restaurant or bar
  • when outdoors and consistently 6 feet or more from others, unless they're members of your household

The order is set to expire Aug. 15. 
Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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Marisa Charpentier is KUT's assistant digital editor. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.
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