- Texans violating mask policies can be arrested for “criminal trespass,” Houston’s police chief said.
- Texas lifted its statewide mask mandate Wednesday, but businesses can still apply their own rules.
- The police chief told CNBC that officers would wear masks until most Americans had been vaccinated.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Texans who violate businesses’ mask policies can still be arrested even after the end of the statewide mask mandate, Houston’s police chief, Art Acevedo, said Tuesday.
If customers refuse to wear a mask after being asked by a business, they can also be barred from entering the premises for “at least a year,” he told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.”
Gov. Greg Abbott lifted Texas’ statewide mask mandate Wednesday, making Texas the largest state yet to do so.
Public-health experts, local businesses, and some government officials have criticized the decision.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert in the US, called the decision “inexplicable” and warned it could lead to another surge in cases, while President Joe Biden called it “a big mistake” and a result of “Neanderthal thinking.”
Even though it’s no longer the law, however, some companies including Target, Macy’s, and Kroger have said they will still require staff members and customers to wear masks inside stores.
Acevedo told CNBC that law enforcement would be able to take action against people who refuse to comply.
Police officers can arrest customers for “criminal trespass” if they don’t wear a mask and refuse to leave a business’ premises, he said.
Officers can also issue criminal-trespass warnings, which would bar customers from entering a property for “at least a year.” If they returned to the business within this time frame, they could get arrested, he said.
Acevedo advised businesses not to enter arguments or physical altercations over their mask policies, referring to a Louisiana police officer who was fatally shot after helping enforce a mask policy for a high-school basketball game.
Footage has also circulated of a mask-less person having a meltdown after being denied entry to a Trader Joe’s in Texas. Workers have already seen a backlash as some customers refuse to accept store policies on masks, and employees of the supermarket chain HEB are demanding that the company enforce a mask policy.
“A lot of businesses are going to follow the science, require masks, and we know that’s going to create some conflict,” Acevedo told CNBC.
He urged Texans who didn’t want to wear masks to shop somewhere that didn’t have a mask mandate.
“This will give us an opportunity to see which one amongst us cares about others and which one of us only cares about themselves and their perceived right to get other people sick and potentially kill them,” he said.
Acevedo said police officers in the state would still have to wear masks until most American adults had been vaccinated, “hopefully by May.”
He disagreed with Texas’ decision to lift its statewide mask mandate, calling the decision “problematic.”
“Some elected officials are more interested in their politics and their base than they are in science and in the health of their fellow Americans, and sadly police officers will be dragged into this,” he said.
Just over 7 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in Texas, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Texas has reported almost 45,000 coronavirus deaths. On Tuesday, the state reported 3,744 new coronavirus cases.
Other states including Michigan, Mississippi, Massachusetts, and Louisiana have lifted some of their COVID-19 restrictions, such as mask mandates and capacity limits for venues such as restaurants.