Texas Governor’s Lifting of Mask Mandate Leads To Confusion, Arrests

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he was eliminating the state-wide mask mandate and allowing Texas businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity on March 10 public health officials were alarmed. Doing so while nearly 30 million state residents were unvaccinated, they said, was inviting another surge in coronavirus cases.

Many large retail chains and other businesses in Texas, however, wisely decided to maintain public health measures such as requiring patrons to wear masks and enforce social distancing. Public safety officials feared those conflicting positions would create problems for businesses and law enforcement throughout the state. It turns out those concerns were justified.

It only took one day after those state-wide restrictions were lifted for a Texas woman to be arrested for refusing to wear a mask inside a Bank of America branch that continues to require customers to wear face coverings. Body camera footage recorded by the Galveston police officer who responded provides a perfect illustration of the mask mandate confusion. Sixty-five-year-old Terry Wright declared that because of Abbott’s decision she didn’t have to wear a mask in public. “The law says I don’t have to wear a mask,” she said.

Greg Abbott limits access for ballot return
[Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images]
When the officer pointed out to her that the bank branch is private property and she had to abide by its rules, she defiantly challenged, “What are you going to? Arrest me?” That’s exactly what the police officer did.

Meanwhile across Texas vitriol about face masks persists. The mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, remains defiant of Abbott’s order and won a court ruling on Friday that permits him to keep in place public health safety measures. “We’re not going to rescind anything. We told our community that we would always be guided by the data and the doctors and we’re going to continue that.”

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