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16305 views   |   33   |   Last updated on Aug 24, 2021    Masks COVID-19

Governor Greg Abbott rescinded previous orders that required the use of face coverings/masks with GA-38 [PDF] on July 29th, 2021. GA-38 prevents government entities from requiring face coverings: 

No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering;

Several government entities are exempted from the mask mandate ban: state living centers, government hospitals, TDCJ and TJJD facilities, and county and municipal jails are permitted to "continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings."

Please see the Mask Laws page of our COVID-19 & Texas Law guide for more information on finding current state and local orders regarding face coverings and masks.

GA-38 does not explicitly prohibit businesses and other establishments from requiring that their customers and employees wear masks:

In providing or obtaining services, every person (including individuals, businesses, and other legal entities) is strongly encouraged to use good-faith efforts and available resources to follow the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) health recommendations, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus

Businesses or other establishments can still continue to require masks as a matter of business policy, similar to a "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy that you may encounter at some businesses. However, a business may be required by law to consider making "reasonable modifications" to face mask policies for those who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. According to the Southeast ADA Center's fact sheet on the ADA and face mask policies:

A reasonable modification means changing policies, practices, and procedures, if needed, to provide goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to an individual with a disability.

The article includes several examples of "reasonable modifications" to a face mask policy such as allowing the person to wear a mask alternative, allowing curbside pickup, allowing the person to wait in their car instead of a waiting room, etc.

They also state that a business or government agency does not have to accommodate those with a disability:

  • If the accommodation would require a "fundamental alteration" to the business or service.
  • If the accommodation would pose an "undue burden" on the business or service.
  • If the individual with a disability poses a "direct threat" to the health and safety of others. 

According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (see FAQ G.2) an employer can require employees to wear protective gear (such as face coverings or gloves). Employees may make a request for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA or a religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (such as a modified mask that can be worn with a religious head covering). Employers should provide the modification or an alternative modification unless it would create an "undue hardship" for the employer.

Disability Rights Texas is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. Their handout COVID-19 and Mask Policies at Work helps answer questions about disability laws and reasonable accommodations regarding masks in the workplace.

If you want to know whether you should avoid wearing a mask due to your disability or medical condition, you should consult with your doctor. People with certain disabilities may be entitled to reasonable accommodations to face mask policies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability laws. It is important to note that disability laws like the ADA only ensure accommodations for those with disabilities. If you have questions about the ADA, you can contact the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY).

According to the Center for Disease Control, the following people should not wear a face covering:

  • Children younger than 2 years old.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing.
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

The CDC also recognizes that for some people, wearing a face covering may not be feasible. For others, there may need to be adaptations made to allow them to wear a mask. This could include:

  • Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing (or those who care for or interact with them).
  • Some people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, or sensory sensitivities.
  • People who work in places where there is a risk of a heat-related illness or where the wearing of a mask causes safety concerns.

The Southeast ADA Center provides additional examples of disabilities that may prevent a person from wearing a mask feasibly or safely. The examples they provide include:

  • People with respiratory illnesses.
  • People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, or claustrophobia that is triggered by wearing a mask.
  • Some people with autism.
  • Some people with cerebral palsy or other mobility disorders that might limit the person’s ability to remove their mask without assistance.
  • People who use mouth control devices to operate a wheelchair or other assistive devices.

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