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Austin City Council authorizes enforcement of mandatory mask order, including penalties
Austin City Council voted unanimously to expand existing enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott's mandatory mask order, including creating an offense and penalty for non-compliance. (File photo: CBS Austin)

People who don't wear masks in public spaces can now be hit with a fine -- up to $2,000. In a show of hands, Austin City Council approved enforcement of the masking order. It's a move bolstered by this letter from Governor Greg Abbott to Mayor Steve Adler on Wednesday. "I think it is significant that the governor sent us a letter yesterday," said Mayor Adler.

Masks have become controversial in the last few months, but Austin Public Health interim medical director Dr. Mark Escott says it's one thing that will cut down on the spread of COVID-19. "And one thing that really should not be a controversy right now is masking," Dr. Escott said. "It shouldn't be a controversy at the grocery store, it shouldn't be a controversy at the school, it shouldn't be a controversy on the bus."

Experts agree. "To combat all these different types of transmission, the best thing you can do is stay home, and if you can't stay home, wear a mask," said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, associate professor at the Baylor College of Medicine. "We're still learning a lot about the disease, so we know mostly how it's transmitted."

Now, a week after Governor Abbott issued a mask order for the state of Texas, people in Austin caught out without a mask could pay.

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Dr. Mark Escott told city council that going back to school or to life as we knew it will depend on wearing a mask. And now city council says not masking up is a public nuisance -- which means a court date and a fine if you're caught without one.

The council also passed a related measure that can lead to civil action against any Austin business or job site that violates minimum health standards, such as failing to make employees wear a mask when on the clock and requiring six feet of distance between groups of no more than 10 individuals.

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