Harris County judge and Houston mayor react to Gov. Abbott's order to reopen

Local leaders are reacting to Gov. Greg Abbott's phased plan to reopen Texas, which begins Friday, May 1.

MORE: Texas retail stores, restaurants, malls, movie theaters, churches can reopen on May 1

Part of phase 1 of reopening the state allows retail stores, malls, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and libraries to open at 25% capacity.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held his daily briefing just minutes after Gov. Abbott issued his new executive order, and said that he understands people want to open up the economy but one of his biggest concerns as mayor is the growing number of COVID-19 cases in marginalized communities.

During his press conference, Mayor Turner got emotional, saying it was personal.

"I know people want to open up. I got that. But many of the people who live in these communities, these are the individuals who are serving the tables, and these are the people who are riding the bus or riding light rail, working on the front line. And what they are asking for is not necessarily when we are going to open. But 'Mayor tell me what you are going to do to keep us safe.'"

Mayor Turner went on to deny that we are out of the range of COVID-19 as others have reported. 

Meanwhile, Monday marks the day Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's controversial order requiring all Harris County residents to wear a mask in public for 30 days took effect.

MORE: Face coverings or masks required in public in Harris County

Though Abbott said he encouraged masks, they are not mandated.

"We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask," Abbott said. "However, it's not a mandate and we made it clear, no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine."

Under Hidalgo's order, those who did not comply faced a penalty of up to $1,000 fine and a maximum 180 days in jail. But Gov. Abbott’s new order superseded Hidalgo's order.


Hours after Gov. Abbott's announcement, Judge Hidalgo released the following statement

“Harris County is the epicenter for the Covid-19 crisis in Texas and face coverings are one of the only weapons we have to stop the spread of the virus and reopen safely. We have a face-covering order today and we’ll still have a face-covering order tomorrow. In practical terms, the governor’s order doesn’t change much because, like every order we’ve issued so far, we’d made it clear that the priority was education. The fine was there as a signal of how vital mask-wearing is, and in many ways, the community got that message. It’s been disappointing to see folks politicize public health, and I hope this means they'll go back to focusing on health and safety instead of politics. As we have in the past, we will amend this order to conform with the governor’s.”

RELATED: Harris County mandatory mask mandate draws criticism

Even though local governments can not enforce the mask mandate, private businesses can mandate face coverings on their premises.