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Officials in Laredo make it a criminal offense to go without a  mask in public buildings


Offenders face a fine of up to $1,000. One councilman reasoned, 'I'd rather bury them in debt than bury them in a coffin.'

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

City leaders in Laredo, Texas, have moved to criminalize the act of entering a public building without a facial covering amid the coronavirus pandemic. Violators of the order could face arrest and a fine of up to $1,000.

What are the details?

The Laredo City Council passed a mandate obtained by Reuters dictating that beginning Thursday, "All persons over the age of five (5) are required to wear some form of covering over their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief, when: entering into or inside of any building open to the public; when using public transportation, taxis, or ride shares; or when pumping gas."

"The penalty for a violation of this section shall be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.00," the order read.

The Laredo Morning Times reported that the "council had originally voted that anyone who goes outside at all must cover their nose and mouth, but later refined the rule because it was so broad."

The Times reported that concern was expressed during the council's meeting that the fines attached to the new order might be too steep, particularly for citizens impacted by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic. To that, Councilman George Altgelt replied, "I'd rather bury them in debt than bury them in a coffin."

The new order passed by the council also clarifies that residents are not required to wear a mask while "engaging in permissible outside activity" or when they are in their own vehicle.

According to The Texas Tribune, the Laredo City Council also voted to place all citizens under a curfew that previously only applied to juveniles — which is from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

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