LAREDO, Texas (AP) — Residents in one Texas city are being required to wear something that covers their nose and mouth when they’re out in public during the coronavirus outbreak — or else face a fine of up to $1,000.
Starting on Thursday, all people over the age of 5 in Laredo will have to wear some kind of covering, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandanna or handkerchief when entering a building open to the public. Residents will also have to cover their mouth and nose when using public transportation, taxis, ride shares or when pumping gas.
The new rule doesn’t apply to people riding in their own vehicles or if they are outside for exercise and following social distancing guidelines.
The mandate for wearing the covering was issued on Tuesday by Laredo’s city council. The South Texas city of more than 261,000 residents along the U.S.-Mexico border is about 155 miles southwest of San Antonio.
Residents are being encouraged to use homemade masks and leave medical masks, including N95 masks, for health professionals, said Dr. Hector Gonzalez, director of Laredo’s health department.
Others around the country have also been updating their guidance on whether or not to wear some sort of facial covering.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti told his residents on Wednesday to start wearing homemade masks if performing essential tasks like food shopping. But Los Angeles residents weren’t expected to face fines if they didn’t do so.
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as some other countries, people have to wear a face mask in all public places.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.