Well, it finally happened. After months of advocacy and hundreds of thousands of cases, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mask order for the state of Texas.
It’s not perfect -- notably, the order exempts counties with less than 20 cases and doesn’t require masks at polling stations (differing from many other states’ mask orders). However, it's a good step to slow the accelerating spread of COVID-19 in our state.
But what do you do if you can’t afford a face mask?
The coronavirus pandemic already disproportionately impacts low-income Texans. Our friends and neighbors have lost their jobs, and those experiencing homelessness are at particular risk. For the thousands of Texans who live below the poverty line, especially for those supporting family, going out and getting a mask isn’t as simple as it may seem.
Currently, the State of Texas only offers free face masks to those tested at mobile, state-run testing sites. However, you must qualify for a test to receive one, and insurance copays may apply. Otherwise, finding a free face mask in Texas isn’t easy. Your city may have a program, but with local budgets hurting from the pandemic, most don’t offer one.
Those who don’t wear masks can be subject to a $250 fine. Unfortunately, low-income communities and communities of color are overpoliced and more likely to receive fines. Punishing people who refuse to wear masks out of selfishness is okay. Hurting those who can’t afford a mask is not.
Face masks are easy, safe, and effective. We can work together to make sure every Texan has the means to get one. Implementing a statewide free mask program or giving cities the funds to do so will help us slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep each other safe.
The mask order was a good first step, but Gov. Abbott needs to take the second.
Where to get a free face mask in Texas
At the moment, not many places in Texas are offering free face masks. However, if you or your business need masks, here is a list of some locations in Texas that are offering them.
Austin Mask Exchange is working to equip all Austinites with face coverings. Visit their website to request a free mask.
The Lubbock Chamber of Commerce is offering free face masks for businesses to give to employees and customers.
The Amarillo Chamber of Commerce is also giving out free face masks to businesses.
State mobile testing site
H-E-B grocery stores plan to offer free masks to any customers who don’t already have one.
If you know of free masks being distributed in your community that we can add to this list, please email email@example.com.
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