HOUSTON — City employees in Houston are now mandated to wear masks inside city buildings in most instances, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered in an internal memo. This comes despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order announced in May that bans government entities from requiring mask-wearing and another executive order issued last week that solidifies Abbott’s stance, expressly forbidding agencies that receive state dollars from implementing mask and vaccine mandates. Sylvester’s directive went into effect Wednesday.

Those who can “medically tolerate” a face covering in times when social distancing is not possible are directed to wear a facemask. Such places may include elevators, restrooms, offices and break rooms where people cannot stand six feet apart from another.

This mandate currently applies to city employees only. Mayor Turner also strongly encourages all employees to get vaccinated.

According to Houston Public Media, this is the first real challenge against Gov. Abbott’s orders, which also included a ban of a requirement to show proof of vaccination.

The mayor’s mandate comes as the highly contagious delta variant sweeps the nation. Harris County currently sits at level 2 COVID guidelines, which means a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID exists in the community. Minimized contact is urged unless you are fully vaccinated.

There are 12,138 active positive COVID cases in Harris County as of Wednesday.​