TEXAS (Big 2/Fox 24) – On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott announced an executive order that requires Texans in counties with 20 or more COVID-19 cases to wear face coverings.
There are exceptions to this order, for example, those who have medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask will not be required to wear a mask, those who are voting, children under 10 and more.
The requirement has been pitched, and in some cases successfully passed in several cities across the state. However, many others rejected the idea. Midland and Odessa were among them.
Odessa Mayor David Turner expressed his concern over the rapidly rising case numbers and hospitalizations. Last week, Turner asked the City Attorney to draft an ordinance which was overwhelmingly rejected by City Council Monday morning. Turner also voted against the ordinance but said it would likely be discussed again.
In the Tall City, Mayor Patrick Payton has rejected a mask ordinance from the outset. Midland’s Mayor expressed is concern and disappointment in Abbott’s previous order that closed bars and said civil liberties had been violated throughout the pandemic. However, Payton said if council members wanted to bring forth an ordinance, they would have that discussion.
Local health officials have also been calling on the public to wear masks. Those calls quickly became pleas as the numbers climbed in both cities.
Dr. Rohith Saravanan, Chief Medical Officer at Odessa Regional Medical Center, directly called on city and county leaders to act.
“The mask mandate will make the biggest impact,” the doctor said. “It is the one thing we can do currently that will make the biggest impact in preventing the rise of this disease in our community.”
Midland Health CEO Russell Meyers also said about a week ago that he was amazed at how few were wearing masks in public, but conceded that an ordinance or requirement would not be enforceable.
“The problem with a mask mandate, in my mind, is enforcement,” Meyers said. “That’s a concern we’ve heard the Mayor express as well. It is fine to say that everybody has to wear a mask but I think it is very difficult for us to suggest the police force or others be deployed specifically to enforce a mask mandate. It is also sort of amazing to me that we have to tell adults in our community who are witnessing these explosive increases and positive cases every day that they must wear a mask.”
In the Governor’s executive order, punishments are outlined and say repeat violators can be fined up to $250 but ensured no one should be jailed for violating the order.
Abbott told our partners in Abilene that the mask requirement was the ‘last, best chance’ to slow the spread of the virus before shutting the state down again.
Prior to the executive order, the Governor canceled all additional reopening phases, closed bars, reduced capacity in restaurants, and called on some hospitals in large cities to halt elective procedures, all as a means to slow the spread.
Despite the warnings and rollbacks from state leadership, case numbers continued to climb along with the hospitalizations, leading to Abbott’s announcement on Thursday afternoon.
“If we do not contain this measure right now, we will lose the last, best chance to slow the Coronavirus for anything short of having to shut our economy back down,” Abbott told KTAB. “That’s the last thing we want to have happen in Texas.”
Since the discussion of wearing masks began, there has been a spirited debate in the community. Some have said wearing the protective covering is a common-sense measure that will benefit everyone, others have been adamantly against the notion saying it violates their rights.
So we want to hear from you. Will you wear a face covering?