ODESSA, Texas (Big 2 / Fox 24) – With COVID-19 cases spiking in Odessa, the city is now looking into having businesses enforce mask mandates with customers. With local hospitals reaching capacity with COVID patients, Odessa Mayor David Turner said the city is working with big box stores to make sure all customers are wearing masks. Mayor Turner said this is a critical step in lowering the number of cases in our area.
“I know wearing a mask is a political issue but now we are talking about what is best for the community,” Mayor Turner said. ” If we do not get this under control, I am going to have to make the decision to back the economy up from 75% to 50%, we have to get these number down.”
While the city would like local businesses to follow the statewide mask mandate, downtown Odessa business owners like Jeff Russell said they shouldn’t be held responsible.
“We believe that the best option is to leave it up to our customers, if they want to wear a mask in the store that’s great,” Russell said. “The problem with mandates is it puts us in an enforcement role and that’s not where we need to be as retailers.”
Other downtown businesses like Jim’s For Tall and Big Men store are giving their customers the option to wear a mask, but that doesn’t stop David Simpson from making sure his customers are safe.
“We also keep disposable masks for anyone who comes unprepared,” Simpson said. “We see it as a respect for the client, for the customer, for people coming in because when you wear a mask you wear it to protect others, not for your protection.”
But Simpson believes forcing businesses like his to require a face mask won’t work.
“A mandate where we have to enforce a rule is very difficult,” Simpson said. “Some people approve, some people disapprove, we always feel like it’s best to give them an option and to be as healthy as possible.”
In the meantime, local business owners like Russell hope he can still run his business without interference.
“On the other side of the virus there’s the need for people to work and earn income for businesses to be able to pay their employees,” Russell said. ” So I think we have to look at it a little more holistically than just saying we need a mask mandate.”