In a highly emotional emergency meeting on Friday morning, the Dallas County Commissioners Court amended yesterday’s order requiring residents to wear face coverings in public by a vote of 3-2. County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia opposed the amendments.
While face coverings will still be required when riding public transit or visiting essential businesses, Commissioner J.J. Koch’s adopted amendment clarifies that law enforcement will not stop any individual for a violation, and no fine or other punishment will be associated with it.
Additionally, craft stores will be allowed to open so that residents can buy materials to make face coverings and buy school supplies for work being completed at home.
Jenkins repeatedly asserted at the press conference on Thursday and at the meeting on Friday morning that “no one is going to be arresting or ticketing anyone” yet the punishment provision remained in the judge’s order.
When Koch asked for it to be made explicit in the order that punishments would not be enforced, Jenkins claimed that would cause more people not to follow the facial covering mandate.
“Anything we do to water this down will give license to selfish people,” referring to people who don’t want to wear a mask in public.
“You are talking out of both sides of your mouth,” Koch pointed out. “You’ve said that [people will not be punished] but it’s not in the order.”
Dr. Mark Casanova, president of the Dallas Medical Society, told the court that asking the community to wear facial coverings is a positive next step toward reopening businesses.
He admitted that economic recovery was never part of their pandemic planning.
“What none of us did…was to say if we get a pandemic and the economy shuts down, what is the structure to reopen the economy?”
Commissioner John Wiley Price remains concerned about his constituents unduly burdened by the shelter-in-place order. He would like to have seen it enacted as part of a larger plan to open businesses.
“Let’s do this as we talk about getting our people back to normalcy,” Price said.
After Garcia acknowledged the difficulty of the situation but urged Dallas County to “stay the course,” Price exploded.
“It’s easy for you to speak when you are an essential business. People in my community are not eating at all. I’ve got 5,000 barbers and beauty individuals who can’t eat.”
Price and Koch had complained that they had not been advised or consulted about the new order, but Jenkins claimed to have sent an email notification 24 hours before enacting the order.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.