Last week, several counties in Texas issued executive orders that threatened fines against businesses that refuse to implement mask mandates on customers and employees, but Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said that he “will not be issuing such an order.”
Henry said that “Individuals and businesses need to take personal responsibility in following the recommended best practices in slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
He encouraged the public to practice social distancing and use face masks, but noted that the health regulations businesses implement should not be taken because of government threats of a fine.
“If you find that a business doesn’t appear to have taken steps that have been recommended in Governor Abbott’s reopening plan, then don’t reward them by doing business with them. It’s that simple,” said Henry.
Henry said that it is an individual’s responsibility to “take necessary precautions and not put yourself in a situation where you have an increased risk of infection.”
He noted that nearly all businesses are still making use of tools, such as curbside pickup, to help customers take extra precautions in avoiding the spread of the virus.
For the county to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Henry said that he had “authorized a transfer of additional funding to the health district to expand staffing for more nurses and epidemiologists.”
“The increased staffing will assist in meeting the demand from boosting our testing and help identify positive cases so we can isolate them from spreading the virus further within our community,” said Henry.
Having tested a little over a tenth of the entire population of the county, the Galveston County Health District reported 1,968 total cases on Monday with 1,247 active cases. 34 patients are hospitalized and the remaining 1,213 people are self-quarantined.
Of the 40 deaths in the county, 33 are from long term care facilities.
Although Henry is not issuing a county-wide face mask mandate, the City of Galveston is.
Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough signed an order that went into effect on Tuesday, requiring businesses to implement a health and safety plan that requires most customers and employees to wear face masks.
Businesses have five days to comply with the order, after which they may be fined $1,000 per incident.
The order is currently effective until June 30, but may be extended at a city council meeting on Thursday.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.