County Judge Glen Whitley (R) also extended his order mandating that businesses issue a “health safety policy” requiring masks be worn on their premises until February 28, 2021.
Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks (D-Pct. 1) was not present at the meeting.
Only one public comment was submitted in support of continuing the mandates.
Whitley recited that since the beginning of the coronavirus situation, he has tried to collaborate with cities, hospital CEOs, and other public health officials to gain information for his decision-making. He claims that he has received even more support for the mandates than comments against them.
“My priority…is to keep the hospitals open and the businesses open,” Whitley said, noting that if the situation “turns around” then the mandates can be repealed.
The “health and safety policy” order by Whitley has been in place since June and was never repealed, even when cases were significantly lower in September.
“I’m going to try to stay in my lane and not get drawn into the what-if category,” Whitley commented, adding that he only issues the orders and does not enforce them.
Many of the speakers in opposition made comments questioning the constitutionality of the mask order.
They also questioned whether masks are effective given the continuing rise in case numbers despite the mask order having been in place since summer.
Gary Fickes (R-Pct. 3) said, “I too question how much good a mask does,” and claimed that if the number of cases had stayed low, he would have tried to convince Whitley to reconsider his mask order. Fickes recently took a three-day trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where he said even more measures are used by the hospitality industry to keep cases low.
“Some folks may not think or believe that it is our responsibility to care for the health and well-being of the residents of this county, but it actually is our responsibility,” Devan Allen (D-Pct.2) said.
After acknowledging the many speakers at the meeting who opposed renewing the disaster measures, Allen added, “I will always do what I understand based on the information I have at the time and the power that is given to me in this elected office to do what is in the best interest of the greatest number of people realizing there will be some folks who will bear more consequence than others.”
Several speakers at the meeting commented that they felt the commissioners were not listening to their concerns and had already made up their minds to extend the mask order.
One concerned resident raised the “Great Barrington Declaration,” supported by many epidemiologists and public health scientists around the world, which explains their “grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend[s] an approach we call Focused Protection.”
The Texan contacted several of the county commissioners’ offices to inquire about the feedback they were receiving regarding the extension of the mask mandate. They acknowledged that they were receiving constituent comments.
Commissioner J.D. Johnson (R-Pct. 4) advised his staff not to reveal whether his office had received more comments in favor or against the mask mandate. Allen and Fickes did not return The Texan’s calls.
Currently, Tarrant County reports 778 beds in Tarrant County occupied by COVID-19 patients, and 2,276 new positive cases so far this week.
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Kim Roberts is a regional 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.