Galveston mask order

A sign asking patrons to wear a mask is posted at the entrance to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, 2225 Strand in Galveston, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

GALVESTON

People will have to wear face coverings in businesses through the summer after the Galveston City Council voted Thursday to extend a masking rule to the end of September.

It’s one of the few tools the state has left for cities struggling to contain a surge of coronavirus cases, proponents of the rule said.

Council members worried about placing the onus of enforcement on businesses, however.

The measure requires business operators to implement policies requiring all customers and employees to wear face masks.

Mayor Jim Yarbrough issued the order Monday, but it would have expired June 30 without council approval to continue it.

Now, the order is in effect through Sept. 30. Extending the order passed on a 5-2 vote with District 4 Councilman Jason Hardcastle and District 5 Councilman John Paul Listowski voting against.

Sunday will be the first day businesses can be cited for disobeying the rule. Yarbrough’s order gave businesses until then to implement the policy before being subject to fines of as much as $1,000.

The point of the order is to reduce the spread of coronavirus as much as possible, Yarbrough said.

“We have restrictions on people all the time primarily for their safety,” Yarbrough said. “If people could go get the disease and never spread it, I wouldn’t give a darn what they did.”

People haven’t been complying with recommendations to social distance and wear masks, and many visitors on the island aren’t taking the virus seriously, District 3 Councilman David Collins said.

“As a matter of self-defense, we need to put an ordinance in place ourselves so people don’t think this is a free-fire zone,” Collins said.

But Hardcastle didn’t think having the mask order in place would make a significant difference, he said.

“I don’t think it’s our job to be disciplinarians,” Hardcastle said.

Contrary to what city officials said when the mayor issued the order, it applies only to commercial businesses that deliver goods or services to the public, City Attorney Don Glywasky said.

It does not apply to nonprofits and other noncommercial operations that serve the public.

“They have a duty to write a policy that says their customers are going to be required to wear a mask,” Glywasky said. “The city will be looking for shop owners to write a policy and make a good faith effort.”

Businesses that don’t create and enforce a mask policy will be subject to the fines, according to the order.

Such orders have sprung up across Texas this week after Bexar County, the home of San Antonio, issued an order mandating that businesses require masks.

Other cities such as Austin, Dallas and Houston followed suit after Gov. Greg Abbott said the rule didn’t conflict with his June 3 ban on local governments requiring people to wear face masks and fining violators.

That’s why the fines in the Galveston rule are directed at the business, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.

“The governor won’t allow us to fine an individual,” Maxwell said.

As when people violate other store policies, operators can call the police to have people blatantly violating their mask rules removed, Maxwell said.

The city council plans to revisit the order in July and make a decision about whether the rule is still necessary.

Also Thursday, the city council extended its emergency status orders through Sept. 30, which gives the city access to federal money and allows the mayor to issue emergency orders.

Thursday’s meeting was Yarbrough’s last after six years as mayor.

Yarbrough announced earlier this month he would step down from the position July 15, citing concerns about his health as the state was moving toward reopening.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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(23) comments

Bailey Jones

[thumbup] Much preferable to the alternative - closing down the economy again. I noticed another couple of businesses going into quarantine or reducing their capacity today due to COVID positive employees. This is how it's going to be until people stop spreading this virus around. Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep your distance, live your life.

Bill Broussard

Council member Hardcastle needs to be replaced

Wayne D Holt

Bill, I can't speak to their motivations but the science is definitely on the side of Council members Hardcastle and Listowski when one considers how the City is going about this. Handwashing and sanitizing, sure, makes total sense. Social distancing? There is no consensus on what is an effective distance but it seems reasonable that six feet is better than two feet.

Unfortunately, masks have become the cargo cult of America's virus weary public. There is the completely unfounded belief that masks are universally accepted as necessary and beneficial to stopping the spread; that is simply not the case.

There are many respected researchers with hard science proof we're endowing masks with magical properties they don't have...and demonizing those who choose not to wear them at all times.

This is from the extreme, fringey anti-government rag Time magazine: in an article published just a few weeks ago, Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, was quoted as saying masks are "not likely to be effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19." If they were, “the CDC would have recommended it years ago. It doesn’t, because it makes science-based recommendations.”

The science, according to the CDC, says that surgical masks won’t stop the wearer from inhaling small airborne particles, which can cause infection. Nor do these masks form a snug seal around the face. Try exhaling through your mask with your hand held to your mouth. You will feel the moist water vapor of your breath come through. The Covid-19 virus particle is 10x to 1000x smaller than those droplets. Lotsa luck blocking them with anything short of an N95.

On the issue of psychological dynamics, Time quoted Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist and senior director for practice, research and policy at the American Psychological Association. She suspects that people are clinging to masks for the same reason they knock on wood or avoid walking under ladders. “Even if experts are saying it’s really not going to make a difference, a little [part of] people’s brains is thinking, well, it’s not going to hurt. Maybe it’ll cut my risk just a little bit, so it’s worth it to wear a mask." In that sense, wearing a mask is a “superstitious behavior”: if someone wore a mask when coronavirus or another viral illness was spreading and did not get sick, they may credit the mask for keeping them safe and keep wearing it.

Council members Hardcastle and Listowski are to be commended for taking a difficult stand on science-based policy rather than the abundance of caution model that has succeeded in driving a stake through the heart of small businesses with little to show for but feel-good slogans.

Chuck DiFalco

"closing down the economy again" is not an option regardless of what else happens. The current lockdowns, still partially in place, are risking Depression 2.0. Future lockdowns will guarantee widespread, long term poverty, misery, suffering, disease (other than coronavirus), and death.

Bailey Jones

The only thing we can do to avoid a second shutdown is to wear our mask, wash our hands and keep our distance. You'd think everyone would be on board with that.

Bill Broussard

DSHS Commissioner, Dr. John Hellerstedt, gives an update on COVID-19 in Texas.

"This is the biggest COVID-19 challenge Texas has faced since coronavirus hit our state."

"We need every single Texan to help."

How to help:

🏡Stay home when possible

😷Wear a face covering in public

↔️Stay 6 feet apart from others

🙌Wash your hands often

🤒If sick, get tested then stay home

🧼Clean your surroundings

🤧Cover coughs and sneezes

👉Don't touch your face

❤️Together for a #HealthyTexas

Important and useful #COVID19 info and links:

Open Texas Checklists: open.texas.gov

Testing near you: covidtest.tdem.texas.gov

COVID-19 symptoms: http://bit.ly/2IV3uRh

Caring for someone sick: https://bit.ly/2wf7sS7

All #COVID19TX info: dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus

James Woodall

Blah, blah, blah...

Shannon Reid

Unfortunately, I’m sure you will feel that way until it directly affects your life. Believe me, this virus is no joke or hoax. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Terri Abraham

Just heard that there are cases of the virus at Gulf Coast Health Care, and at The Meridian. These are people who have actually been locked down, but since the caregivers aren't, and have to go out among the people who refuse to wear a mask, they're now infected. I've only heard of two cases, but seriously doubt that's all there are.

Terry Moore

Unfortunately it only takes one to spread :( so sad when it hits places like that. I don't have much sympathy for the non-believers not practicing the guidelines that also could be the main spreaders.

Wayne D Holt

You are 20x more likely to contract Covid-19 indoors than outdoors. So what's the reason for being required to wear a mask in a drive-thru. Oh, I forgot...abundance of etc. etc. etc.

When people look at those not wearing masks and attribute all sorts of voodoo to them, it just shows the panicked haven't done the requisite amount of research and are swallowing the politicized narrative hook, line and sinker.

Sorry, no matter how hard you wish it to be so, the science is not there to sustain your belief that if only all these horrid little people would wear masks it would be the Elysian Fields everywhere.

It only takes a nation full of people who trust the political class to do the right thing to spread misinformation across our land as they joyfully rush to give up rights that previous generations were willing to die to preserve.

Joe Mancuso

Wayne, I'll repeat an argument I stated previously.

When you pull up to that drive-thru window, you are only in contact with 1 other person, the employee. The employee however comes in contact with dozens or hundreds of people at that drive-thru window throughout the day. Does it really seem unreasonable or an overreach to ask you to wear a mask in order to try and keep that employee healthy so that your drive-thru can stay open? Even if it's just while you're at that drive-thru window?

Yes, I agree there are conflicting views on the effectiveness of wearing a mask. Is wearing a mask the be all end all cure for the virus? Of course not! But, can you say with 100% confidence that wearing a mask doesn't help at all? Even if it turns out that wearing a mask doesn't help, does it hurt to wear one until it's proven that they don't help?

Wayne D Holt

Joe, first off: a big THANK YOU for a reasoned approach to your position and disagreement with me. I totally respect and listen to everyone who has the courtesy to use civility in making their case, as you did. Very much appreciated!

On your message, my point was that I am in an enclosed car outdoors so the chances of infection spread is minimal, IMHO. I will take your views into serious consideration and again thank you for your ability to disagree without being disagreeable.

Walter Dannenmaier

The City Council could simply pass a resolution declaring themselves hysterical morons and get it over with. This newspaper publishes statistics every day regarding the course of the virus in the county. How many dead? 40. How many of the dead from long term care facilities? 34. Masks! Masks in all stores will show that we are thoughtful! Thoughtful and caring! We care. Yes! We care.

Bill Broussard

On the

Mask blog I predicted bars will close by end of next week. I was wrong. The governor closed them today.

Bobby Pope

I'm going to cancel my over priced hotel and my reservations at Rudy's and Paco's plus my other dinner reservation at the Steakhouse at San Luis for the 4th and take my take my money somewhere else. I watched Galveston for the last few years just try and ruin the tourism the business and they are doing it. Go ahead and cancel the bike rally, Dickens on the Strand, Mardi Gras 2021 and if you are lucky the cruise ships will not come back.

Bill Broussard

I think there’s a cot at NRG stadium that has your name on it, Bobby. It’s not overpriced

Bailey Jones

I'm genuinely curious to see if you can find a tourist city with fewer restrictions. Please report back.

Wayne D Holt

Bailey, I thought Galveston was the only muni in the county requiring masks. Wouldn't that mean any city in the county is less restrictive?

Bailey Jones

I don't think he's looking for a weekend in Alvin. In a previous comment he mentioned looking for a tourist destination in the southwest. Corpus, San Marcos, Phoenix - all have similar restrictions. I didn't check them all - hence my curiosity.

jimmy winston

See ya! We wont miss you!

Dan Freeman

If you do not like a mask, your family will not like a ventilator.

Ted Gillis

“Blah, Blah, Blah?”

James that’s what it’ll sound like when an ICU tech is trying to force a breathing tube down your throat.

I’ll buy you a mask if you promise to wear it.

Grow up.

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