GALVESTON COUNTY

Following several major Texas cities, some county cities have issued orders requiring businesses to mandate their customers wear face masks or strong recommendations that people use face coverings essentially everywhere in public to slow spread of COVID-19.

La Marque and Galveston officials hoped to persuade residents — either by mandate or strong urging — to wear masks as coronavirus cases in the county rise. La Marque this weekend issued a proclamation — not an order — urging the use of face masks, while Galveston on Monday issued an order that puts the onus on businesses to ensure people are covering their mouths and noses.

The efforts by each city comes as cases rise in the county and face masks become a political flash point and a personal statement.

THE RULES

The Galveston order, effective 12:01 a.m. today, requires all employees and visitors to a business premises to wear face coverings when proximity to other people will be less than 6 feet apart, according to the language.

The intent of the order is to apply to any entity that serves the public, city spokeswoman Marissa Barnett said.

That includes nonprofits and city of Galveston properties, she said.

Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough hinted last week he might issue a proclamation ahead of the Galveston City Council’s regular meeting Thursday, when the council is set to decide whether to extend the order.

Galveston’s order expires June 30, because mayoral orders can only be in effect for a week.

Masks can reduce the spread of coronavirus, but they also remind people to take pandemic precautions, Yarbrough said.

“It raises the consciousness of being more careful,” Yarbrough said.

Businesses and other organizations that don’t abide by the order will be subjected to a fine of up to $1,000 but will have five days after the order’s effective date to comply, according to the order language.

People don’t have to wear a mask when eating or drinking at restaurants, when driving alone or with members of their household, when exercising outdoors or when pumping gas, according to the order.

People, businesses and entities also can’t organize any outdoor gathering expected to attract more than 100 people without mayoral approval, according to the order.

Galveston is the first city in the county to issue a masking order with potential fines.

La Marque issued a proclamation this weekend urging people to wear masks — but those who choose not to heed the plea can’t be fined for non-compliance.

La Marque Mayor Bobby Hocking issued a proclamation strongly urging people to wear face coverings. But despite some confusion, the plea was not an order and doesn’t have any fines attached to it, Hocking said.

“I wanted to give people a chance to do it on their own,” Hocking said.

BURDEN ON BUSINESS?

Galveston’s order isn’t meant to be a burden on businesses, Yarbrough said.

“There aren’t a lot of tools that the city has at its disposal to help curb this virus,” Yarbrough said.

And enforcement will be a challenge, Yarbrough said. The city plans to dispatch marshals to inform businesses about the rules and make sure they’re complying, Yarbrough said.

The city plans to issue warnings initially before citing businesses, he said.

“It raises a lot of potential issues,” Yarbrough said. “And we’re just going to have to deal with them.”

But for some businesses, it’s a welcome rule.

“I do not think it’s that big of a burden on businesses to help the city control COVID,” said Johnny Smecca, a principal of Galveston Restaurant Group.

The company owns restaurants Saltwater Grill, The Gumbo Diner and Papa’s Pizza, among others.

“I have a staff to take care of, and that staff deserves to be protected from the public,” Smecca said. “We’re protecting the public by wearing masks and using sanitation. The public has to have some sense of protecting us as well.”

ACROSS TEXAS

Galveston modeled its language after Bexar County’s order, Yarbrough said.

Bexar County, which encompasses San Antonio, was the first Texas government to issue an order that required businesses to mandate masking, but others such as Austin and Dallas have followed suit.

Harris County’s similar orders went into effect Monday.

In a Wednesday interview with Waco-area TV station KWTX, Gov. Greg Abbott said the new rules did not violate his June 3 executive order barring local governments from imposing fines on people who don’t wear masks.

In a press conference Monday, Abbott urged people to wear face masks, adding that if spikes in cases continue, additional measures will be necessary.

Other county leaders aren’t planning on any such rules.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he won’t issue a county-wide order similar to the city’s.

“I am encouraging personal responsibility and have been advised by my general counsel that an executive order is not lawful and will subject us to costly litigation we are likely to lose,” Henry said. “In Texas, cities have the power to create local ordinances where the county does not.”

The Galveston City Council will meet in a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, when the council is scheduled to discuss its stance on masking.

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

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(19) comments

Robert Braeking

Local governments in Texas are drunk on power. There is no scientific evidence that masks are effective especially when the orders of these governments do not specify the type, design, and manner of use.

Personally, I am going to resurrect my red bandana from my playing cowboys as a child. I'll watch some old Tom Mix movies to get some video training on the proper use thereof. I think I'll leave the cap guns at home because the gun belt has gotten a little short.

jimmy winston

https://today.tamu.edu/2020/06/12/texas-am-study-face-masks-critical-in-preventing-spread-of-covid-19/

Robert Braeking

If the mask is worn improperly or correct infection control measures are not taken when removing the mask they are totally ineffective. If a mask wearer rubs his eye he has infected himself. If he removes the mask and does not dispose of it and sanitize his hands afterward he has done nothing. If he 'scratches' his nose under the mask he has done nothing. If wears the mask with his beak exposed he has done nothing. TAMU only studied the properly utilized mask use. The general public may as well not be wearing one.

jimmy winston

If you think that the Mayor issuing a mask mandate is drunk on power, just wait until you see what the police departments around the country are doing! I expect this same level as outrage once you catch up.

Jack Cross

While the Park Board and Chamber promote tourism, the city is trying to drive them away, even the White house staff is not required to wear masks.

The emphasis is being placed on the number of infections when making the decision while it should be on the number of deaths that stands at 40 in a county of 342,000 and you can add maybe a million-counting tourist. That puts your chance of dying at O.01 So much attention is put on infections increasing while the percentage of deaths are going down. Most of these were in nursing home with people with preexisting conditions. Even here, if the medical field would have put the emphasis here, those numbers would be even lower. The quarantine was never about saving lives, it was about flattening the curve so that the hospitals would not be overrun. When that did not happen, it then became a useful tool for government to take control of our lives, this mask mandate is an example.

In our everyday life all of us use; “Risks Vs Benefits” When we drive, get in an aircraft, apply pesticides Smoking, drinking or any number of things we do. We weigh the benefit vs the risk, but it is our decision not government.

We do these things which have a much higher risk of dying or effecting our health than this weak virus.

When you do not include in the models, the damaging effect on the economy the huge loss of small business that will never come back after many people put their life saving into them. The huge loss of jobs, the anguish causing deaths outside of Corona 19 and the complete chaos going on, another Government Mandate is questionable of saving lives but it damn sure will hurt business and anger more people. Anyone who thinks that there is not a political connection to Covic-19 is living in la la land. Everything is political and it will get worse leading up to the election.

After all this plays out and the damage is added up, we will be asking ourselves how did we make the cure much much worse than the virus. Thank you government, much of your authority will be lasting.

James Stephenson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Gary Scoggin

Not the mask argument again! 🙄

Blanca Bell

well said Jack!

Ted Gillis

China virus, Wuhan virus and Kung flu. These are all political names for the Covid 19 virus.

Nothing la la about that.

Carlos Ponce

Wuhan virus because it originated in Wuhan.

Ebola virus named after the Ebola River in the Congo. Not where the Ebola virus originated but the person who named it was being PC named it after the river, not the Yambuku village. By the way, Ebola is the French corruption of Legbala which translates as Black River. Would that be racist?

Dan Freeman

If you don't like wearing a mask, wait until you get a ventilator.

Doug Sivyer

Infected/ vs Dead. Really? That's were we draw the line? Absurd! One death is too many. How about if it was you loved one. Anyone that cannot support this minor inconvenience of mask wearing is simply ignorant and self centered just as our President and White House administration are.

Robert Braeking

Personally I do not fear death. It would be inconvenient for my family but a glorious day for me. As far as infected is concerned, check your vitamin D levels. You would be doing yourself a favor to get them up to at least 50 if not better. If you are down to 25 or less, like most people, infection is your constant companion.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200507121353.htm

Get out in the sun and enjoy life.......and put away the SPF30. Your body needs sunshine.

Gary Scoggin

And don’t buckle those seat belts either. They are just a damned nuisance.

Carlos Ponce

Would you wear a helmet if riding a motorcycle?

Mary Gillespie

Doug, did you walk to work today? Why not? Cars kill 40,000 Americans yearly. If one death were truly too many, you would have walked.

We each assess and assume risk with every activity we undertake. COVID is indeed scary. So is dying in a mangled heap of steel. Don't lose perspective.

Bailey Jones

I imagine that Doug, if he drove today, took ordinary simple precautions, like wearing a bit of fabric that keeps him from being propelled through the windshield in the event of a crash. Seat belts aren't that comfortable, they wrinkle your clothes, but we all use them. Why? Because we've all made the calculation that doing a simple thing that reduces our risk is worthwhile.

I remember when seat belts were first made mandatory. Boy - some people were really upset by the government's overreach. We don't hear much from the anti-seat belt crowd anymore. i wonder what happened to them?

Robert Braeking

Mr. Jones, The seat belt law antagonists just gave up. Resistance is futile.

Bobby Pope

I have a room booked for three nights over the Fourth and dinner reservations for two of the nights. Probably a weekend for my wife and I will leave a little over $2,000.00 behind. I thinking real hard about trying to find a South West flight to a tourist town that likes tourist

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