Thursday, September 16, 2021

Denton City Council implements mask mandate

The Denton City Council voted 5-2 on Thursday night to implement a mask mandate, defying an order from Gov. Greg Abbott that bans municipalities from such mandates.

The Denton mandate went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and continues through Sept. 30. It strongly urges people to wear a face mask in public and requires face coverings in all city buildings. It also says that all childcare centers, schools and commercial entities that provide goods or services directly to the public in Denton must develop and implement a health and safety policy that must require, at a minimum, universal indoor masking for all employees, customers, teachers, staff, students and visitors. As recently as Tuesday, Denton ISD maintained that masks will be encouraged but not required.

On Friday afternoon, Denton County put out a statement calling the city’s ordinance “unenforceable,” and clarified with residents that the county does not have a mask mandate.

Click here to read Denton’s mask mandate document.

“We know that masks are effective. They are moderately effective at preventing the wearer from contracting COVID, and they are highly effective at preventing the wearer from transmitting COVID to others,” said Denton Councilmember Alison Maguire. “There are a significant number of individuals in our community who are not vaccinated – some by choice, others not by choice. We know that these individuals are at high risk of serious illness and death, especially with the surge of the Delta variant.”

Since the Delta variant became the most common variant of COVID-19 in the United States in June, active COVID-19 cases have risen dramatically in Denton County. The CDC and Denton County Public Health have said the Delta variant is more easily transmissible than other variants, and the reason for the surge in cases is the high number of unvaccinated people and how easily the disease can spread among them.

Early in the pandemic, businesses, municipalities and school districts individually implemented masking rules as they saw fit. Then, Abbott issued a statewide mask mandate in July 2020. He lifted that mandate this spring, and said that local municipalities and school districts were not allowed to implement any mask mandates. Dallas and Bexar County officials are currently fighting Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in court, and Denton is joining a small number of Texas cities defying the Governor’s order.

Maguire said she didn’t think Denton City Council was the right entity to implement the mandate, but no one else was going to.

“The City Council is not the ideal body to be passing this type of order,” Maguire said. “It would be preferable if an order like this came from our state government, but that is not going to happen. It’s also not going to come from the Denton County Commissioners Court. Tuesday night’s Denton ISD Board meeting demonstrated it’s not going to come from them, either.”

Denton Councilman Jesse Davis said that masks help prevent disease transmission and save lives, but he does not support the mandate because city mask mandates are “almost entirely political theater.”

“Today, with the vaccine freely available to people 12 and older, not one additional person is going to wear a mask because the City of Denton tells them to,” Davis said.

Davis said he disagrees with Abbott’s order, but he thinks the city should follow it.

“I object to Gov. Abbot’s disregard for local control, and his orders that prevent cities, counties, and school districts from creating rules to protect their citizens,” Davis said. “I also don’t agree with his orders preventing us from protecting our own employees or people using City property. But he is the elected Governor, and his orders have the force of law. There is nothing that prevents individuals from wearing masks or businesses from requiring masks.”

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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