Dallas County businesses have three days to institute new masking and safety policies or risk fines after Judge Clay Jenkins signed an emergency order Wednesday.
The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, after which commercial entities will have to develop and implement health and safety policies. Each violation can result in a fine of up to $1,000.
On Wednesday, some customers in Dallas' Bishop Arts District wore masks and others did not.
Cody Ellison owns four businesses in the neighborhood, where businesses closed during stay-at-home orders last year.
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“I'll do whatever is required to keep people safe and my employees safe," Ellison said. "I just hope that it doesn't make the public nervous again and keep them at home."
Ellison said he also supports vaccination to stop COVID-19.
“I think that if more people would vaccinate, less people would get it and we wouldn't have a need for the masks,” he said.
At Sixty Vines restaurant at the Crescent in Uptown Dallas, owner Jeff Carcara said employees were asked to return to mask-wearing last week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended it.
“I'd like to think it would make the people that want to come out feel safe, more comfortable. And I can't believe it would make anybody feel uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s one of those things that in my opinion was a no-brainer to follow.”
Jenkins said Wednesday that the new order is not an attack on any elected official.
“We are all team public health and the enemy is the virus,” he said.
The order comes a day after a district court judge ruled in favor of Jenkins’ request for a temporary restraining order against Gov. Greg Abbott’s order forbidding mask mandates.
The ruling is part of a lawsuit filed by Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch who objected to being escorted out of a county meeting last week at Jenkins’ direction for refusing to wear a mask. Koch claimed the Republican governor’s order was superior but the district court judge disagreed Tuesday.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was aligned with Koch's last year in a vote to extend the Safer at Home order that closed businesses and kept people at home.
Price said he supports Jenkins’ mask mandate.
“I believe that masks become a barrier to closing and so we need to implement whatever tools we can to avoid closing and shutting down,” he said.
Price is also promoting vaccination to combat the COVID-19 delta variant surge and is co-sponsoring a three-day vaccination clinic Friday through Sunday at Mt. Rose Church.
The church is located in the 75249 ZIP code, where about 40% of residents have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 29% of all residents are fully vaccinated, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services.
“They’re misinformed unfortunately and some of us are outreaching,” Price said. “Vaccines have demonstrated that they also work in this country, so what’s the argument?”
While there could be fines for businesses that fail to establish and implement health and safety policies for workers and customers, individuals who violate the order will not face civil or criminal penalty.
Dallas Regional Chamber President and CEO Dale Petroskey said in a statement that the quickest way to end the pandemic is through vaccination, which is the focal point of the chamber's Take Care of Business DFW campaign.
"We encourage business and community leaders to take precautions to help slow the spread of the virus and ensure that employees are returning to a safe workplace and that students and school employees are returning to safe schools," Petroskey said. "The sooner we end the spread of the Delta variant, the sooner we can put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and get back to maximum productivity and a better quality of life for all those living in North Texas.”