In a 5-2 vote, Denton City Council passed a mask mandate during an emergency meeting Thursday night. According to the language in the ordinance, it applies to Pre-K through 12 public schools, child care centers, businesses, and city buildings.
The mandate went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 13, and continues through 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2021.
Councilmembers Vicki Byrd, Brian Beck, Allison Maguire, Deb Armintor and Paul Meltzer voted in favor of the mandate. Mayor Gerard Hudspeth and councilmember Jesse Davis voted no.
"Please just everyone be nice to each other, please out there, we're all just trying to do a job," said Mayor Hudspeth moments before the vote.
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The city of Denton joins Dallas County and a list of school districts to defy Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order to ban local governments from enforcing a mask mandate.
The language of the mandate mirrors what Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins implemented earlier in the week. At the same time, Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have said they intend to fight the Dallas County rules.
Here's a quick list of things to know about the City of Denton's mask mandate:
- All Pre-K through 12 public schools and child care centers "must require at a minimum, universal indoor masking for teachers, staff, students and visitors," regardless of vaccination status. Children under two years old are exempt.
- "All commercial entities in the City of Denton providing goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement a health and safety policy." That includes requiring universal indoor masking for all employees and visitors. "Failure to develop and implement the Health and Safety Policy required by this Order within three calendar days following the Effective Date may result in a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each violation."
- All employees, contractors and visitors will be required to wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status, at City of Denton buildings
- The general public is "strongly urged" to wear masks when in public indoor spaces, but there is no civil or criminal penalty imposed on those who do not.
As other local governments re-enforced mask mandates, the topic came up earlier this week during the regular Denton City Council meeting on Tuesday according to Ryan Adams, the director of customer service and public affairs for the city of Denton.
In order to discuss the possibility of face-covering requirements further and figure out options, the city held the emergency meeting Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9:07 p.m, in which there was a break in between.
"The meeting will essentially consist of the council getting any legal advice from the city attorney that they need, having a discussion, and then there's the possibility that they may take action with regard to face-covering requirements. At this point, there could be any number of options, and there's not been any direction on what path they may take," said Adams ahead of the meeting.
The last time the city of Denton had a mask mandate was last year when a number of cities, counties and the state had one. In most recent weeks, Denton did not have any face-covering requirements, although it strongly encouraged people to wear them based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations.
Denton County Judge Andy Eads said at this point, they don't plan on discussing a mask mandate.
"That was a consideration last year, and we chose not to impose a mandatory mask mandate and I don't anticipate Denton County doing that in the future," said Eads during a Zoom interview with NBC 5 on Thursday.
He did say that the county supports vaccinations and referenced the massive vaccine clinic the county held at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year.
"Denton County's message has always been to get vaccinated and if you have apprehension, we respect your individual choice and encourage you to thoughtfully and prayerfully do your research and make that independent decision," said Eads. "But we've always encouraged people to explore the option of vaccination."
He said if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does approve vaccines for kids under 12, they plan on working with school districts and parents to make it readily available.
Thursday's open meeting on the city level was at Denton City Hall, 215 E. McKinney St and members from the community had the chance to signup and speak whether in person or on the phone. To learn more on how to sign up, click here.
According to the agenda, there was a closed session where city council members consulted with attorneys, followed by a work session discussion and consideration of an action item.
The meeting was streamed online.