Dallas County Commissioners voted Friday morning to require businesses to ensure customers wear a face covering while inside or face a fine of up to $500.
Part A of the order, the part requiring masks be worn inside businesses, goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, June 19 and will remain in place through 11:59 p.m. Aug. 4, unless extended, modified or terminated early.
The Health and Safety policy requires all employees and visitors to any business wear a face covering while in an area where six feet of separation is not feasible.
The order may also include the implementation of other mitigating measures designed to control or reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as temperature checks or health screenings.
A copy of the order must be posted in the business and a failure to implement the requirements within five days of the effective date may result in the business being fined $500 per violation.
Part B of the order says all people age 10 and up shall wear a face-covering while in public places where keeping six feet apart from others is not feasible, though this part of the order does not have a fine attached and is consistent with Gov. Greg Abbott's order GA-26 that no civil or criminal penalty be imposed on people for failing to wear a face covering.
Part B lists exclusions where face coverings do not need to be worn including when outside exercising; when driving alone or with members of the household; when it poses a health or safety risk; when pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment; when in a building, such as a bank, that requires security surveillance; and when eating or drinking.
"It's important because we really don’t want this to spread no more than it has," said Fred Walker, owner of Fred's Downtown Philly in Carrollton.
At fitness centers like Gold's Gym, enforcing the new rules will be difficult, says President and CEO Adam Zeitsiff.
"We want our team members to be safe, we want our guests to be safe, but at the same time we don't want to turn them into basically policing everyone throughout the entire time at the gym," Zeitsiff said.
Both Walker and Zeitsiff agreed the mask requirements seem necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
The county reminded all North Texans that face coverings are a secondary strategy for preventing the spread of the virus and that it does not replace social and physical distancing, frequent handwashing and self-isolation when sick.
The measure was adopted with a 3-2 vote during an emergency meeting called by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Voting for the measure were Jenkins, Dr. Theresa Daniel (seconded) and Dr. Elba Garcia (moved). Against the measure were John Wiley Price and JJ Koch.
Many of past votes on coronavirus restrictions at Dallas County Commissioners Court have split 3 to 2 with Commissioners Price and J.J. Koch opposing mandatory rules.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has said a provision in his orders allows local governments to order businesses to tell people to wear masks by refusing service to customers without face coverings. “We’re finally going to be able to do that again after the governor stopped us from doing it last month,” Jenkins said.
Dallas County has averaged 342 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week, according to county health department statistics.
Bexar County and the City of Austin have already taken the step Dallas County approved Friday.
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