The city of Denton has joined other North Texas communities in issuing a new order on masks as COVID-19 cases spike.
As of Saturday, face masks are required in all businesses within the city of Denton. The ordinance requires all employees or visitors of any business or nonprofit to wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth when in close contact or proximity to coworkers or the public.
Renee Thompson of Krum said she visits Denton almost every day.
“Since we don’t all want to stay home for the rest of our lives, wear the mask,” Thompson said. “It’s hot, and it sucks. It’s summer and 100 degrees. Nobody wants to wear them, but if it’s what stomps it out where we can all go back to life as usual, then that’s what we have to do.”
The order was adopted by the Denton City Council on Friday afternoon. Earlier that same day, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new executive order which closed bars across the state by noon and scaled back on reopening phases.
Dr. Rajesh Nandy is an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties are all experiencing surges as it relates to the novel coronavirus, he said.
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"We are certain we are experiencing a surge. The extent of the surge is still to be determined, but all I can say is the indications are not good at this point," Nandy said. “I’m not saying it’s a big surge right now, but I would actually be reluctant to call it ‘mini’ right now based on the numbers that I’m seeing in the last three or four days."
Nandy is part of a team monitoring the impact of COVID-19 in North Texas during the pandemic. The report includes the number of new cases, but it relies on hospitalization and emergency room data. According to Nandy, that data is more "robust" and reliable
When asked what has been responsible for the recent surge in cases and hospitalizations, Nandy said increased testing was only part of it.
“The test positivity is still about 10% in our area. That means even though we ramped it [testing] up, we probably are still not testing enough. We are doing better than when we started,” he said. “The possible reasons are the mobility of people went up significantly. Number two is, which again is hard to capture with how much it actually caused it, is we do know there have been a lot of protests and other gatherings at the time of social unrest. We also know, which is established, that large gatherings can cause a spread.”
Nandy added, in his opinion, the most important contributing factor has been the lack of mask usage.
“There has been anecdotal evidence locally that once the lockdown lifted, people were wearing masks quite a bit. Even though the mobility increased, but people were trying to comply with the guidelines in terms of social distancing wearing masks and stuff like that,” he said. “As people got more and more comfortable and there was no obvious bad news in terms of a surge or big hospitalizations and stuff like that, I think people gradually started not maintaining all the guidelines.”
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In Denton, resident Ismael Alvarez said he had no problem with wearing a mask if asked by a business or the city. However, he said it has not been part of his normal routine.
“If I’m asked to, I don’t mind. Besides that, I don’t personally,” he said. “Speaking to the physicians that I know from offices we’ve worked at, they really told me it doesn’t do much other than if I’m sick. If I know I’m sick, it might spread to other people, but at the moment… I don’t know that I have COVID.”
Shawntel Coleman of Denton said she has been wearing a mask in public frequently in the past three months. For her, the new city ordinance does not make a large impact on her daily routine.
“We made masks, we bought masks. We try to support all local businesses we can because we know it’s economically been hard on everybody,” Coleman said. “It’s not about me. It’s about other people. I’m doing it to protect my mom and dad and my grandparents to keep them from getting sick.”
Under the ordinance, signs must be posted at all entrances to the building stating the mask requirement.
The order also states that the mask requirement "does not apply if covering the nose and mouth poses a significant mental or physical health risk to the individual. It also does not apply when an individual is consuming a food or beverage or receiving a service where the wearing of a face covering would impair the performance of the service."
The mask order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, August 4.
All businesses and nonprofits within Denton city limits must be in compliance with the order by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
Starting Thursday, anyone may report concerns regarding potential violations of the order through the Engage Denton mobile application, online at www.engagedenton.com, or by calling and leaving a message at (940) 349-8228.
Tracking COVID-19 Cases in North Texas Counties
NBC 5 is tracking the number of COVID-19 related cases, recoveries and deaths in North Texas counties. Choose a county and click on a city or town to see how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your area.
Cases are cumulative by day and are subject to change, dependent on each county health department's reporting schedule and methodology. Data may be reported county-wide, by city or town, or not at all. Cases, recoveries and death counts in 'unspecified' categories are used as placeholders and reassigned by their respective counties at a later date.
Data: County Health Departments, NBC 5 Staff