Masks will not be mandated in Tarrant County or in the city of Fort Worth, despite a warning by the county’s health director that the community has not yet reached the ‘peak’ of COVID-19 infections in the fourth wave.
The decisions came after two separate meetings on Tuesday morning, commissioners court and the city council.
More than 900 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Tarrant County, according to Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health.
The county also reported 1,300 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday.
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So far, about 40% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Fort Worth City Council narrowly voted against mandating masks inside city buildings with a 5-4 vote.
Mayor Mattie Parker voted ‘no’ on the measure. The mayor of Fort Worth votes on all items presented to the council, according to the city.
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The council heard from several residents voicing their support and opposition to a mask mandate.
One man who spoke against mandating masks warned the council, “I can just tell from what I’m looking at who’s going to vote and I’ll let you know that I will make you guys famous on social media with your results.”
During the Tarrant County Commissioners Court meeting, Judge Glen Whitley said the county had consulted its legal team and found they are bound by the law and by recent court rulings regarding mask mandates.
Taneja also updated the court on the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and confirmed cases, saying trends indicate cases will continue to increase especially with the start of the school year.
“I can only appeal to the common sense of the people,” said Taneja. “There is a huge outbreak in our community. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated.”
Two county commissioners voiced their concern over the rising cases and the inability to do more.
Commissioner Devan Allen said she has heard, ‘from parents and from others who want for the school districts to act and also want the county to act, to do more.”
Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks told the court about his past experiences participating in the Civil Rights Movement.
“Civil disobedience is part of my DNA,” said Brooks said to Whitley. “I would like to see us press the envelope as far as we can, while still protecting you.”
Brooks then drew some laughs from the audience telling Whitley, “I don’t want to see you go to jail, necessarily. But we do have an obligation to protect the public, regardless of what the governor thinks.”
Brooks telling NBC 5, he sees a mask mandate as ‘good trouble,’ referring to the late Civil Rights icon John Lewis.
Whitley responded by saying he too disagrees with the governor’s order prohibiting local governments from implementing mask mandates.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Whitley following the meeting.
The judge believes the decision over such mandates should be left to local governments.
However, he feels he is bound by the law which states county judges ‘act as agents of the governor.’
“I’m not scared of the governor at all. I took an oath to obey the law,” he said. “I’ve said on many occasions that I disagree and feel like Texas is too big of a state for one person to make decisions in a central location.”
For now, city and county leaders in favor of a temporary mask mandate can only ‘strongly encourage’ people to mask up.
Whitley urges people to seek out their doctor and trust the science when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Why are we not trusting these folks now and instead going to social media where you got a bunch of quacks and a bunch of people who have no idea what they’re talking about,” asked Whitley.