The city of Colleyville won’t enforce Tarrant County’s order requiring people to wear masks inside businesses and at large outdoor gatherings, according to a statement released Thursday.
Coronavirus cases in the county are soaring, with 517 new cases reported Thursday — the most any North Texas county has reported on a single day.
Tarrant County has had a total of 10,363 positive cases.
Colleyville’s statement said it “will not adopt any formal action enacting this measure nor provide enforcement” and directed questions to the county.
In the mask order, cities do have some discretion and it's up to them to enforce the masks and face coverings. NBC 5 reached out to the city of Colleyville for comment but has not heard back.
On Friday, Judge Glen Whitley, who issued to mask order on Thursday, told NBC 5 he's disappointed in Colleyville's decision.
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"I am disappointed in their elected officials and their leadership but you know, it's amazing -- we've gotten a number of calls from citizens and businesses in Colleyville. And I think they're all supportive. I hope that all of the businesses will abide the order, and take our example of the health and safety policy," he said. "Just because [people] have the right doesn’t make it right.”
Colleyville was one of the first cities to reopen businesses in North Texas last month when Gov. Abbott began the reopening process for the state. Judge Whitley said he's long known the city's stance on the masks.
“Throughout this entire process on at least a weekly basis, we were having a conference call with one another. All the mayors, all the superintendents, chairs of the boards of the ISDs. We’ve talked with the CEOs of hospitals," he said. "I do not make a decision in a box by myself. We’ve talked about this. And on those calls, Colleyville has resisted in the past and I’ve had conversations with Mayor [Richard] Newton."
Judge Whitley explained that the county has no ordinance-making authority, which is why cities have the discretion to participate in the order. However, he added that many cities have gotten on board with it.
"We would like if an officer comes up and says ‘You need to be wearing a mask’ -- unless that person just wants to get belligerent and get in their face and all that, we’re not asking our officers to go around and randomly pick on people that are not wearing a mask," said Judge Whitley.
The order does include penalties for businesses that do not comply in cities enforcing the order, such as fines up to $1,000.
“I feel like people are responsible and respectable of others. And if they’re asked to wear a mask, we think they’ll put the mask on," he said.
Despite Colleyville deciding not to enforce the mask order, Judge Whitley said he hopes residents across Tarrant County will choose to be responsible and wear a mask for the sake of saving lives.
“The citizens I think recognize that they’re doing this out of respect for their neighbors, out of respect for folks that need to go inside of these business establishments and they may have an underlying health conditions. And what we’re trying to do is protect the citizens," he said. "I just feel like a little bit of inconvenience, if it saves a life and stops someone from getting this, then it’s worthwhile.”
Just one day after defying Tarrant County’s mask ordinance, Colleyville kicked off its annual Stars and Guitars Celebration. Quite a few people attended, sans the face covering
It’s dubbed as Colleyville's “annual patriotic celebration.” Only this year, it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic, and the day after a Tarrant County Judge signed an order requiring people to wear face coverings inside businesses or large outdoor gatherings.
But the order also says it’s up to cities to enforce. And Colleyville has chosen not to.
“We do not want to participate in that,” said Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton. “The county has their authority. They can execute and enforce that. That’s perfectly fine, we just choose not to participate. So basically, we’re just not taking action.”
With that, the celebration went on as planned. Most people from the NBC 5 crew’s point of view were not wearing masks.
“I feel like we all need to take our own safety into consideration and the safety of other people too but if you feel comfortable, I feel like you should have the right and freedom to do what you’re comfortable with,” said attendee, Lindsay Mullennix.
The mayor and event organizers said because of social distancing guidelines, they chose Colleyville City Park and encouraged families to tailgate and bring their own blankets and chairs.
“There are 40 acres out there. There’s plenty of baseball fields so there’s plenty of room for people to spread out which is what which we’re encouraging that they spread out,” said Mullennix.
One family did just that, setting up across the street to enjoy the music and fireworks.
“For us and our family whenever we’re out we’re going to wear the mask. Just to keep us safe and know it’s less likely to contract with the masks,” Sharon Hutchinson.
“Well I can understand how he wants everyone to support it but I just explained the difficulty in enforcement could lead to some embarrassing situations for law enforcement, so we just chose not to participate,” said attendee, Sharon Hutchinson
Mayor Richard Newton said he wears a mask and would like to see others do the same, but just won't mandate it.