Businesses are no longer required to enforce Bell County’s mask order. Instead, they are “strongly encouraged” to do so, the Commissioners Court decided Monday morning.
The Commissioners Court struck down language in the order — which Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued last week and went into effect early Monday — mandating businesses to require facial coverings on their premises and removed $1,000 fine for violating it.
Blackburn called for the mask requirement after talking to the county’s three major health care providers — Baylor Scott & White, AdventHealth and Seton — and the Bell County Public Health District. All four entities recommended mandating businesses enforce a mask order.
Additionally, Blackburn had called for it because Bell County saw a spike in COVID-19 cases last week. COVID-19 cases in the county broke through the 1,000 mark Friday. At least 1,022 cases have been reported. In June, 669 cases have been reported. That is 65 percent of all confirmed cases in Bell County.
“I believe that even if it was strongly encouraged given the fact that we’ve already seen what the governor is doing and will continue to do if that spike goes up,” Commissioner Russell Schneider said, alluding to the potential of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott possibly ordering for another shutdown of the state. “I think businesses will still do it. I think it’s necessary. It needs to be their choice. Their choice is to do it or potentially let the governor shut them down again.”
Commissioner Bobby Whitson agreed with Schneider. He said the masking mandate was confusing and burdensome to require business owners to enforce the requirement.
Although the county government is no longer requiring businesses to have patrons wear a mask, the Commissioners Court decided that the Bell County Courthouse will continue to enforce visitors to wear a mask.