DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County Commissioners called an emergency meeting Friday morning to discuss/debate a new order requiring people to wear facial coverings or masks when out in most public areas.
After more than an hour of presentations, questions, answers, and debates commissioners voted 3-2 to modify the order set to go into effect Saturday.
The rule will still make covering your nose or mouth when out running errands or working at an essential business, a requirement. But the mandate now also makes it clear that no one will be stopped, ticketed or arrested if their face isn’t covered.
Commissioners John Wiley Price and J.J. Koch called the Friday meeting in part, over concerns of how the mandate would be enforced and if law enforcement would have a role in dealing with violators.
During the meeting Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he consulted Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), health officials, and retailers who all supported the mandate.
While Jenkins said no one would be arrested, Commissioner Koch said that was not made clear ahead of the meeting.
“Judge you have no ability to write tickets, only the Sheriff’s Department has the ability to write tickets,” Koch said. “The people that are on the frontline enforcing these regulations are the municipal policing departments. And from what I understand from Chief Spivey and other chiefs they were not consulted before this was ordered.”
Jenkins, who attended the meeting through video conferencing, responded, “On our call at 12 o’clock everyday this was talked about, this was explained that this would be happening, and that there would not be a need for anyone to write tickets. Now did I call every police chief personally and talk to them about it? No I didn’t.”
During the emergency meeting officials also agreed to reopen area crafts stores — so residents could buy fabric and other materials necessary to make their own masks.
The new Dallas County mandate means that in addition to employees at essential businesses, people who visit grocery stores, big box stores, or take public transportation would be required to cover their face.
Masks would not have to be worn at home, while in a personal vehicle or while exercising outdoors.
When it comes to the coronavirus, health officials say people should wear masks or cloth face coverings not to protect themselves, but to decrease the unknowing transmission of the contagious disease to others.
As North Texas communities get closer to reopening businesses, county health professionals say facial coverings are going to be an important part of maintaining the progress made in fighting COVID-19 and preventing it from moving backward.