TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Describing a “culture war” he didn’t even know existed, Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter came to the defense of essential workers he said were “accosted and berated,” for simply wearing a mask.

Shetter spoke during a Thursday morning news conference announcing a face mask ordinance for Tarrant County.

He talked about how leading up to the announcement, he has spoken to many small business owners, to hear their perspective on masks. All of them told him they’re “trying to do the right thing and have employees wear masks.”

While the mayor has seen little to no push back from small businesses, he said there was plenty of it from customers.

“It has become increasingly more difficult because this has become so politicized… and part of some culture war that I didn’t even know existed. We have actually had many incidents of hourly employees that are being accosted and berated by customers for wearing masks,” said Shetter.

He shared a story the challenges one small business owner faced in trying to protect both his workers and customers.

“One employer told me that he had a teenage employee who simply said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I want to wear a mask, I know I should – but I can’t take this berating,’ ” said Shetter.

In just the last two weeks health officials have seen a 52% increase in the number of cases in the last two weeks.

Calling frontline workers heroes, Shetter reminded, “They’re out there putting themselves at risk, through this entire epidemic. They are some of the biggest heroes of all of this and they’ve been the last ones to be protected.”

He also talked about seeing cases of the coronavirus “explode and for the first time in the city of Burleson,” and mentioned there’s currently an issue with testing capacity there.

The aim of the mask ordinance is to reduce the chance of hospitals surging overcapacity should the number of cases continue to spike.

Several doctors were on-hand, alongside Shetter, and echoed his position that wearing a mask is purely a preventative, non-political tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve been following the science, and I think that’s important for everyone to understand. This needs to be about science and research, and not about emotion and politics,” said President of the American Medical Association, Susan R. Bailey, MD, an allergist/immunologist from Fort Worth.

Businesses who fail to comply could face a fine of up to $1,000 while individuals will likely be asked to leave.

“I think it’s important to remember that back to business doesn’t meant business as usual. We are going to have to do thing differently for awhile until we get this very deadly disease under control,” said Dr. Bailey.

The county reported 460 new cases this week, bringing its total to 9,846.

The county’s highest daily count was 485 on May 10, 2020. However, this was largely due to an outbreak at a federal prison in Fort Worth.

Cases throughout Texas have also surged, with the state reporting a record-high 5,551 new cases on Wednesday.

“Please, for the love of God, put on a mask,” said Shetter.

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