Granite Shoals Mayor Carl Brugger issued a face covering order effective Tuesday, June 30, to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Staff and customers of businesses in the city limits are required to wear face masks.
The order applies to anyone over the age of 2 years old. Coverings must “fit snugly over the nose and mouth” and can be bandanas, handkerchiefs, scarfs, and masks, either handmade or purchased.
Face coverings must be worn indoors at a business, including offices, convenience stores, and retail stores.
According to the order, those refusing to wear face masks in businesses should be asked to leave or denied admission.
The mask order was added to the city’s emergency declaration that Brugger signed March 17, which is set to expire September 30.
“If things get better, you can let it expire in September or end it before September,” City Attorney Joshua Katz told the City Council during a special meeting June 29. “Or, we can extend the disaster declaration.”
City Manager Jeff Looney, who said he agreed with the order, spent the afternoon of June 30 delivering notices to businesses to be placed on doors so customers are aware of the city order before entering.
“It should be about common decency and respect,” he said about wearing a mask to contain respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. “Be respectful of everybody else. Wear a mask and be sensitive until we get a better handle on (the pandemic).”
Looney said he has asked city employees, including those working on streets, parks, and other outdoor jobs, to wear masks.
Brugger told the council during the June 29 meeting that he was more inclined to issue the order after Marble Falls Mayor John Packer issued one that day.
“Now that they’ve done it, I wish to do the same,” Brugger told councilors. “We’re all in this together, and we need to work together to keep this from spreading. You don’t have to like it.”
“We need to remember this is a public health emergency, and we’re dealing with a public health emergency,” Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Davant said. “As soon as this is over, all this can go by the wayside.”
City leaders noted there are no legal consequences for individuals because of the wording of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order issued June 26, which does not mention masks.
While there is no statewide mask mandate, Abbott did not take away authority from local leaders to issue one for businesses.
Councilor Steve Hougen, a surgeon, noted he would not step into the emergency room without wearing a mask to protect the patient, but he did not want to hold businesses accountable if a customer refuses to wear a mask.
“It seems unfair to punish the businesses when the customer is the guilty party,” he said. “I think the rest of us have to wear a mask for the protection of everybody else.”
“If the business tells someone to leave the business and they refuse, the business has trespassing,” City Attorney Joshua Katz said. “If they do not comply, it could rise to the level of criminal trespassing.”
Granite Shoals Police Chief Gary Boshears said that while officers cannot enforce a mask provision on individuals, businesses have options, including contacting the police station, if a customer enters without wearing a mask and refuses to comply or leave.
“The business has the right to refuse service,” he said. “If (the customer) decides to come in anyway, that’s a trespassing issue. In conversations I’ve had with other law enforcement agencies, if you have conversations with somebody and educate folks, I think you can gain compliance. I can’t imagine anyone just bucking (wearing a mask while shopping) if you do this.”
Councilor Will Skinner shared some conversations he’s had with residents about wearing face masks.
“Me, personally, I would object,” he said. “Hearing from people in the community, they’re not for this. You’re going to have people who choose not to wear a mask.”
However, Councilor Hougen reiterated support, as a surgeon, for masks.
“Nobody here has to like this,” Hougen said. “I do believe it’s necessary and something valid. I’m in complete agreement with this resolution. We’re all in this together. This is the way to go. This is a very good step.”
For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the DailyTrib.com coronavirus resource webpage.