After a discussion during a workshop meeting June 23, council members directed city staff to set the trigger point at 10% positive rate, the rate at which 10% of coronavirus tests return positive.
As of June 23, Williamson County had a positive rate of 9.6%. Its rate previously hovered around 5%-7% but spiked in the last 10 days, Williamson County and Cities Health District officials said.
Further details on how the mandate will be implemented, regulated and enforced will come at a later time, city officials said.
“I think we have a responsibility to put in place measures that will protect our citizenry and our visitors, and I think asking people to wear a mask is a really low bar,” Council Member Rachael Jonrowe said.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced June 17 that governing entities like cities and counties cannot force residents to wear masks. However, they can make it mandatory for businesses to require customers to wear a mask while inside their business enforced through a fine on the violating business. Neighboring cities and counties, such as Hays County, Travis County and the city of Austin, have all implemented requirements after they saw a significant spike in cases in recent weeks.
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said he would not implement a similar regulation and would instead follow Abbott’s lead by only recommending residents wear a mask in public.
Initially, council was inclined to follow suit with Gravell. Council Member Mike Triggs said he believes it is just smart business to require customers to wear masks but that the decision should be made by business owner.
Triggs said he knows of many residents who will not shop in a place that does not require masks. If the business sees it is losing money because it does not require customers to wear a mask, that could motivate them to change their policy, he said.
Council Member Steve Fought agreed, saying, “I think it would be a good business decision to require masks. But I don’t see the city government saying, 'You have to do that,’” Fought said. “I’d much rather put the facts down on the table and let the market work.”
Fought added that he would hate to make the decision in Georgetown, but policy will likely be different in neighboring cities, which could potentially drive business away or could add to confusion.
Council Member Kevin Pitts was the one who offered the trigger point idea, with which the members agreed.
As of June 23, Williamson County continued to see a spike in cases, adding 87 cases and reporting 24 hospitalizations, its highest number yet.