County Judge Andy Eads and the four commissioners pleaded for constituents to wear coverings around their mouths and noses, but they decided not to go as far as declaring an official order. It is their view, they said, that such an ordinance would be unenforceable with the laws at their disposal and without dependence on local police for enforcement.
“Even without mandates, [mask usage] has increased and will continue to increase as we—as the county—kick off a campaign either this afternoon or tomorrow that will be increasing awareness,” Eads said.
The city of Denton, the county seat, issued its own mask ordinance last week requiring all employees and visitors in businesses and nonprofits to wear a mask at all times. Dallas and Tarrant counties issued similar countywide ordinances last week, though leaders in Colleyville issued a statement that they would not enforce the Tarrant County order; the city has not yet faced reprimand.
McKinney in Collin County became the latest municipality to adopt a mask order June 29.
Lewisville, Flower Mound, Highland Village and Frisco do not currently have mask policies.
“With the most emphasis, we should encourage people to cooperate with the mandates of public health," Commissioner Hugh Coleman said. "But knowing the county, at this point, has very little authority or teeth to be able to enforce it, I think that’s the best position we can take. We have to be realistic about our ability. ... People are asking us to do something we don’t have the ability to do.”
The discussion came minutes after Dr. Matt Richardson, the county health director, presented the latest coronavirus data within the county. The number of new positive cases in the county jumped from 395 the week of June 14-20 to 517 for the week ending June 27, he said.
Richardson said several hundred more tests were conducted in the past week than the preceding week. Positive results among all patients tested jumped from 9.3% to 11.6% in that same time frame, he said.
As of June 30, Denton County had 2,845 total positive cases with 37 deaths and 1,153 recoveries. There were an estimated 1,655 active cases as of that day.
Still, county officials said they believe that the most effective solutions will come from cities due to their smaller size and more robust enforcement abilities.
“We have to treat people the way we want to be treated,” Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell said. “I personally wear my mask every day, sometimes in my office if I have a visitor, and I wear it when I go around the community. I would recommend people wear masks, but I cannot require you wear one because of your own personal liberties. If we decide we’re going to do a mandate for masks, then we’re going to have all the exclusions, and we’re right back to where we began. ... Protect yourself, and in doing that, you’ll protect others.”