Jenkins was granted a temporary restraining order Aug. 10 that declares Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent executive order regarding mask mandates unenforceable.
“We're trying to buy our hospitals some time by doing everything that we all can do to get through this,” Jenkins said during an Aug. 11 press conference. “The two main things we can do is we can get vaccinated and we can wear our masks when we’re in public settings. That's what the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] says will give us our best chance to save some lives right now.”
The order came a day after Dallas County Health and Human Services reported a three-day total of 3,270 new confirmed cases of coronavirus. As of Aug. 9, 15.2% of the hospital beds in Trauma Service Area E, which includes Dallas County as well as 18 other North Texas counties, were occupied by confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard.
Child care centers and public schools are now required to develop and implement a health and safety policy that includes universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status. Universal indoor masking is also required of all commercial entities that provide “goods or services directly to the public.” The order also applies to Dallas County employees and contractors as well as visitors to county facilities.
As part of the order, all members of the public age 2 and older are “strongly urged” to wear a face mask when in a public indoor space.
No civil or criminal penalty will be imposed on individuals who fail to wear a face mask, according to the order. However, businesses that fail to develop and implement the required health and safety policy within three days could face a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.
“There are not penalties for individuals, [and] there are not penalties for schools, but there are penalties for commercial businesses,” Jenkins said. “I believe that our schools will act in accordance with the law. If we find that that is not true, then I may have to revisit this.”
The temporary restraining order granted by Judge Tonya Parker of the 116th Judicial District Court is scheduled for a temporary injunction hearing Aug. 24. Jenkins said he did not have a specific time in mind for when the order would be rescinded but said he would continue monitoring guidance from the CDC.
“It’s the hope that more and more people will get vaccinated. And then, for a time, people wear the mask, [and] the numbers will turn as they did before. With more vaccination, particularly, comes a better outlook for everyone and more freedom.”
The order also notes that face coverings are not “a replacement for social distancing, frequent hand washing and self-isolation when sick.”
“We are in a war, all of us, not with each other but with a virus that has claimed over 600,000 Americans and a lot more people worldwide,” Jenkins said. “It's coming back with a vengeance, and it's up to us to get together and win this battle so we can win this war."