Fort Bend County extended its order mandating the use of face coverings inside commercial entities during a special called Commissioners Court meeting June 30.
The order, which first went into effect June 25 at 12:01 a.m., was initially set to expire just before midnight June 30. Now, it will remain in effect until July 31 at 11:59 p.m.
Dr. Jacquelyn Minter, the director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, said the county’s rising case count and percentage of positive test results are some reasons for the mandatory mask requirement.
“Facial coverings are one of the ways that we can continue to move about the county doing our work and doing our recreation and make sure that we are keeping ourselves and our neighbors safe,” said Minter, who also serves as the local health authority.
The order was extended by a 3-2 vote of Commissioners Court, with County Judge KP George, Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage and Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken DeMerchant voting in favor.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales and Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers voted against the extension. Meyers said businesses should be able to make their own decisions about requiring masks.
“I support the wearing of the mask; I support social distancing; I support avoiding mass gatherings and would encourage everybody to follow those things,” Meyers said. “I'm not sure that a mandate from government is necessary.”
Under the order, businesses are required to post signage stating that face masks are required inside and can deny service to customers who are not wearing face coverings. Businesses are responsible for ensuring employees and customers are abiding by the order, and businesses in violation of the order may be subject to a $500 fine.
Masks are not required when outdoors, while eating or drinking, or when doing so poses a mental or physical health risk.
Several members of the community, including local business owners, spoke both for and against the mask requirement during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Jeffrey Boney, a Missouri City Council member who is recovering from the coronavirus, said mask wearing should not be a partisan issue.
“I believe that wearing a mask in a business is a good way—a great way—to prevent an entire workforce from getting infected,” Boney said. “In the long term, it will be much better financially to have people mask up for businesses than to not do so.”
Fort Bend County is reporting a total of 3,782 cases of the coronavirus countywide, according to data available at 3:30 p.m. June 30. The county is reporting 1,323 people have recovered from the virus, and 54 have died from it. Based on this information, the county has an active case count of 2,405.