Keeping wearing your mask, local and state health officials say

In a week, the statewide mask mandate is history, but some state and local officials say...
In a week, the statewide mask mandate is history, but some state and local officials say they’re hoping residents will keep their masks on.(Megan Vanselow)
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 7:11 PM CST
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BELL COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - Local and state health officials still say they want residents to wear masks and Bell County Judge David Blackburn says he agrees.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order Tuesday lifting most of the restrictions included in earlier orders including the statewide mask mandate and restrictions on business capacity.

Blackburn says the announcement didn’t come as a surprise.

“The driving factor and motivation behind his orders has been tied to hospitalization rate in the state of Texas,” Blackburn said.

The current hospitalization rate in the state Trauma Service Area that includes Bell County is about 7.5%.

Should it go above 15%, Abbott’s order would allow Blackburn to restrict businesses to 50% capacity.

Blackburn declined to comment on whether he would act if that happened.

“Let’s hope we don’t get there, let’s hope the hospitalization stays low and continues to drop,” Blackburn said.

The operators of one local business that opened during the pandemic and then was forced to close repeatedly as a result of local, state and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission orders, say they’re worried the bar and brewery industry would be targeted again if cases go up.

“I’m always worried about it. It was done once, the precedent was set so it could happen again,” Fire Base Brewing co-owner, JD McBride said.

Blackburn says it’s clear the governor wants Texans to decide for themselves if they want to wear masks.

“I think what the governor did yesterday was chart a path to where personal responsibility was, in his mind, the best way forward for the protection of public health,” Blackburn said Wednesday.

For McBride, that portion of the order was welcome news.

As a veteran-owned business, he says the option to choose is what they’ve asked for all along.

“So many people put their life on the lone for our choice to do something. So, if its someone’s choice to come in here without a mask then that’s what they get to do. Whether that’s good for business or not, I don’t know, I guess we’ll find out,” McBride said.

“I’m a huge supporter of people being able to make their own decisions for their own safety.”

Blackburn says he’s turning to local health officials to advise residents how to act.

He says they’re telling him masks are still needed.

“I’ve been on the phone with people in the health industry {since the news came out} and I didn’t hear any of them change their position on the efficacy or the need for those measures,” Blackburn said.

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