Mayor Bob Brown and the city of Lufkin have issued an emergency advisory directive calling on people to wear masks while in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The advisory calls for commercial establishments to post a sign requiring anyone over the age of 10 to wear some kind of covering over their nose and mouth while in the establishment.
We wish we could say we’re surprised, but we’re not.
Likewise, we wish we could say it wasn’t necessary, but we can’t.
We should all be prepared for state and local public health orders to be extended, amended or changed as needed to protect public health. That means Gov. Greg Abbott could mandate more aggressive restrictions such as making masks mandatory in lieu of reducing occupancy rates or shuttering businesses.
His executive order states ‘‘no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.” That also could just as easily change.
In a sense, it already has.
Local officials lobbied for stronger rules on masks, crowds and social distancing all along. But state leaders thought they had the rules and protocols in place to ‘‘manage’’ a safe reopening.
We’ll never know if they did or not. What we do know is that some businesses didn’t follow the rules appropriately, and as a result they were too crowded, which contributed to the virus’ spread. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has started revoking licenses to serve alcohol for a 30-day period to bars, restaurants and other settings that are not following the state’s COVID-19 protocols.
The mask order also establishes a level playing field for all businesses, ensuring they are following the same standards. Like it or not, businesses need this. If they can’t provide a safe space for their customers, those customers may never return.
As of Monday morning, the state was reporting 148,723 cases, 2,393 fatalities and an estimated 79,974 recoveries. COVID-19 cases have been reported in 244 of Texas’ 254 counties. Those 10 counties without a case have a combined population of 8,305, according to 2019 Census estimates. That list includes the three least-populated counties in the state and Nos. 2, 3 and 4 on the list of least populated counties in the country.
“Ultimately, it is the individual responsibility of each person to protect themselves, their families, and others in our community,’’ Brown said in announcing his emergency directive. ‘‘We are asking our commercial establishments and residents to work together to help us get through this difficult time.’’
It’s incumbent upon each of us to make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent getting or transmitting COVID-19.