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Op-Ed: Wear the mask

Dawn Burleigh,
General Manager/Editor

Last week, Governor Gregg Abbot required face coverings in public statewide. While many agree and wear one willingly, there are others who are not happy and complaining on infringements on their civil rights.

The Governor also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.

We ran scenarios at the office in case one of us became exposed. Sadly, it is becoming more of when and not if we are exposed.

While I will be the first to admit that wearing a mask is very uncomfortable, especially in the heat and humidity of our area, I will wear one in public.

I have no idea who may have a young infant at home too young to have it’s first set of immunizations so at a vulnerable state of no immune system at all. Or, the spouse who is shopping because their love is home with a compromised immune system due to a health condition. Or the caregiver of an elderly person who is already in a weaken state.

What if the person I run into is related to any of those aforementioned?

Reality has shown that even at the grocery store, people had already lost sight of the fact that we are still supposed to be social distancing, and some reflected the lack of knowledge of how to measure out six feet.

A few good rules to follow for what six feet looks like are:

The average width of a sedan

The length of a couch

The height of a door

Two shopping carts

“Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Abbott. “We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another—and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces. I urge all Texans to wear a face covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”

For the sake of our community, friends, families and neighbors, wear a mask and stay at least six feet apart.

According to Abbott’s proclamation:

Every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; provided, however, that this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following:

  1. any person younger than 10 years of age;
  2. any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
  3. any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;
  4. any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;
  5. any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;
  6. any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal-care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal;
  7. any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water;
  8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;
  9. any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;
  10. any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience; or
  11. any person in a county (a) that meets the requisite criteria promulgated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and (b) whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form—provided, however, that wearing a face covering is highly recommended, and every county is strongly encouraged to follow these face-covering standards.

Not excepted from this face-covering requirement is any person attending a protest or demonstration involving more than 10 people and who is not practicing safe social distancing of six feet from other people not in the same household.

TDEM shall maintain on its website a list of counties that are not subject to this face-covering requirement pursuant to paragraph number 11.  The list can be found at: www.tdem.texas.gov/ga29.

Following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of this face-covering requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.  Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.

Dawn Burleigh is general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com