CASSANDRA JENKINS — Mask ordinance allows nonessential businesses to remain open

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is pleading with residents of the U.S.’ second largest state to stay home as coronavirus cases reach an all-time high.

In his most recent statement on Friday, Abbott took executive action to contain the spread of COVID-19 by limiting certain services:

  • All bars were required to close.
  • Restaurant may remain open for dine-in service but at a capacity not to exceed 50 percent of occupancy.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local government, with some exceptions.

Below his order, Abbott asked Texans to continue wearing a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart and stay home if they can.

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“I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again,” he said.

In the comments section of one of his social media posts, many people ridiculed the governor’s actions calling the order a “disappointment,” “ridiculous” and even “unjust.”

Unfortunately, it’s too late to ask a community locked indoors for several months to not flock to the nearest open restaurant, bowling alley, boutique or golf course.

If establishments are open, people are going to take advantage of them simply because they can.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, possibly in anticipation of the governor’s order, enacted a mandatory mask policy last week for his constituents.

In a letter to the citizens of Jefferson County, Branick defended his order with a list of reasons concerning health, safety and economy.

Although many are unhappy with the charge, the mandate allows nonessential businesses in the community to remain open so local families can continue to pay for bills, groceries, college tuitions and more.

“We are in the midst of the largest spread that we have seen thus far, and to prevent another shutdown of ‘nonessential’ businesses and to keep our hospital system from becoming overwhelmed, I am acting on the best available information,” Branick wrote. “Those ‘nonessential’ businesses have families to feed and mortgages to pay and I want them to be able to do that without having to worry if they are at some point going to have to depend on unemployment benefits, if they are even available to them. I will lift the order as soon as I possibly can, but in the meantime I pray for your cooperation.”

Branick extended that ordinance through July 7 as positive cases in the county continue to rise.

While some continue to praise the judge for his forward thinking, others who feel trapped by the masks condemn all that he stands for. Whether you are on either end, one needs to stop and consider what another statewide shutdown would do to our community.

Restaurants will close, boutiques will empty and salons will shutter. We may get those businesses back and another owner may take the place, but for those families they may not recover.

Mask up isn’t about health vs. economy or Republican vs. Democrat. It’s about saving the community we all live in and caring for our neighbors.

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at