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Waco to require masks in businesses, public spaces

Waco to require masks in businesses, public spaces

From the Trib Top 25: Our most-read stories of 2020 series

Waco businesses must require employees and visitors to wear masks or other face coverings when multiple people are in the same room, according to an order Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver issued Friday night.

The order, effective Saturday, also requires anyone age 10 or older to wear a mask when in a public place where maintaining 6 feet of separation would be difficult. Homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas, or a handkerchiefs can serve as face coverings.

The order mandates that any business selling goods or services to the public within city limits create and post a COVID-19 health and safety policy by Wednesday that includes a requirement for masks. Failure to post and enforce the policy would result in a fine of up to $1,000 per day of violation, according to the order. No fine or enforcement mechanism is included for the requirement that the general public wear masks.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that local governments could create laws requiring businesses to require masks.

The order also comes after a seven-day period when McLennan County’s count of residents with active COVID-19 infections went from 25 to 118 and when a fifth county resident died of the disease. He was a 46-year-old man with no underlying health conditions, according to a city press release.

“At a minimum, this policy must require all employees or visitors to the entity’s premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which involves close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public where 6 feet of separation is not feasible,” the press release states.

The order lists several exceptions for the requirement to wear masks, including:

  • When exercising outside or engaging in physical activity outside
  • While driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver
  • When doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk
  • While pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment
  • While in a building or participating in an activity that requires security surveillance, screening, or identification, for example, banks; and
  • When consuming food or drink.

“Please note that face coverings are a secondary strategy to other mitigation efforts,” the order states. “Face coverings are not a replacement for physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and self-isolation when sick. All people should follow CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations for how to wear and take off a mask. Residents should keep up the following habits while in public: washing hands before you leave home and when you return, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding touching nose or face, not using disposable masks more than three times, and washing reusable cloth masks regularly to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The order recommends medical masks and N-95 respirators be reserved for medical workers and first responders.

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