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Lifting mask mandate doesn't change much in some rural Texas counties

In Mason and Fayette counties, many businesses are still requiring masks while government buildings just recommend them.

FAYETTE COUNTY, Texas — Between March 4 and March 11, rural counties saw only a slight uptick in new coronavirus cases compared to urban counties, according to data from Texas Department of State Health Services.

A day after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate, many businesses in Mason and Fayette counties kept their signs up requiring masks be worn inside.

"I just hope that we come out of this COVID thing and that masks aren't, you know, the difference between another spike and just vaccinating everyone and getting this over with once and for all," Dave Oldham, a volunteer at one of the antique shops in the Fayette County courthouse square, said.

The Emergency Management Coordinator for Fayette County said the mask mandate has a very literal change, but not much actually will be affected.

"We have very intelligent, very well-thought-out people in our community that can make good decisions, and the government's job is not to tell them what to do every little step of the way," Craig Moreau said.

Over the past week, Fayette County has had 22 cases per DSHS data. The county is leaving it up to cities and private businesses to require masks, as the county no longer will in their facilities.

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"The motto for us is, be polite, be courteous and do things that make sense," Moreau said. "My thought for this whole thing is that if we would have done a really good job of educating people on why hygiene mechanisms such as the masks were important, we wouldn't have had to make a law."

In Mason County, health leaders tallied only two new COVID-19 positive cases in the past week. Judge Jerry Bearden said he's still encouraging people to wear a mask, but also won't push back on requiring it.

"We've also allowed businesses to go to 100% capacity if they wish to, leave it up to all of them," Bearden said. "It doesn't really affect things a whole lot because, you know, 75% to 100% in a small town like ours is not going to fill [up your business] anyways."

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