BELL COUNTY, Texas — Bell County Commissioners voted Monday to change the wording of a directive issued by County Judge David Blackburn that made businesses require masks from "mandatory" to "strongly encouraged."
Bell County Commissioner Bobby Whitson posted to Facebook there is also no longer any law enforcement or penalty associated with the order.
Directive Seven, which required the use of face masks for businesses including their employees and customers, went into effect at midnight Monday.
Blackburn issued the order June 24. He said the largest private health care provider in the county advised him they had the largest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began.
"Baylor Scott and White expressed concern about hospital capacity in Bell County," said Blackburn. "That is one of the reasons I issued the directive."
Prior to the meeting Blackburn issued a statement reading in part, "Today, the Court modified Directive #8. The modification removed the mandatory provisions in the Directive, as well as the penalty provision in the Directive. In its place, the Court substituted “strongly recommended.” Hence, there is no mandatory provisions in place for any business in Bell County at this time relating to face coverings."
Now it is up to business owners whether or not they want to make the use of masks mandatory, this change leaves many frustrated.
"We put out information and then we have to pull it all back and put new information out," said Adrian Mertz the GM of T3/ The Gym in Temple. "A lot of information does get lost in that process so I understand why people are frustrated."
A managing partner of Spare Time Texas Richard Heim is also not happy, and said in a statement, "Frankly we are getting so confused by our government leaders. Our team members are all wearing masks and we are strongly encouraging our guests to wear them, but not require them. All of our other safety measures remain in place."
At this time the order is set to expire on July 13, but can be modified at next Monday's commissioner's meeting.
As of June 26, the Bell County Public Health District reported 1,022 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 12 deaths. 377 people had recovered and there were 633 active cases. The positivity rate was 4.18%.