New declaration requires employees, but not patrons, to wear masks

Jun 26, 2020

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope issued a new disaster declaration Friday afternoon that tasks certain employees in town with properly wearing facial coverings, effective Monday. 

The declaration comes after a week of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in Lubbock. Pope said the positive test rate, which tripled in about 10 days, concerns him the most. 

The order advises all businesses in town to "implement a health and safety policy that all employees wear facial coverings when in an area where social distancing of at least six feet is not feasible."

The city will not penalize a business for not adhering to the policy. State orders have said no individual can be fined for not wearing a mask, though other Texas counties are fining businesses for not enforcing masking.

The enforceability, or lack of it, was a reason Pope gave earlier in the week for not mandating facial coverings, as previously reported by Texas Tech Public Media

This does not include churches or schools, pursuant to state guidelines. Texas Tech University announced earlier in the week that faculty, staff  and students are required to wear masks on campus. 

Before declaring the order, there were two options for who would be required to wear a mask. One required both employees and patrons to mask up. Another, the chosen version, just asked this of employees. 

Three city council members were in favor of requiring both employees and visitors to wear masks - District 1 City Councilman Juan Chadis, District 4 Councilman Steve Massengale and District 6 Councilwoman Latrelle Joy. 

District 3 Councilman Jeff Griffith and District 5 Councilman Randy Christian were for the employee-only option, as was Pope who had the final say. District 2 Councilwoman Shelia Patterson-Harris was not in attendance. 

Pope said business owners have been through a lot in the past 100 plus days. Making them enforcers of a mask mandate, really the only option under current state guidelines, did not seem fair, he said. 

With no repercussions, Pope said the declaration is different from previous guidelines because it specifically calls out masking. 

The voluntary Lubbock Safe program, which over 800 businesses have pledged to be a part of, already strongly recommends face coverings for all employees and for all customers entering any business.

The declaration also included guidance on outdoor events. Outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people must be approved by the city and when social distancing is not possible, attendees must wear a facial covering. 

Individuals and employees at city facilities are also required to wear masks. 

Friday morning, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars as a way to slow the spread of highly-contagious COVID-19. Restaurants will return to 50% occupancy limits on Monday.