As a fourth McLennan County city Monday ordered face coverings to be worn in businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19, other cities waited direction from county leaders, who punted on the decision.
McLennan County Commissioners voted at a special meeting Monday to delay a decision on a mask mandate until their meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. The delay came after Commissioners Ben Perry and Will Jones balked at the measure as burdensome on business.
Meanwhile on Monday, the city of Mart joined Waco, Hewitt and Woodway in requiring businesses to ensure that employees and visitors wear face coverings, or face a $1,000 daily fine.
County Judge Scott Felton has the authority to issue a similar order countywide on an emergency basis, but commissioners could overturn the order, and Felton said he has not considered using that authority.
“It would have to be ratified by the commissioners court, so it didn’t make much sense to issue an order without their support,” he said. “I would like to work this out with everybody staying on one team.”
Bell County commissioners on Monday modified County Judge David Blackburn’s order that required business to enforce the wearing of masks if social distancing is not possible. They stripped away mandatory requirements and penalties and said masks are “strongly recommended.”
In McLennan County, Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Jones said business has suffered enough and mandating that locations serve as community watchdogs is going too far.
“I have a real problem with fining a business $1,000 for non-compliance when they have a customer refusing to wear a mask, especially if they’re trying to attract customers to their business,” Jones said. “We’re already asking a lot of them. We’ve shut some of them down. Now to ask for a fine that size . . . that’s onerous. I encourage people to wear masks, follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines and use common sense.”
Perry, the Precinct 4 commissioner, said the county shouldn’t rush into a mandate on face coverings.
“This is not a debate over whether masks do or do not work,” he said. “The opinions I’ve heard lead me to believe they can be effective. But look at what’s already been done: Waco, Woodway and Hewitt put an order in place covering 62% of the county population and 75% of businesses in the county. Counting those who commute to work, the population number increases to 70% to 75% being under order at least eight hours a day.”
He said the county acted “hurriedly” to enact sheltering in place, and probably should have considered other options. He said he knows of businesses “barely hanging on, stressed and financially stretched thin,” and he’s reluctant to toss the burden of enforcement into the mix.
Perry owns two Shipley’s Do-Nuts locations and said in an interview his lobby traffic has been devastated by COVID-19-inspired restrictions.
“Waco, Woodway, Hewitt, they put orders in place that I support,” Perry said. “An individual city may choose to take action if need be. But today — and this could change tomorrow, as this is a dynamic situation — I don’t feel a mandate from the county is in their best interest.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Pat Miller voted to defer action on masks, but said commissioners “have a moral obligation to address public safety. We need to do something. In the final analysis, we’ll be held accountable if we don’t.”
Officials in Robinson, West, McGregor and Bellmead said Monday they’re inclined to wait on a sign from McLennan County government before proceeding.
“I was literally just drafting a letter,” said Bellmead City Manager Yost Zakhary, reached by Monday afternoon. “We are going to follow what the county will do. In the meantime, we will be encouraging residents to do what they feel comfortable doing. Wear a mask if a business asks you to wear a mask. Please abide by the rules of that business. I see no difference in this and a restaurant saying, ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service.’”
Zakhary said he was not speaking for the Bellmead City Council.
“We have six personalities, and I don’t dare speak for them,” he said.
Zakhary said he made a point of visiting multiple stores over the weekend in Bellmead and Waco and uncovered no consensus on mask-wearing.
“It was probably 50/50, as many wearing as not wearing,” he said.
McGregor City Manager Kevin Evans said he does not know if or when the city council there will take up the matter, not that it matters.
“The way our order is written, we mirror what the county does,” Evans said. “As long as we comply, we don’t have to meet again.”
Robinson City Manager Craig Lemin said city government there “is waiting on commissioners,” but the Robinson City Council may take up the matter in coming weeks. He said council members have requested more information about their role, and the county’s, in dictating policy to business owners.
“You can refuse service to someone not wearing a mask, but what if they’re determined to force their way inside?” said Lemin. “You risk making hourly employees gatekeepers. Not that we don’t feel everyone needs to be wearing masks, but it’s a matter of enforcement. Most businesses in Robinson are requiring masks. They recognize the severity, and want to protect their employees and customers. Enforcement is a difficult situation.”
West Mayor Tommy Muska said his city also would defer to the county. He said he would not impose a requirement to wear masks in West.
He said he strongly urges people, especially seniors, to wear masks, but thinks they are smart enough to assess the risk for themselves.
5 tips for wearing face masks in hot weather
Choose your material
Wearing a mask can be hot and make breathing feel more difficult. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure your mask is reasonably breathable to help both increase comfort and decrease the impulse to touch the mask to adjust it — which is a big no-no when out and about.
“You want a breathable fabric,” says Nicole Jochym, a third-year medical student at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University who works with the Sew Face Masks Philadelphia organization. Her recommendation: Using a mask that is made from 100% cotton. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, good options include woven cotton sheets and T-shirt fabric.
While cotton isn’t moisture-wicking, she says, it’s more breathable than synthetic fabrics like polyester, and it could make masks more comfortable in the heat. Avoid filters, Jochym adds, because they are often made from synthetic materials, and can make masks hotter and harder to breathe through.
Check the fit
Your mask should be somewhat snug on your face, but you don’t want it to be so tight that it’s uncomfortable or difficult to breathe through. To solve that issue, says Carrie L. Kovarik, an associate professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, try out different masks, or use one that has adjustable ties.
“A tie mask probably would be better. Elastic straps can be irritating behind the ear,” she says. “Don’t put it on so tight that you can’t breathe.”
Jochym seconds that, saying that Sew Face Masks Philadelphia encourages using ties because they are adjustable. “Every face shape is different,” she adds; ties have the potential for a better, more comfortable fit.
Cloth masks, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has noted, should not be worn when they become damp or wet, which could cause issues in the summer, when we’re all sweating more heavily. Because cotton masks will absorb sweat when you wear them, Jochym says, it is important to have several clean ones available to use.
“In Philadelphia’s hot and humid summers, it could be difficult to get around with just one,” she says. “You have to be able to switch it out as it gets damp on the inside.”
Kovarik adds that health-care workers are often advised to take a 15-minute break from wearing their mask every two hours to give their skin time to air out, which could mean using several masks per day. If you plan to swap your mask, she says, do it at home, or if that is not possible, in an area without other people. “You don’t want to take it off in the middle of everything,” she says.
And always follow proper mask removal techniques, including washing your hands and not touching the front of the mask.
Limit how long you wear one
If hot weather makes wearing a mask uncomfortable, try to limit the amount of time you need to wear one. Masks, the CDC says, should be worn in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” such as grocery stores and pharmacies.
“Think about when wearing a mask is necessary, and not wearing one when it is not needed,” Kovarik says. You may not need one when driving alone in your car, or sitting solo on your porch — as long as you are maintaining proper social distancing.
To help keep your mask time to a minimum, Jochym says, try planning effective routes to your destination, or plan your trips around the number of masks that you have available. And do not wear your mask off your nose when out in public.
Take care of your skin
Hot summer weather can cause moisture to build up under a mask, which can irritate your skin (similar to a diaper rash) Kovarik says. That problem, however, may be less common for people wearing cloth masks compared to health-care workers wearing less-breathable surgical or N95 masks.
“In hot weather, you will have a lot of moisture under there, and the skin can break down a little more,” she says. “Moisture from breath or heat builds up, and you can get a rash.”
If your skin does become irritated due to using a mask, Kovarik recommends using a noncomedogenic (non-pore-blocking) moisturizer — and avoid products like petroleum jelly. Apply your preferred salve after wearing a mask to help repair skin.
Additionally, Kovarik recommends not wearing makeup under a mask, as it could further clog your pores.
©2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.