Face covering

Lake Jackson, Clute and Manvel joined Pearland in mandating Friday that businesses in their cities require employees and patrons to wear masks following a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in Brazoria County.

Adopting similar restrictions, all commercial establishments that provide goods or services within city limits must mandate masks starting 12:01 a.m. Monday, according to the orders. Manvel’s order is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. July 5, Clute’s on July 12 and Lake Jackson’s is indefinite.

Pearland Mayor Tom Reid issued an identical order Thursday, becoming the county’s first municipality to mandate people wear masks. Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta has said he doesn’t intend to issue a countywide mask requirement.

Industry leaders told Lake Jackson Mayor Bob Sipple they were struggling with people coming in with potential exposures to coronavirus, Sipple said.

“Internally they’re fine, but there are people coming in from the outside that they’re struggling with,” he said.

Sipple had to figure out how to do something that was enforceable, since he could not mandate everyone in the city wear a mask, he said. He wanted to do what he could to help, and requiring businesses to post signs that employees and guests must wear masks is something effective and permitted by the governor’s office, Sipple said.

Most of the cities drafted a similar version of Pearland’s mask ordinance, which is similar to Harris County’s order, Lake Jackson City Manager Bill Yenne said.

Lake Jackson’s order does not require masks to be worn outside, when doing so poses a health, safety or security risk, while pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment, when exercising or when eating or drinking, which was an addition from the city attorney, Yenne said.

There was industry and public pressure to do something, along with the city’s number of cases doubling in a week, he said.

“It was building, the number of cases just went berserk,” Yenne said.

Lake Jackson had 41 active cases and 27 recovered for a total of 68 as of Friday.

The decision to mandate masks was a difficult one, Clute City Manager CJ Snipes said.

“If that’s what it takes to slow the spread and keep the economy open, then we will do what is necessary,” he said.

All people in commercial establishments are mandated to wear masks within the city, Mayor Calvin Shiflet said. The order applies to people older than 10.

“Even outside, given the recent surge of cases, everyone still needs to be social distant and it would be highly recommended to wear a mask,” Shiflet said.

Looking at the number of cases the city had over the past several weeks per capita, Shiflet said, Clute’s infection rate is very high.

“If we don’t do something to get the virus under control, there is a distinct possibility of another lockdown and I would rather wear masks than have everybody locked down again,” Shiflet said.

“Our small business owners have already been through a hard enough time. We want to definitely keep them open as much as possible.”

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It is about time. However, if city officials wanted to do what they could to help local businesses, they would have taken this step two of three weeks ago when it became clear that more than half of the citizens wanted to mill around stores while refusing to take even the most basic step to protect others.

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