While other local officials are fighting for the power to mandate masks, elected officials in Dallas and Fort Worth are siding with citizens.

Fort Worth City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday against mandating masks on city properties. Voting against mandates were Mayor Mattie Parker and Councilmembers Cary Moon, Michael Crain, Leonard Firestone, Gyna Bivens. Carlos Flores and Jared Williams voted in support of the mandates with Chris Nettles and Elizabeth Beck, who put the item on Tuesday’s agenda.

Nettles indicated that if the city building mandate had passed, it could have led to a citywide mandate, which he wants. “We’re going to start here,” he said.

Similarly, Dallas City Council isn’t mandating masks on city property. “In city-owned buildings, physical distancing and mask-wearing are strongly encouraged, even for those who have been fully vaccinated,” Page Jones, public affairs officer with the city, told Texas Scorecard.

Dallas City Council hasn’t even considered mask mandates yet, despite flare-ups in Fort Worth and Dallas County. Earlier this month, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson’s office was asked if he intended to mandate masks. “The mayor intends to encourage vaccinations,” Tristan Hallman, Johnson’s chief of policy and communications, replied. “He also encourages the governor to put public health first as he issues his orders. And the mayor intends to follow the law as our city attorney instructs.”

Johnson did not join a Friday livestream of Democrat local officials fighting Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.

Masks and face coverings weren’t on the council’s August 11 agenda, nor are they mentioned in this week’s council briefing. There is still no citywide mask mandate to accompany Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ contested countywide mandate.

Citizens Speak Out

A number of citizens told the Fort Worth City Council to vote the mandate down. “You’re taking away my rights to come into a city council meeting if I don’t wear a mask,” Al Alu said. “You want to defy Gov. Abbott’s orders, but you don’t want us to defy your orders.”

“Healthcare is a personal decision,” said Abby Anderson. “People should be free to wear masks and not wear masks as they believe in for their health and well-being.”

A council majority listened. “I’m not going to support this motion. I view it as political theater,” Moon said. “I view it as encroachment on civil liberties.”

“I don’t think a political statement right now is beneficial to the citizens of Fort Worth,” Parker said.

“My thoughts are the impact on the people we will be imposing this on,” Bivens said. “I’m just not ready to support this.”

Flores and Beck argued for masks on the basis of safety and fighting the Chinese coronavirus. “We did flatten the curve with good mitigation measures,” Flores said. “Mask-wearing, up to 65 percent, offer[s] some level of protection.”

Another citizen, who wants a citywide mandate, echoed claims that science supports such policies. “This is about science, not politics,” Doyle Fine said.

The Science

Last year, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) tested mask effectiveness against the Chinese coronavirus. It found no “statistically significant” difference in infection rates between those who did and didn’t wear masks. RCTs are considered the “gold standard of medical research.” A 2020 Center for Disease Control study also found masks were not effective in stopping the spread of the flu (a virus similar in size to the coronavirus).

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.