Just days after Denton County declined to issue a face mask mandate because the coronavirus data didn’t warrant such a measure, the City of Denton imposed its own mask order on local businesses.

On Friday, Denton City Council approved an order putting the burden on businesses to “develop and implement” policies that require employees and visitors to wear face coverings. The order applies to all commercial and nonprofit entities that deal directly with the public.

Violations may be enforced by Denton police officers, building enforcement officers, zoning compliance officers, or community improvement services officers.

City officials also set up a snitch line for Denton residents to report businesses to authorities:

“Beginning on Thursday, July 2, residents may report concerns regarding potential violations of this order through the Engage Denton mobile application, online at www.engagedenton.com, or by calling and leaving a message at (940) 349-8228. When concerns are received, the City will assign staff to visit with businesses and focus on educating and communicating the requirements of the Order and other potential health and safety measures that could be implemented.”

The order took effect on June 26 and extends through August 4.

Denton businesses have until Wednesday to post policies mandating all employees and visitors wear masks that cover their nose and mouth when in close contact with others. Businesses can include exceptions for “operational needs” in their policies.

Masks aren’t required if they pose a “significant mental or physical health risk to the individual” or if an individual is “consuming a food or beverage or receiving a service where the wearing of a face covering would impair the performance of the service.”

In other public spaces where social distancing is difficult, the city “strongly urged” everyone 10 years or older to wear face coverings, which may include homemade masks, scarves, bandanas, or a handkerchief.

The city’s order came three days after Denton County commissioners decided against mandating face masks. County officials determined last Tuesday that the local COVID-19 case and hospitalization data didn’t warrant such a measure—though they encouraged residents to wear masks and continue taking other precautions.

“To prevent COVID is much more than masks,” said County Judge Andy Eads. “It is lifestyle changes, courtesy to others. … There are many steps we can take.”

Denton resident Jennifer Long Moulton told Texas Scorecard she follows the virus numbers daily and does not see a need for her city or county officials to force the issue.

“Tyranny will not stand here in Texas,” Moulton said.

Neighboring Dallas and Tarrant counties are among the many localities that have imposed mask orders similar to Denton’s on businesses, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave local officials the green light earlier this month. Dallas’ Democrat County Judge Clay Jenkins is now calling on Abbott to issue a statewide mask mandate.

Denton commissioners may reconsider a countywide mask order this week. Democrats including State Rep. Michelle Beckley (Carrollton) have called on the all-Republican court to follow Dallas County and force mask-wearing. Moulton said residents who oppose a mandate should speak out.

The agenda for the Denton County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, June 30, at 9:00 a.m. includes information on submitting public comments.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.