UPDATE 6/25/20 6:18 PM: David McClelland, chief of staff for Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, tells Texas Scorecard that enforcing Tarrant commissioners’ mask mandate is “a low priority for us because it’s not going to affect the majority of what we do.”

UPDATE 6/25/20 5:03 PM: The City of Colleyville announced they will not participate in enforcing Tarrant commissioners’ mask mandate. Sources told Texas Scorecard law enforcement officers in Tarrant County are refusing to enforce the mandate and Justices of the Peace in the county will not uphold any fines the county issues to businesses for violating the mandate. 

Spokesman for the Tarrant Commissioners Court, County Judge Glen Whitley, signed an emergency order mandating masks, causing uproar from the grassroots but praise from Dallas’ top Democrat. Tarrant’s public health director earlier showed since mid-May deaths from the Chinese coronavirus are declining.

At a Thursday morning press conference, joined by Mayors Ken Shetter of Burleson, Jeff Williams of Arlington, and Betsy Price of Fort Worth (she joined digitally), Whitley announced a mask mandate for businesses to enforce or be fined. “We are going to require that all the employees as well as all of the visitors wear masks,” he said.

Businesses will face a $1,000 fine per violation if they don’t start requiring masks within five calendar days of the order taking effect. This doesn’t apply if there’s “a significant mental or physical health risk to the individual.”

For groups over 100, if there can’t be social distancing, masks are required.

The grassroots aren’t happy. “Guess I’ll be shopping and dining in Denton County,” True Texas Project CEO Julie McCarty posted.

“I may have to find a temporary residence somewhere else,” wrote JM Lawrence.

“I won’t be bullied into this nonsense or made to feel bad because I won’t shop locally,” said Heather Gill.

Tuesday, Tarrant’s Public Health Director, Dr. Vinny Taneja, said although cases are rising, fewer are dying from the virus.

Recoveries are outweighing deaths—211 have tragically died compared to 4,513 reported recoveries.

Only 8 percent of hospital beds in Tarrant were occupied by coronavirus patients as of Tuesday.

Taneja reported younger people showing a higher resilience to the virus, as opposed to older ones. “If you are over 65, you are high-risk. If you have underlying conditions, you are high-risk,” he said. “The death burden is high on that population.”

The order goes into effect 6 p.m. on Friday, June 26, until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3.

Dallas’ Democrat County Judge Clay Jenkins praised the order.

Whitley said commissioners can revisit the order before then.

This article has been updated since publication.

Robert Montoya

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