The City of Denton has joined other North Texas communities in issuing a new mask order as COVID-19 cases increase.
Starting Saturday, face masks are required at all businesses within the city of Denton. The ordinance requires that all employees or visitors of any business or nonprofit organization wear face covers that cover the nose and mouth when in close contact or close to co-workers or the public.
Renee Thompson of Krum said she visits Denton almost every day.
“Since we don’t all want to stay home for the rest of our lives, wear the mask,” said Thompson. “It’s hot and it stinks. It is summer and 100 degrees. No one wants to use them, but if that’s what tramples on it where we can all come back to life as usual, then that’s what we have to do. “
The order was adopted by the Denton City Council on Friday afternoon. That same day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a new executive order that closed bars across the state at noon and reduced reopening phases.
Dr. Rajesh Nandy is an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center. He said Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties are experiencing surges related to the new coronavirus.
“We are confident that we are experiencing a sudden increase. The magnitude of the increase has not yet been determined, but all I can say is that the indications are not good at the moment,” Nandy said. “I’m not saying it’s a huge increase right now, but I would actually be reluctant to call it ‘mini’ right now based on the numbers I’ve seen in the past three or four days.”
Nandy is part of a team that monitors the impact of COVID-19 in North Texas during the pandemic. The report includes the number of new cases, but is based on hospitalization and emergency room data. According to Nandy, those data are more “robust” and reliable.
When asked who was responsible for the recent increase in cases and hospitalizations, Nandy said the increased testing was only part of it.
“The positivity of the test is still approximately 10% in our area. That means that although we have increased it [testing] above, we’re probably not testing enough yet. We are doing better than when we started, “he said. “Possible reasons are that people’s mobility increased significantly. Number two is, that again it is difficult to capture with how much it actually caused it, is that we know that there have been many protests and other gatherings at the time of the social unrest. We also know, as it is established, that large gatherings can cause a spread. ”
Nandy added, in his opinion, the most important contributing factor has been the lack of use of masks.
“There has been anecdotal evidence at the local level that once the zipper was lifted, people wore masks quite a bit. Although mobility increased, people were trying to meet the guidelines in terms of social distancing by wearing masks and things like that, “he said.” As people got more and more comfortable and there was no obvious bad news in terms of a surge or big hospitalizations and things like that, I think people gradually started not to stick to all the guidelines. “
In Denton, resident Ismael Álvarez said he had no problem wearing a mask if a business or the city asked him to. However, he said it has not been part of his normal routine.
“If they ask me, I don’t care. Besides that, I personally don’t, ”she said. “Talking to the doctors I know about the offices we work in, they really told me that it is not much more than if I am sick. If I know I’m sick, it could spread to other people, but right now … I don’t know if I have COVID. “
Shawntel Coleman of Denton said he has been wearing a mask in public frequently for the past three months. For her, the new city ordinance does not have a major impact on her daily routine.
“We made masks, we bought masks. We try to support as many local businesses as we can because we know it’s been financially difficult for everyone, “Coleman said.” It’s not about me. It’s about other people. I do it to protect my mom, my dad and my grandparents to prevent them from getting sick. ”
Under the ordinance, signs must be posted at all building entrances that indicate the mask requirement.
The order also states that the mask requirement “does not apply if covering the nose and mouth poses a significant risk to the person’s mental or physical health. Nor does it apply when a person consumes food or drink or receives a service where the wearing a face covering would impair service performance. “
The mask order went into effect at 11:59 pm on Friday and will remain in effect until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, August 4.
All businesses and nonprofits within the Denton city limits must comply with the request by 11:59 pm on Wednesday.
Starting Thursday, anyone can report concerns about possible order violations through the Engage Denton mobile app, online at www.engagedenton.com, or by calling and leaving a message at (940) 349-8228.
COVID-19 Case Tracking in North Texas Counties
NBC 5 is tracking the number of COVID-19 related cases, recoveries and deaths in North Texas counties. Choose a county and click on a city or town to see how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your area.
Facts: county health departments, NBC 5 staff
Nina Lin / NBC