By Carlos Morales
When the Presidio City Council voted Wednesday night to extend its local disaster declaration for another week, it added a new measure: all residents entering a local business or public space must now wear a facial covering. The local order follows similar orders across the state, including ones in Austin, Dallas and most recently Houston.
As Texas Gov. Greg Abbott looks to re-open the state’s economy and lift restrictions, Presidio Mayor John Ferguson says the face mask requirement is a needed precaution — especially if the Big Bend region begins to see visitors traveling to the area.
“We just feel like now is not the time to become more lenient, but actually maybe get a little bit more serious about this,” said Ferguson. “[T]here could be more people coming through our town that are from other areas.”
State leadership, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, has called recent facial covering requirements “confused government policies.” Patrick has specifically said Harris County’s order, which goes into effect next week, is “the ultimate government overreach.”
For weeks now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people wear cloth face coverings when in public areas like grocery stores or businesses in order to slow asymptomatic coronavirus carriers from unknowingly transmitting the virus.
The Presidio order applies to all customers and employees, anyone not abiding by the mandate could face a fine up to $1,000.
Following the city’s announcement of the new measure, some residents applauded the move while others wondered if the city would be providing the masks. Ferguson says the city’s budget is “pretty razor-thin as it stands already” and that the city doesn’t have the capacity to buy a mask for everyone — and that budgetary capacity could tighten even further in the coming days. As the Big Bend Sentinel reported this week, Presidio’s government could see a shortfall near 25% of its annual budget.
When it comes to facial coverings, Ferguson says they don’t have to be a special kind or store-bought. “We’re not really trying to really really demanding in that regard, other than cover your mouth and your nose.
As part of Presidio’s disaster declaration, the city council voted to continue with social distancing guidelines for local businesses. The city is suggesting stores limit the number of people allowed at any time to one customer per every 1,000 square feet.
There are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Presidio, but Mexican officials across the border in Ojinaga announced a man tested positive for COVID-19 in early April. That patient has since recovered, according to Ferguson.