Austin, TX--Governor Greg Abbott says, “It’s time to reopen Texas 100%.”
A decision that has Mayor Steve Adler says not so fast as he issues a mandate of his own for the city of Austin: "Masks are the answer. The law is that cities and counties adopt rules to protect our communities. So long as the health administration suggests that the health recommendation is to wear a mask, we will require a mask to be worn."
Regarding Governor Abbott, Mayor Adler has harsh wording, "The Governor's power is wide, but does not allow him to wave any law he wants."
From an apolitical perspective, Mayor Adler says, "It's just the right thing to do."
One of the big looming questions is how and if Austin will be able to enforce the mandate.
In a briefing with Travis County Commissioners and Austin City Council members Tuesday, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott explained how enforcement would work.
“If an individual enters a business that requires a mask and is not wearing a mask, and they are asked to leave, and they do not, they’re trespassing,” Escott said. “That’s a crime they can be arrested for. They can’t be arrested for not wearing a mask. They can be arrested for trespassing. If that trespassing involves violence or threats, it’s going to increase the level of the crime that’s involved.”
That said, no one expects "mask police" to wander the city streets and suggests that only the most egregious offenses to be pursued. The over-arching call is for people to be sensible and comply with the request of the public health suggestions and the requests of the businesses they choose to visit.
Entering businesses is a choice. And each business gets to decide for itself whether masks are to be worn. Patrons also get to decide which businesses they choose to frequent. The questions for businesses become:
* How do businesses enforce visitors to wear masks if they don't have support at the state level?
* Does the local mandate provide businesses with enough support?
* What happens if people resist?
Businesses can ask patrons to leave, and there's an issue of business success, even survival as so many have faced a downturn of revenue up to, and including the possibility of being shut down.
It's a tough place for business owners to be in.
In Austin, the capitol city is in conflict with the state. Although Governor Abbott says he's putting the decision back in the hands of local officials, he clearly doesn't mean what he says as he encourages Attorney General Ken Paxton to sue the city if it doesn't back down on its mask mandate.
In Texas, less than 12% of the population has received one dose of the vaccination and an estimated 6% has received both doses. The state of Texas is nowhere near the 70-90% of vaccinations some experts say need to be issued for the safety of herd immunity to be reached.
Schools are in an information discovery mode as to whether to require students to have one or both doses of a vaccine to be able to enter a school building for in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.
Masks have become as famous as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa to every facet of our lives. They are a fashion statement and can be color-coordinated with any outfit and accessorized. Seldom is there a time you're without a mask in your pocket. For now, it's clear that city officials in Austin are calling for sensibilities to remain in place until local health recommendation adjusts its call for masks to be worn and is prepared to fight it out in court, if necessary.