At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Comal County Judge Sherman Krause issued an executive order, effective immediately, requiring the use of protective face coverings for patrons and employees of all commercial establishments and county employees.
“The general public should wear face coverings when in a public place where it is difficult to keep 6 feet away from other people, or are working in areas that involve close proximity with other people or coworkers,” stated the order, which remains in force until July 15.
Between May 30 and Wednesday, the county has confirmed 500 COVID-19 cases and another 179 probable cases for a total of 679.
“The alarming rise in cases across the county, from New Braunfels to Bulverde to the south side of Canyon Lake, and the stress it has put on our local health care system has made this unwelcome step necessary to protect the lives and public health of Comal County residents,” Krause said. “Face coverings and social distancing are vitally important to slowing the spread of coronavirus and protecting the most vulnerable in our community.”
Comal County on Wednesday reported its eighth death since the pandemic began. Active cases spiked from 97 on June 16 to 496 on Wednesday; hospitalizations also increased, from six on June 16 to 35 on Wednesday.
Since June 22, case numbers in New Braunfels have risen from 314 to 573. They’ve grown from 58 to 125 in Bulverde and spiked from 15 to 40 on the south side of Canyon Lake. Totals of combined confirmed and probable cases are up from 240 on June 16 to 778 on Wednesday. The rate of
positive tests has more than doubled, from 5.66% to 12.17% since June 16 and more than tripled since May 30, when the positivity rate totaled 3.32%. The total county test total of 6,393 includes 3,407 samples taken since May 30.
Krause’s order states county employees must wear face coverings when “in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public, where 6 feet of separation is not feasible and unable to provide physical barrier protection.”
The order states use of face coverings will be required by all persons over the age of 10. It exempts individuals from using coverings over the nose and mouth that might pose a greater threat to their personal mental and physical safety.
Social distancing protocols are mentioned throughout the order. It states patrons of businesses who are queued up or wait inside premises must maintain the “six-feet of separation from other individuals outside of their household.”
It states patrons who do not wear face coverings may be asked to leave establishments and denied goods and services until face covering requirements are followed. Enforcement and penalties in accordance with violations are subject to fines up to $1,000.
The order calls for all commercial entities “that provide goods or services directly to the public” must develop and implement a health and safety policy by the close of business on Thursday, July 2. Failure may result in fines not to exceed $1,000 for each day the violation occurs.
The county order is similar to the city order signed June 23 by New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman, which gave businesses until June 28 to develop policies for implementation beginning Monday, June 29.
The county order states “to the extent of a conflict between best face covering order and any decision by all mayors of a municipality and Comal County the municipal order shall prevail.”
The order did not limit access to county parks facilities in the Canyon Lake and the Bulverde/Spring Branch areas, which will remain open to the public for the July 4 weekend.
County boat ramps also will remain open, though the Water Oriented Recreation District will deploy additional law enforcement to ensure the ramps will be used for launching and recovering boats.
The county said Wednesday’s order was issued as part of the ongoing public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic described in the county’s March 18 disaster declaration, which was indefinitely extended by Commissioners Court on March 24. The measure remains in effect until it is rescinded by Commissioners Court.