New Braunfels Mayor Rusty Brockman late Tuesday signed an order requiring the use of face coverings at businesses operating in the New Braunfels city limits.
The order goes into effect immediately and continues the local disaster declaration and public health emergency previously issued by the city.
According to a press release, the order came with local health authorities' advice and input from the Mayor’s Advisory Group, and following executive orders issued by the Texas Governor’s Office.
Under the order, all commercial entities in New Braunfels that provide goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement a health and safety policy that requires all employees and visitors to wear face coverings whenever separation of 6-feet or more is not feasible.
Businesses will have until Sunday to develop their policy and have it implemented when enforcement begins on Monday. However, city officials said the goal is to educate and seek voluntary compliance.
In an effort to help local businesses comply with this order, a sample health and safety policy is available, as well as signage that outlines the minimum requirements of the new order. Those resources are available at nbtexas.org/businessresources.
Brockman said in a statement that “making this decision on behalf of our community is not something that I take lightly.”
"But this order comes after a lot of consultation with local health authorities, business leaders, city staff, and fellow council members,” he said. "Each person I have spoken with has shown great care and concern, not just for their own families, but for the well-being of the residents of this community. The health and safety of our residents is the top priority, and this order is the right thing to do to take care of our community.”
The Mayor’s Advisory Group to Reopen New Braunfels, made up of business representatives from different industry sectors, was also consulted, and that group also recommended additional measures to help slow the spread of the virus locally.
The order requires face coverings for anyone over the age of 10 years old when in public and when the 6-foot social distancing standard is difficult to meet.
The order states that no civil or criminal penalty will be imposed on individuals for failing to wear a face covering, including homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas or handkerchiefs.
City officials said they strongly recommended residents reserve the use of medical masks or N95 respirators for health care providers and first responders.
Tuesday's announcement of the order came as Comal County’s positivity rate — the percentage of tests with a positive result — rose to 8.21%, up from 7.11% on Saturday and 5.66% one week ago. It’s the highest rate Comal County has seen since April 14.
Public health experts say the goal is to hold the positivity rate below 6%.
Comal County has reported 419 cases with 221 active confirmed and probable cases.
Neighboring cities have also recently announced action to curb spikes of COVID-19 by mandating masks and closing river parks.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued an order last week that commercial entities require all employees and visitors wear face coverings when in areas that involve close contact where six feet of separation is not feasible.
San Antonio officials have also adopted those guidelines.
On Thursday, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra issued an order requiring wearing masks in public with some exceptions, such as when exercising outside or engaging in physical activity outside and while driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver.
The Hays County Local Health Department reported 130 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.
On Monday, Hays County officials said Five Mile Dam Park would be closed to the public beginning Thursday until further notice.
San Marcos officials have announced that it would close its river parks at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
That city's dog park, skate park, and natural areas will remain open, but visitors should observe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations on social distancing and wearing masks, city officials announced in a press release.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Tuesday it would temporarily close recreation areas on weekends at Canyon Lake due to coronavirus safety and environmental impact concerns. The Guadalupe Trail parking lot will be closed on Saturdays, Sundays and major holidays. The parking lot that provides access to the ADA fishing pier will remain open.
To read the order in its entirety, or for more about the city’s ongoing response to COVID-19, visit nbtexas.org/covid-19.