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During an emergency meeting of the Lubbock City Council Friday afternoon (June 26th), Mayor Dan Pope announced a new declaration of disaster which would include new guidelines for businesses.

Mayor Pope shot down an order that would have required both Lubbock businesses and customers to wear face coverings. Instead, business' employees are requested to wear face coverings when 6-foot social distancing isn't possible. Customers are not being required to wear face coverings (unless the business specifically mandates it), but city health officials are urging all citizens to do so. Additionally, individuals cannot be penalized criminally or civilly, and there will be no fines for neglecting to wear a face covering, due to Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order on Friday.

The decisions comes after Lubbock's overall coronavirus case count doubling in just the past 11 days. It goes into effect on Monday, June 29th, 2020.

Here are the changes present in the City's new disaster declaration:

  • All businesses in the City of Lubbock must implement a health and safety policy that must require that all employees wear facial coverings when in an area where social distancing of at least six feet is not feasible.
  • Businesses must place the health and safety policy in a highly visible location to provide notice to employees of all requirements.
  • Pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order, outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people must submit a plan for approval by the Mayor or the event may not be held.
  • Individuals at outdoor events of more than 100 people where social distancing is not feasible are required to wear facial coverings.
  • Individuals visiting City of Lubbock facilities are required to wear facial coverings. This also applies to City employees. This is required when in an area that at least six feet of social distancing is not feasible.
  • Consistent with the governor's executive order, no civil or criminal penalty will be imposed on individuals for failure to wear a facial covering.

"I've been a big proponent of the fact that citizens are smart enough to do this themselves," Pope said. "It was only after a couple phone calls with some folks who really encouraged me to change my thinking from the standpoint that face coverings were the best weapon that we had, so to speak, in our quiver right now to slow this spread down."

Mayor Pope added that he was "not concerned" about local hospital capacity, but admitted he was "surprised" by the change over the past week.

"A mask order, much like closing bars, won't have an overnight impact. We can trace the spike we're dealing with to Memorial Day and the days right after Memorial Day. We can trace them to the reopening of our bars, and frankly in our community, we can trace a lot of our spread to a couple hotspots. So this is not going to change things tomorrow, but I do believe it's the best course."

Earlier this week, Texas Tech University announced it was instituting a mandatory face mask policy for all staff, students, faculty and everyone visiting the Lubbock campus.

The city council reviewed Gov. Greg Abbott's reopening reversal on Friday. Gov. Abbott's new executive order reversed some previous reopening decisions. Chief among the changes was the decision to once again close bars throughout the state.

During the meeting, Lubbock business owner Barry Orr of FirstBank & Trust and member of the Lubbock Economic Recovery Task Force, spoke about a face mask policy. Orr related how his business was recently affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as the bank temporarily closed two local locations due to the virus.

Additionally, Dr. Joshua Hill from Covenant Health, who is also on the task force, spoke on how to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

"Simply by social distancing, avoid large crowds, and when you are not able to do that, such as a business...is to wear a face covering. Those are the facts, plain and simple," he said, adding: "Regardless of if we like the idea or not, it's pretty understood that we needed to recommend facial coverings and social distancing."

Chief Executive Officer at Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Eddie McBride also spoke about Lubbock's recent surge of COVID-19 cases, and echoed both Orr and Dr. Hill's sentiments.

"The more we follow these guidelines, the safer our city will be, and we can open sooner the City of Lubbock," McBride said, reading from a statement.

Despite a local medical doctor's expertise, many people viewing the city council meeting on social media said that they don't believe face coverings help reduce the spread of COVID-19, or outright dismissed the severity of the virus and its ability to spread through the community.

Some commenters also claimed that the U.S. government had not actually promoted the use of masks during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation to use cloth face coverings has been on their official website for months. Additionally, a video published April 3rd, 2020 by the CDC features U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams demonstrating how to make a face covering.

From the CDC website:

CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Dr. Adams' video can be viewed below.

The WHO characterized the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

The full city council meeting can be re-watched below.