Willacy orders businesses to require face coverings

RAYMONDVILLE — Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra on Thursday issued an order mandating businesses to require customers and employees wear facial coverings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Guerra’s order requires “all commercial entities in Willacy County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement a health and safety policy. The health and safety policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees or visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in the area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public where six feet of separation is not feasible.”

The order gives businesses five calendar days to implement the policy or face fines of up to $500 per violation.

Guerra issued the order because “the transmission of COVID-19 has not dissipated but remains a significant threat to the health and safety or the Willacy County community and rates of infection are increasing at an alarming exponential rate and the number of people ending up in the hospital, ICU or on ventilators is also dramatically rising despite efforts of local authorities to control the spread.”

The order states Guerra “has determined that extraordinary emergency measures must be taken to try to mitigate the effects of this public health emergency and to facilitate a response to the public health threat.”

The order requires all residents 10 years old and older to “wear face covering over their nose and mouth when in a public place where it is difficult to keep six feet away from other people or working in areas that involve close proximity with other co-workers.”

“Willacy County residents should continue to maintain social distancing of at least six feet while outside their home,” the order states. “Willacy County employees are also required to wear face coverings under the same circumstances as the general public.”

The order effective at 12:01 a.m. Saturday doesn’t supersede Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 1 state order, which barred local governments from imposing facial covering mandates.

Instead, Abbott’s order allows local governments to require businesses to mandate customers and employees wear facial coverings.