By SONYA ROBERTS-WOODS/Publisher
Following Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide mandate to require face coverings in public effective July 3 at noon, locally Camp County Judge A.J. Mason and Morris County Judge Doug Reeder filed requests to exempt residents from the order.
A provision of the mandate (GA-29) required residents in counties with more than 20 active cases to wear protective masks in public where social distancing is not possible. Counties with fewer than 20 cases could apply to the Texas Department of Emergency Management and essentially “opt out” of the order.
“I felt like Governor Abbott had a large team of experts advising him when he made the decision to require the masks,” Judge Mason said by phone July 8. “The order immediately allowed for the option to file the exemption. I felt it was appropriate and safe for us to exercise the option to do so.”
At the time of the exemption application, Camp County had a cumulative 118 cases of COVID-19 with 106 recoveries for a total of 12 actives cases. Since that time, Camp County’s active cases have increased by 4 to 16 with 126 cumulative cases and 110 recoveries. In Morris County, the total number of cumulative cases has increased from 39 to 45. Recoveries in Morris County have also increased from 31 to 33. The current total number of active cases has increased from eight to 12 in the last five days since the exemption was granted.
Nearby, judges in Cass, Franklin and Marion Counties have also filed and received similar exemptions based upon active cases. Other automatic exemptions to this mandate include children under the age of 10 as well as adults with medical exemptions or who are eating, drinking or exercising outdoors.
“I take personal freedom very seriously,” Judge Reeder wrote in an online post. “Therefore, I am opting out of the order. However I also take personal responsibility just as seriously. I implore our citizens to wear facial coverings when in public and when social distancing is not an option. EVERY citizen owes a duty to their fellow citizen. It is the cost of living in a civilized society. Please consider following this reasonable request in order to protect your friends, family and neighbors.”