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FROM Georgetown.org – In consultation with other mayors in Williamson County and out of growing concerns about the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the community and the increasing number of those hospitalized and in the ICU, Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross issued an order to impose additional requirements on businesses.
How did the decision for masks come about?
What are the plans for enforcement?
Employees and customers at commercial businesses should begin wearing face coverings immediately. Starting Friday, July 3, businesses in Georgetown will be required to adopt and enforce health plans that require face coverings for visitors and staff when physical distance cannot be maintained. This applies to all commercial businesses that directly serve the public, as well as City facilities.
The order will remain in place until Williamson County reports a positive test rate of 7 percent or fewer over a two-week average. The Georgetown order is similar to those in other Williamson County cities, including Round Rock, Hutto, Taylor, Leander, and Cedar Park.
“We know masks help against the spread of COVID-19, and that is our top priority now,” Mayor Dale Ross said. “The State and Williamson County have left this decision up to local jurisdictions. My fellow Williamson County mayors and I are not taking this step lightly. However, based on recommendations from the local health authority, we know it is our best shot to ensure the collective safety of all county residents, while allowing businesses to continue to operate.
“This is particularly true for Georgetown, with the large number of vulnerable people in our community,” he said. “Here, we are a family. We care about one another. No matter our differences, we always show up to support one another. Wearing a mask and keeping our distance when we’re out in public is a small price to pay to show we love and care for our neighbors.”
The order states that, at a minimum, businesses must require all employees and visitors age 10 or older to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth, when 6 feet distance cannot be maintained. The order allows for a few exemptions:
- When exercising or engaging in physical activity outside;
- While driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;
- When wearing a mask poses a mental or physical health, safety, or security risk;
- While pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment;
- While in a building or activity that requires security surveillance or screening, like banks; and
- When consuming food or drink.
Businesses may also implement other measures to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, such as temperature checks or health screenings.
The order states businesses must post the health and safety policy or plan in a location where employees and visitors can see it.
“The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to facilitate economic success for our community and believes Mayor Ross took the necessary step, which will help protect our community, prevent another shut down, and ensure our businesses can be successful moving forward,” Chamber President Jim Johnson said. “Many businesses in Georgetown already require masks, physical distancing, and other safety requirements. This order makes those practices standard across all facilities, and supports our local business owners, their employees, and their efforts to keep Georgetown safe and open for business.”
These orders apply to commercial businesses and City facilities. Exemptions from this order include other governmental agencies, such as federal buildings, State offices, and school districts; construction activity; and places of worship. However, all entities are encouraged to voluntarily adopt similar requirements.
Individuals who believe the order is being violated by a business in Georgetown can report it to the Georgetown Police Department’s non-emergency number: 512-930-3510. Businesses found in violation of the order will be given a citation and fined up to $1,000 per offense.
If a business has a customer who is unwilling to abide by the order, the business can ask the individual to leave. If they refuse to leave, the business can call 911. Georgetown police will respond, and if the individual still refuses to leave, the individual may be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
Face coverings do not substitute for the need to maintain physical distancing. Face coverings, combined with physical distancing, decrease the risk of spread.
“Our community’s health takes everyone’s participation,” said Derrick Neal, Williamson County and Cities Health District executive director. “The best way to keep the balance of safety and the ability to be outside our homes will require everyone to follow the CDC guidelines that have been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wearing face coverings and social distancing have proven to be the most effective ways to reduce the spread of germs.”
For maximum effectiveness, the face covering should cover both the nose and mouth and attach securely behind the ears. Coverings should be washed after each use with hot water and detergent, and hands should be washed immediately after touching the cover.
Face coverings should not be placed on children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.
People experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even mild ones, need to stay home, except to seek medical care. Mild symptoms in COVID-19 positive patients include:
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Change in the ability to smell and taste
- Nasal congestion
For more information and updates, visit bit.ly/COVID19GTX.