UPDATE: On August 25, Tarrant County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to extend the county's disaster declaration and face mask mandate to November 30. It had been set to expire August 31.
UPDATE: On Friday, July 31, Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley extended Tarrant County's mask order to August 31. It had been set to expire August 3. Read the judge's order here.
Facing rising numbers of positive coronavirus cases, Fort Worth and Tarrant County officials have made masks a mandatory thing, starting June 26.
In a press conference on June 25, Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley cited the increasing number of positive cases as well as a 57 percent increase in hospitalizations, and said that there was a consensus among health professionals, hospitals, and businesses that mandatory masks were the way to go.
"In an effort not to have to go back to the restrictions of March, not to have to close down businesses, we believe masks are a necessary step," Whitley said. "I will sign an order today that will become effective at 6 pm tomorrow, for businesses or any entity providing services for the public, we're going to require that all employees as well as all visitors wear masks."
The order will extend until August 3. It says that "All persons over the age of 10, including employees, customers, visitors, invitees and contractors ("Patrons"), who enter a business must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief."
A mask is not required if wearing one poses "a significant mental or physical health risk to the individual." The requirement also does not apply if you're consuming food or drink, or receiving a service where the wearing of a mask would impair the performance of the service.
In addition, following provisions laid out by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and in anticipation of the July 4th holiday, the Tarrant County order will limit outdoor gatherings to no more than 100 people.
Whitley said that he'd consulted with folks from the Tarrant County Medical Society and Mayor Betsy Price, who also spoke at the conference.
"We've been talking on a regular basis and also with hospitals and businesses," Whitley said. "And they're asking, 'Please put this order in place so that when someone does come into my establishment, I can say, I'm sorry but you have got to wear a mask if you want to come in.'"
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said that, at this point, with the rise in positive cases and the very real possibility of hospitals being overrun, wearing masks is no longer a choice.
"Do we want to? No, but we have to," Williams said.
"We also have to know that people are hurting," he said. "They're losing their businesses, losing their jobs, losing their loved ones. Let's not have the rhetoric of revolt against masks. We have got to come together and say hey, for my neighbors, for my family, for me, I need to be wearing that mask. We need to get our lives back and fight against the virus and do it the Tarrant County way by coming together."
"It may not be the most comfortable, it may be inconvenient, but think about the results. It gets rid of this virus," Williams said.