Judge declares county residents must wear masks as COVID cases climb
Milam County Judge Steve Young declared a State of Disaster for Milam County stating that all businesses and commercial entities should require employees and patrons to wear a mask late last week as COVID-19 cases continued to climb across the county and state.
Young announced two new cases early Wednesday morning, July 1, bringing the total number of cases to 90 in the county.
“We have a big problem in the county,” Young said in a Facebook Live address on Thursday afternoon, June 25. “We have 78 cases in the county. In the last eight days we have had 30 confirmed cases of the virus. As I speak we have 25 active cases and three people in the hospital.”
There are now 90 total cases of the virus since the pandemic began, with 21 of those considered active. The Milam County Health Department is monitoring 59 people at this time and have monitored nearly 260 people overall. Three people remain hospitalized at this time and one person has died.
The Milam County Health Department released the per capita comparison of cases in area counties on Tuesday. Health Department Director Robert Kirkpatrick said there have been 40 cases in Milam County in the last 14 days, meaning 45 percent of cases have come in the last two weeks.
“It is evident by the increase in cases that we aren’t wearing masks,” Kirkpatrick said.
There is currently one case per 286 residents of Milam County. That is compared with one case per every 315 in Bell County, one case per every 115 residents in Brazos County, one case per every 242 residents in Burleson County, one case per every 296 in Lee County, one case per every 270 cases in Williamson County.
Young said a total of 103 people were tested during a mobile test site in Rockdale on Monday and another 107 people were tested at a mobile test site in Milano on Tuesday. Another mobile test was set for the Cameron Fire Station on Wednesday.
“It has been a lot of responsibility to keep everyone safe as county judge,” he said. “The problem is the numbers continue to go up. The last two 24-hour reporting period Texas has reported 5,500 cases each day. The problem is we don’t have a cure and we won’t have a cure for another year or so.”
Young said the only thing we can do is to prevent the spread of the virus is social distancing and wearing a mask, which prevents the spread of the virus because it is a respiratory virus.
“We know that this virus is spread by those with symptoms and also by those who have no symptoms,” he said. “You can feel just fine and be spreading the virus simply by speaking to others without a mask on.”
Young sited lack of immediate hospital and emergency care in the county as a reason for the order.
“We really don’t have a hospital or emergency care here,” he said. “So when someone gets ill here they have to go to another county for care. We are working on urgent care and want to have that up and going by the first of the year and that will take some pressure off of our facilities and the hospitals in the surrounding area.”
The disaster order requires everyone to wear a mask when out in public.
“I am going to place in effect a second disaster order that will require that everyone wear a mask when out in public,” he said. “This is going to fall on business owners, which I hate, but that is all I can do under the governor’s orders. It is like wearing a seatbelt. It just makes sense.”
You can go to milamcounty.net and click on Milam County COVID19 Information in the middle of the page to read the entire declaration.
Enforcement will be up to businesses and failure to comply could mean a fine. Young said during the Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, June 30, that he didn’t want to have to do this, but it was his last resort.
Businesses will have the right to deny service to anyone who fails to comply. Businesses must also post the requirement and policy in a visible location. Temperature checks and health screenings could be used as a policy in lieu of requiring a mask. Under the same order, the mask does not need to be worn when exercising outdoors, driving alone or with someone in the same household, when pumping gas, while going into establishments that require screening or security surveillance, and if wearing the mask poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk.
The order will be
Young said any business owner who needs masks can contact him or Emergency Management Director Bryan Burns to request masks.