After discussion of the state’s most recent mask laws, the Elgin City Council decided to not extend the city’s face covering ordinance and allowed it to expire last week.
In July of last year, the city council passed an ordinance requiring people to wear a face covering in most circumstances when inside a public building or outside with a group of people when social distancing is difficult. The ordinance was extended for sixty days in November and again in January, and was set to expire on March 24.
During their previous meeting on March 9, the Elgin City Council discussed how GA-34, an executive order earlier this month from Texas Governor Greg Abbott which lifted the statewide mask mandate, would affect the city’s face covering ordinance.
GA-34 would make it illegal to enforce any order from the Elgin City Council, but the city hasn’t been actively enforcing the ordinance specifically. For example, if a business owner requires face coverings and someone doesn’t respect that, the owner can call the police and the situation becomes a trespass issue.
As the ordinance wouldn’t expire until March 24, the council decided to take no action on the agenda item on March 9 and brought it back for discussion at the March 23 meeting.
On March 23, city manager Thomas Mattis said the council could make a statement on mask-wearing by passing the extended ordinance, but the city would not run into any legal trouble as long as the ordinance was not enforced.
“The advice we've gotten from legal counsel is, simply having the ordinance in place in and of itself doesn't expose us to legal challenge,” he said.
Council member Mary Penson said she wanted the city to extend the mask mandate, and pointed out that the city is continuing to require masks in city buildings.
“Several business owners have requested it, so that they won’t be the fall guy if they require a mask in their establishment, that they won’t be the bad guy and to lose business,” she said. “In this pandemic, we already have a lot of people losing business, because there are several people that don't want to wear a mask.”
Council member Forest Dennis expressed concern that GA-34 does not give the city legal standing to continue the ordinance for private businesses, and would rather give Elgin businesses a recommendation to keep mask requirements.
“(Businesses) need to understand that the order says they can post that they require (a mask),” he said. “The businesses are encouraged, if they want to post, and they have the backing of the law if somebody violates that rule in their store, that they can call the police and it’s trespassing.”
Penson made a motion to extend the order for another 60 days; however, there was no second on the motion, and the council did not vote. As a result, the ordinance expired on March 24.
“I wish that we could extend the ordinance and make it mean something,” Elgin Mayor Ron Ramirez said, “but I just don't think that it's going to mean what we would like for it to mean. As a council, we all would strongly encourage the use of masks as appropriate. But, as it is now, the ordinance will end tomorrow.”
To view the full city council meeting video online, visit City of Elgin - Texas on YouTube. The discussion about the face mask ordinance begins at 1:52:37 during the Tuesday, March 23 meeting.
COVID-19 cases: 231 active, 8,508 recovered
As of Monday afternoon, Bastrop County reported a total of 6,764 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and 2,065 probable cases, according to the county’s dashboard.
So far, 8,508 people have recovered from the illness in Bastrop County, leaving 231 active cases.
At the same time last week, the county’s total number of confirmed cases was 6,710 and the total number of probable cases was 2,005, with 8,426 total recoveries and 201 active cases.
The dashboard reports two more COVID-19 fatalities, bringing the number of deaths in Bastrop County due to the illness to 90.
As of Monday, 16,807 residents of Bastrop County have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 7,140 of those people had received their second dose to become fully vaccinated, or 10.37% of Bastrop County’s population over 16, according to another dashboard from DSHS, found at dshs.texas.gov/news/updates.shtm. Last week, 15,232 people had received their first dose of a vaccine, and 5,424 of those people had received a second dose.
As of this week, the 16th week of vaccine distribution, Bastrop County had received a total of 34,300 doses—21,600 first doses and 12,700 of which are designated as second doses. Due to Bastrop County’s designation as a vaccine hub, many of these doses are available to residents of other counties. During the 16th week of vaccine distribution, BMA of Texas in Bastrop will receive 100 Moderna doses, and A+ Life Style Medical Group in Bastrop, which is a vaccine hub provider, will receive 2,000 Moderna doses.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) weekly update last Tuesday, the county’s community testing site in Bastrop performed 68 tests between March 16 and March 23. The positivity rate of PCR testing by Bastrop County is 7.2% as of March 16.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 across the 11-county Trauma Service Area O, which includes Bastrop and Travis counties, was at 4.66% as of last Tuesday.
“Please continue minimizing the spread of COVID-19 by wearing your masks, social distancing, washing your hands frequently and staying home when you are sick,” last week’s post said.
For more information about receiving a test at the county testing site, visit www.bastropcountycovid19.org or call 512-972-5560. For local questions about COVID-19, call the Bastrop County hotline at 512-303-4300.
For the latest update, posted each Tuesday, visit @BastropCountyOEM on Facebook.
According to the City of Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard, found at www.austintexas.gov/covid19, the portion of the 78621 zip code in Travis County has reported 314. Last week, this number was 313.
The City of Austin dashboard also includes information about hospitalized patients in the five-county Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), in addition to the case numbers for Austin and Travis County. The MSA includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson County.
As of Monday afternoon, the MSA has 148 inpatients in the region’s hospitals, with 55 patients in the intensive care units (ICU) and 39 ventilators in use.
Last week, 151 people were in the hospital as inpatients due to COVID-19, 59 patients were in the ICU and 37 ventilators were in use.
According to DSHS, 57 cases of one virus variant, the B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom, have been reported in Trauma Service Area O as of last week.
In May 2020, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began gathering and reporting data from nursing homes about the number of confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 in residents and staff. As of Monday, data was available through the week ending on March 14 at data.cms.gov.
No additional residents or staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since the previous week. A total of 42 residents and 30 staff members have been confirmed with COVID-19 over the 43 weeks of data reported so far, and six residents have died due to the virus.
In early September, Elgin ISD launched a school district dashboard of daily reported COVID-19 cases by campus, found online at www.elginisd.net/Page/6358.
As of Monday afternoon, one new case had been reported since last week: one student member at Elgin High School or Phoenix High School.
Three cases were reported earlier in the month, for a total of four cases so far in March.