Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Wednesday issued a mandate requiring masks in businesses, county buildings, childcare centers and public schools.
The emergency order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
Jenkins has butted heads with Gov. Greg Abbott in recent days; earlier this week, the judge sought a temporary restraining order against the governor’s ban on mask mandates. A Dallas County district judge then ruled that Abbott’s executive order isn't a “necessary action to combat the pandemic,” according to NBC-DFW.
Order on required us of a face mask in certain public space pic.twitter.com/bibjDrdzUL— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) August 11, 2021
Dallas County’s mask mandate comes as the highly infectious Delta variant spreads across the state and after Dallas ISD similarly defied the governor by mandating masks in schools.
On Tuesday, the county's health department reported a three-day total of 3,270 additional COVID-19 cases and five deaths.
Meanwhile, The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday reported that the region is seeing the highest level of COVID-19 pediatric patients yet, and hospitals are at 90% capacity. In a tweet on Wednesday, Jenkins announced that there are 29 adult ICU beds remaining in the county.
North Texas is grappling with a “very serious situation” as coronavirus cases continue to surge, said Dr. Philip Huang, director of the county’s health department. Still, residents can protect themselves against the disease.
According to information reported to @NCTTRAC, there are 29 adult ICU beds available in Dallas County as of 8/11/2021.— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) August 11, 2021
“Masks have been, and remain, a very important piece in how we can slow the spread of this down,” Huang said.
On top of masking up, Huang said Dallas residents should get the COVID-19 vaccine, which is effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death. Public health experts have recently discovered that vaccinated people can still carry the virus at high levels, so everyone should wear a mask to keep from infecting others, he said.
Employees are becoming “really burned out" after months of fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines, Huang said, adding it's been hard to keep hospitals fully staffed. Few ICU beds remain for any ailment, including for non-COVID patients such as car accident victims.
“It is extremely serious,” Huang said. “We’re all very concerned about how these numbers are looking and the projections.”
Vaccines are safe and effective, and they’re available now, Huang said. Residents can check the county health department’s website to find vaccine locations. A Fair Park pop-up vaccination clinic will occur Saturdays through Sept. 18, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., in Lot 13 for first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.