MIDLAND, Texas — Masks are a hot topic here in the Permian Basin.
With COVID-19 hospitalizations nearly doubling this week, physicians are calling on city leaders to enforce Governor Gregg Abbott's mask mandate.
On Tuesday, we asked Midland's Mayor, Patrick Payton, if he would start enforcing a mask mandate. He said no, and that he trusts West Texas to be "personally responsible."
On Wednesday, we heard from Midland County on masks.
Midland Judge, Terry Johnson, holding firm to no mask ordinance. He says it impossible for our community to do.
“The Governor of Texas has mandated that we wear masks," Johnson said. "There’s no enforcement from the state, it's up to the local communities to come up with the enforcement."
Again, putting the responsibility back on the community, especially business owners.
But for the first time since the pandemic began, medical leaders are calling on city and county leaders to help them.
Up until now, the only enforcement has been a verbal ask, take responsibility for yourself.
“Evidentally, personal responsibility isn’t enough because we have a spike going," Johnson said. "We are probably going to see this spike for a while.”
Judge Johnsons says there is not much neither the county nor the city can do about it. He says there is no manpower for a mask mandate.
“There are less than half a dozen officers on the street in Midland and there are less than four officers out in the county," Johnson said. "The calls that would come in about people not wearing a mask and it would just cause a lot of other issues.”
So again, wearing a mask is the sole responsibility of the community. The judge did offer this: business owners should refuse service to those who do not wear a mask.
“The police force, the sheriff’s department, we just don’t have enough people to enforce this," Johnson said. "We do have enough businesses that can ask and refuse service."
Johnson says if you go into an establishment and they do not have masks then you can quite going, I guarantee your money is going to speak volumes.
Judge Johnson told me he wants to meet with business leaders to come up with a plan on how the county can help them enforce masks.
This is the first time leadership has offered up an explanation.
Mayor Payton put out a statement on masks Wednesday night:
"Yesterday afternoon Mayor Turner and I called on our communities to recommit to the COVID protocols we have proven to work in our cities and among our residents. Our neighbors, health care workers, and systems need us to mitigate the record setting spikes we are in and do it now. A few people believe that Midlanders don’t - and won’t - care unless we start writing tickets and handing out fines that the governor has already made clear, months ago, will not be enforceable in the long run. I believe Midlanders will once again understand the importance of what is being asked of us and will respond positively to our very real, and very clear health care crisis. Share the message. Encourage one another to join the fight – again. If we do not band together and beat back COVID one more time the alternative will be even worse for us all. Rejoin the fight…wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands thoroughly and often, and sanitize."