A new statewide face mask mandate went into effect in Texas for anyone going out in most public spaces.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued the order on Thursday (July 2) requiring all people residing in counties with more than 20 COVID-19 cases to wear a face mask while in public buildings or when in an outdoor setting that does not allow for six feet of physical distancing.
Members of the trucking, transportation and logistics industries said although wearing a mask all day at work can be unpleasant (especially since Texas summers are hot and humid), it is part of the new reality created by the coronavirus epidemic.
“It’s getting bad, but we have been enforcing masks on all our employees since March,” said Ermilo Richer III, executive director of Laredo-based customs broker Richer. “Enforcement wasn’t needed as all of our workers agreed on the importance and always use masks when they are around people.”
Richer, which has around 120 employees, includes a customs brokerage, as well as transportation, logistics and warehousing operations across Mexico and Texas.
“It does get a little more complicated during the summer for warehouse workers with masks, but they are doing their part as well,” Richer said.
Gerardo Alanis, CEO of Laredo-based Cold Chain Solutions, said some employees have complained about wearing masks, but he supports wearing a mask “100%.”
“We have several sanitary policies in place; the main one, implemented late March, makes wearing a mask mandatory when entering our premises,” Alanis said.
Cold Chain Solutions is a refrigerated carrier and refrigerated cross-dock operation servicing the consumer packaged goods, refrigerated and frozen food industries in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. The company has around 750 employees in Mexico and the U.S., including drivers, warehouse workers, forklift operators and shop staff.
“We have clashed with a few offenders who oppose covering their face; Governor Abbott’s law makes our company policy easier to enforce,” Alanis said.
The new Texas mask order went into effect on Friday (July 3) and is part of statewide measures aimed at combating the coronavirus outbreak.
“COVID-19 is not going away; in fact it is getting worse,” Abbott said during a video conference on Thursday.
As of July 2, Texas health officials reported the state currently has a total of 176,000 positive COVID-19 cases, along with 2,525 deaths.
Violators of the statewide mask order could face up to $250 in fines. People not wearing a face mask when required may receive a written or verbal warning for their first violation.
Some jurisdictions in Texas said they would not enforce Abbott’s new mask mandate.
“I don’t have the time or manpower to worry about whether people are wearing masks or not. I believe the Constitution trumps everything, and I believe in personal responsibility,” Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree said July 2 in the Cross Timbers Gazette.
Denton County is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has recorded 1,750 active cases of coronavirus, with 37 deaths.
SC Yanes, a truck driver based in San Antonio, said he only wears a mask if a business or jurisdiction requires it.
“I feel safe, but some places require a mask. I only wear it when it is posted,” Yanes said.
Yanes actually tested positive for coronavirus back in January, before it had spread widely across the United States. Yanes said his case was mild, and never became life-threatening.
“The doctor said it was a mild upper respiratory illness and said to take Mucinex and Gatorade for the fever, and only come back if my temperature passed 100-degrees,” Yanes said.
Yanes said he’s not sure if he contracted COVID-19 while driving a truck, but it “makes sense since I’m usually on the road.”
Ernesto Gaytan Jr., general manager of Laredo-based carrier Super Transport International, said the new order doesn’t change things for his company.
“We’ve been wearing masks since this started, so it’s not a big difference for us,” Gaytan said.
Super Transport International has around 177 drivers and 500 trucks. The company also has a trucking terminal and warehouse facility in Laredo.
“From mechanics to our customer service reps to our guards to our receptionist, everybody’s wearing masks,” Gaytan said.
John Esparza, president of the Texas Trucking Association (TXTA), said the association and its members support “Gov. Abbott in his stance to keep Texans and Texas safe.
“TXTA will remain a resource for our heroes of the highway as they keep Texas’ economy moving and continue to provide essentials for our citizens during this difficult time, Esparza said.