County Judge Lewis Owens

Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. signs an amended declaration of disaster for public health emergency Thursday in his office at the county courthouse. The new order requires county residents to wear masks while in public.

Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. on Thursday signed an executive order requiring county residents to wear face coverings when they enter a business.

County residents will also be required to wear face coverings in any public area where they are not able to stay six feet away from other people.

Businesses in Val Verde County are required to observe social distancing protocols for employees and visitors. If those protocols cannot be observed, employees are required to wear face coverings.

Owens’ new order, which he said follows Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s protocols for reopening businesses in the state, begins at 12:01 p.m. Saturday and continues for two weeks through July 3.

A complete copy of the order can be found and downloaded on the county’s web site, www.valverdecounty.texas.gov

Owens signed the order, titled the Fifth Amended Declaration of Disaster for Public Health Emergency, in his office about 5 p.m. Thursday.

The new amended order also requires that “all commercial entities in Val Verde County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement a health and safety policy. The health and safety policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees or visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or close proximity to co-workers or the public where six feet of separation is not feasible.”

The order also reads, “The health and safety policy required to be developed and implemented by this executive order may also include the implementation of other mitigating measures designed to control and reduce transmission of COVID-19 such as temperature checks or health screenings.

“Commercial entities must post the health and safety policy required by this executive order in a conspicuous location sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors of all health and safety requirements,” the order reads.

The order sets a penalty for commercial entities that fail to create a health and safety policy.

“Failure to develop and implement the health and safety policy required by this executive order within five calendar days following the executive date may result in a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each violation,” the order reads.

The new order also addresses face coverings for the general public.

“Since the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advises face coverings for people two years or older, all people two years or older shall wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in a public place where it is difficult to keep six feet away from other people or working in areas that involve close proximity to other co-workers,” Owens’ order reads.

The order lists circumstances and situations in which a face covering need not be worn.

These include if “the only people you anticipate to come in contact with or be in close proximity to are members of your own household,” exercising outdoors alone or with members of your household, observing social distancing protocols if someone who is not part of your household approaches; if you are alone in your office, if you are alone or with members of your household in your vehicle, if you are pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment and others.

County residents are not required to wear face coverings if they are home or on their property.

The order also notes Owens shall “establish a task force to serve under his direction for the purpose of enforcing Gov. Greg Abbott’s Order GA-18 and GA-19 as well as Val Verde County’s current declaration of disaster for public health emergency.”

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