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COVID-19 regulations refined

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The COVID-19 count in Bandera County continued to bewilder county officials this week as the total caseload jumped by 26 cases to 78 between July 20 and Monday, July 27, but the number of all-important active cases tumbled to 12 from 25 seven days earlier, tallies from the state showed.

The regional count from the Department of State Health Services also showed that Bandera County had 66 cases listed as recovered, up from 27 on July 20. No deaths have been reported in the county as a result of the pandemic.

Bandera County Judge Richard Evans said the numbers have been up and down for weeks and at times contradict themselves, making it hard to figure out where the county stands at times.

Still he believes the numbers show Bandera County is not home to a huge outbreak of the virus. He also said residents and visitors are taking a common-sense approach to following safeguards recommended to combat COVID-19, including the requirement that people wear masks when they travel outside the home.

Bandera County has been subject to that rule since July 13, when the number of active COVID-19 cases exceeded 20 cases.

It has since fallen below 20 cases - once even falling to 0 once, the county judge said - but needs to stay below that level for 30 days before Evans can request that the county be exempted from the facemask ordinance again.

The facemask issue received considerable attention from Bandera City Council as it considered an ordinance regulating how many people could come together in Bandera City Park and other public gatherings along with additional safeguards associated with COVID-19 on Thursday July 23.

Mayor Suzanne Schauman and other council members said they did not object to an ordinance provision requiring Bandera businesses to develop and implement a plan instructing employees and customers to wear masks but felt it would be unfair to leave it to businesses owners to enforce the rule.

“I see this as problematic for employees to be made responsible for what other people do,” said Councilwoman Lynn Palmer.

Council eventually agreed on a split vote to require Bandera businesses to post signs in the stores informing employees and customers to wear masks while inside but dropping the provision that made businesses responsible for enforcement.

Bandera City Marshal Will Dietrich said earlier this month that his office would not issue citations to anyone for not wearing facemasks in public because the governor’s order imposing the mandate contained language that strips law enforcement of the tools needed to enforce compliance.

He said at Thursday’s meeting he believes most people in Bandera will be more likely to wear a mask to protect themselves and others from the virus if they are asked to rather than being told to so.

Other changes to the citys COVID-19 ordinance were still being clarified this week, but Mayor Schauman said it did include an extension of the 750-person cap set for visitors to Bandera City Park.

Council was expecting to decide whether to include a waiver allowing the National Day of the American Cowboy celebration to have more than 10 people in attendance, but that issue was pulled when the Day of the Cowboy celebration, planned for Saturday, July 25, was cancelled.

Bandera County Commissioners last week agreed to allow the Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters to move their gunfight reenactments from a space outside the Bandera County Convention & Visitors Bureau to the lawn outside the county courthouse so more space will be available for visitors to keep the required amount of distance between themselves and other visitors.

City Council will need to approve that move for it to take effect.

Commissioner Bobby Harris, whose precinct includes Bandera County’s Medina Lake Park, also said at commissioners’ meeting last week that the park would remain closed another week to reduce the likelihood that COVID-19 would be brought into the county by the huge number of people who descend on the park every weekend from Bexar County which has become a troublesome hotspot for the virus.

Facing a complaint from at least one resident that the park and its boat ramp was closed to county residents, the commissioner said restrictions the county accepted when it received the park in a donation keep him from allowing just county residents to enter the park.

If its open, it must be open to everyone, he said.