“Cautious optimism”

City responds to lifted mask mandate

Even though Governor Greg Abbott ended the statewide mask mandate and reopened Texas to 100 percent, Mayor Armando O’Caña urges the Mission community to stay vigilant in practicing CDC guidelines for the duration of the pandemic.

All City of Mission buildings will continue to require masks for staff and visitors, including the Center for Education and Economic Development, the Mission Chamber of Commerce and any facilities leased by the city.

“I fully understand the need and the desire to reopen, but our hospitalizations just began to decrease and vaccinations are still in the early stages. While everyone can agree that the precautionary measures taken by the community have been working, the virus is still here. I know the numbers are a little more favorable, but every day we are adding to the number of people testing positive for COVID-19,” O’Caña said in a March 2 press release. “The key to stopping the community spread of the coronavirus in Mission is to continue following guidelines like social distancing, wearing masks, good hygiene and testing.”

Abbott’s new executive order, which went into effect March 10, allows all businesses to operate at full capacity, but each business can “limit capacity and implement additional safety protocols” on their terms.

The order states, “no jurisdiction may impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear face coverings.” However, a business owner can still refuse service to customers not following individual store guidelines. Refusal to vacate the premises at the owner’s request can result in a trespassing misdemeanor.

At the March 8 city council meeting, Mission Deputy City Manager David Flores said his staff has reached out to city officials across Texas to verify how they were responding to Abbott’s lifted mandates. According to Flores, the majority of the officials they spoke to said they will still follow the guidelines put in place by the Center for Disease Control, which means wearing a mask, remaining 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces and daily sanitizing.

Austin and Round Rock city leaders announced they would continue enforcing the mask mandate. Several other businesses including Whataburger and H-E-B also reported they will still enforce CDC guidelines.

One of the few changes implemented for Mission city staff was travel procedures. Employees that have been vaccinated are no longer required to quarantine for two weeks after they have traveled. As of March 8, the CDC also issued the first set of safety guidelines for those who are two weeks past their second vaccine injection.

In non-healthcare settings, fully vaccinated people can:
● Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
● Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
● Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people should continue to avoid gatherings, wear masks in public and maintain physical distance around people from multiple households. As the situation unfolds and more people become vaccinated, the CDC will continue to guide the public on best safety practices.

Mission’s deputy city manager also reported that the Boys & Girls Club will soon reopen at 50 percent capacity, though there is not a specific date for when. Flores said throughout the pandemic, the Boys & Girls Club has undergone many changes to ensure the public’s safety for when the doors reopen. Plexiglass space dividers have been installed, as well as markers to establish a safe distance between people. Additionally, those who enter the facility will still have to go through temperature checks and questioning regarding recent contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Flores said whenever the Boys & Girls Club opens up, or any other City facility, the safety of the public is always at the forefront.

“I think the term is cautious optimism,” Flores said. “We want to be cautious, but we are optimistic that we will get to some sense of normalcy in the near future.”

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