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In effect through end of April
Although the city of Cotulla defers to the La Salle County Commissioners’ Court for orders related to business closures and other measures aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Javier Garcia renewed a 90-day municipal emergency proclamation with a signature last week.
The Cotulla City Council had been stymied in its repeated efforts to hold a meeting during December and early January, as one after another of the elected officials announced he was unable to attend due to illness. The AB Alexander Convention Center has been appropriated for the council meetings that could be held, streamed live online, although the building remains closed to the public and cannot be rented for private functions.
Last week’s mayoral proclamation was a continuation of previous orders, the first of which was signed a year ago. A failure by the council to meet before last week meant that some restrictions imposed by the city had expired, although orders imposed by the La Salle County Commissioners’ Court prevailed.
Mayor Garcia put his signature to an order that continues a requirement that all members of the public wear masks at all times outside the home and that people maintain six-foot distances from each other in all businesses, including restaurants.
“The mask is for protection, and we want to keep everyone safe,” the mayor said in an interview this week. “This is a safety precaution, and we want everyone to use a mask as much as they can.
“This measure is especially important when interacting with people who don’t live with you,” Mayor Garcia said, referring to continuing concerns that local residents believe they are safe when not wearing masks around friends. “I’m afraid that people have been getting careless, and that people have been mingling like there’s nothing wrong.”
Garcia acknowledged a sense of “covid fatigue” in the community and said he understands that many residents are tired of having to take health and safety precautions that constitute restrictions on their liberties.
“The people want their freedom back, and I understand that,” Garcia said. “This emergency order, and wearing masks, will probably save lives. I practice this, and I have to lead by example. I can speak from personal experience that this is a vital measure.”
The mayor noted that family groups may remain together in restaurants but should not sit with other groups, and that those who are appropriately distanced from each other may remove their masks.
The mask order applies to all business employees and members of the public over the age of nine.
Bars and game parlors throughout La Salle County remain closed, as per an order by the county commissioners’ court, and while Mayor Garcia says he believes it may soon be possible for patrons of some establishments to return under social distancing provisions, “social distancing just isn’t possible in bars.”
“I agree with special measures that help protect the peoples’ health, even though I know that it may hurt some businesses,” the mayor said. “But when you walk into a bar, you’re going to to greet everybody and be close to people. After a few drinks, I’m sure you’re going to forget your mask or you’re going to believe that you’re safe with friends. We can’t allow that kind of risk in our community.”
Last week’s extension of the emergency order for Cotulla remains in effect until April 30 but may be rescinded before that date by the mayor upon a vote from the city council.