Richardson City Council members on Monday discussed how Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to end the state’s mask mandate and allow bars and restaurants to reopen at full capacity may affect area residents and business owners.
As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up in North Texas and across the country, city officials also plotted out a reopening schedule for city facilities and services, with the library and recreation center among those buildings set to gradually reopen over the coming months.
Some council members said they were concerned that the state’s new rules, which go into effect Wednesday, could in some cases cause difficulties for businesses that still require customers to wear masks. Health experts have advised mask-wearing in public until enough people have received the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure herd immunity.
Richardson business owners have the right to require that customers wear a mask, and the right to ask a customer who refuses to wear a mask to leave, city officials said. If the customer refuses to leave, the police can be called and will handle the situation similar to any other trespassing incident, which could include a verbal warning, a citation, or other actions depending on the situation.
“If the person is agreeable and cooperative, they’ll probably get a warning,” said deputy city manager Don Magner.
A business owner could further decide whether to issue a warning to an unruly customer, or to prevent them from returning to the business.
“Private businesses still have the freedom to run their business the way they would like it to be run,” Mayor Paul Voelker said.
It was suggested, however, that since city buildings and property are considered public areas, a mask policy would not be enforceable.
“We want to recommend based on CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, but those are guidelines,” Voelker said.
The city also announced a reopening schedule for various buildings and services.
The library will return to regular occupancy limits and reopen all four floors. To allow for social distancing, the library will be open only for Richardson residents at this time. Curbside pickup will also still be available. Operating hours will remain the same, and the city is evaluating whether to expand its hours. The library may also reopen for non-residents at a later time.
Eisemann Center for Performing Arts
The Eisemann, currently operating at a 25 percent occupancy rate, will increase to 50 percent in April and 75 percent in May.
Beyond May, the city will continue to evaluate whether capacity can be safely increased.
Operators of events that are already scheduled at the center will be able to decide whether to operate at 25 percent occupancy or increase it.
Recreation, gymnastics and tennis centers
Occupancy will be gradually increased at these facilities. Equipment that was in storage will be brought back out and also gradually brought back into use as social distancing is still observed. At this time, the city plans to begin reopening various amenities, including saunas, by appointment only. More details about the reopening of recreation centers and gymnastics center and the tennis center, are available online.
The court lobby will remain open for in-person appearances and payments. The city will continue to encourage people to make requests and file applications online.
The city will continue to require appointments for adoptions and surrenders. Volunteers will also be able to help serve inside the shelter.
Other facilities and programs
The reopening of some of the city’s other facilities and programs is still under study.