While Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly is encouraging citizens to continue to wear face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, he did apply to Governor Greg Abbott for, and receive approval for exemption to the statewide mask order, a move that has promoted local entities to add clarification.

Kelly reported Thursday morning, Sept. 17, that the application he submitted for an exemption from the statewide governor’s mask order has been approved.

“This exemption means that anyone within the county limits is not required to wear a face covering,” Kelly said. “However, given that COVID-19 is still out there in our community, we would still encourage everyone to social-distance from each other by at least 6 feet, wash your hands frequently and use all other precautionary measures at your disposal to make sure we keep the virus at bay.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s GA-29 order, requiring the wearing of masks by everyone in the state who couldn’t properly socially distance, became effective July 3, 2020. At that time, he set a parameter that would allow counties who had no more than 20 active COVID-19 cases to apply for an exemption.

Kelly’s application for exemption was based on Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator William B. “Dub” Thomas’ report that Kerr County has not had more than 20 active COVID cases for slightly more than a month.

“While it might not be mandatory anymore, wearing masks is still the smart thing to do in certain situations. At least now everyone has a choice,” Kelly said. “Please choose the smart thing to do when in crowds and close spaces.”

Kelly also reminded the public that local businesses still have the option to require masks be worn in their stores by employees and customers.

In response to Kelly’s announcement about the mask order exemption both Kerrville ISD and Peterson Health officials issued separate statements.

“While we respect Kerr County Judge Kelly and the Commissioners Court request to Governor Abbott to waive the face covering mandate in Kerr County, Peterson Health will require face coverings in the hospital for staff and visitors, in order to follow CDC guidelines and best practices as we have from the very beginning of the pandemic,” Cory Edmondson, Peterson Health President and CEO, said. “As healthcare workers, Peterson Health supports the use of face coverings or face masks throughout our facilities and in all public settings or areas where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. We strongly believe that wearing face masks protects our patients and employees, and the community, from the spread of COVID-19. With cases continuing, and the impending flu season, we do not believe it would be prudent to discontinue this important practice.”

Kerrville Independent School District also issued a clarification for students and parents.

“In response to Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly’s petition to opt out of GA-29, Kerrville ISD would like to share the following: KISD will not be making any changes to the safety protocols currently in place for the district, regardless of the outcome of the county’s request to opt out of the state’s mask mandate,” a social media post read.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust said all KISD safety mitigations will remain unchanged.

“The mitigations KISD has implemented since the start of the school year have kept our case numbers down and students in school,” he said. “These mitigations have limited close contact and possible exposure of students and staff where a COVID case has been confirmed,” Foust said.

Safety mitigations can be found in the KISD Commitment reopening plan and infographics on the district website here at www.kerrvilleisd.net.

Kelly said he “fully supports” KISD”s continued requirement for masks to be worn.

Kelly also explained that Governor Abbott’s GA-29 mandatory mask order is automatically re-instated to any exempted county if the active case count tops 20.

Residents are also urged to keep the mask order in mind when traveling beyond Kerr County, as most of Texas is still required to abide by the order, Kelly said.

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