Ordinance proposed to give local businesses motivation to ensure safety guidelines are followed in their facilities

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Friday, the Amarillo City Council will meet to discuss an ordinance that would provide additional justification and opportunity for local businesses to exercise enhanced safety measures inside their facilities.

City manager, Jared Miller, stated that Ordinance No. 7893 would declare “a site that fails to meet certain minimum standards designed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 as a public nuisance.”

Additionally, there would be penalties for businesses that do not meet those minimum standards.

Miller hopes for this to provide motivation to businesses to ensure people inside their establishments are adhering to the guidelines in the Texas Health and Safety Code, as well as Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-29.

“This will provide us a way to incentivize our community and our businesses, especially. Also leverage those business employees to provide a much more robust coverage of our community and utilization of face coverings,” stated Miller.

The ordinance discussed in today’s City Council meeting via Zoom, received positive feedback from the majority of the Councilmembers.

Freda Powell, Councilmember Place 2, commented, “Anything we can do to prevent the spread of COVID and that’s what we’re trying to do is bend the curve.”

Eddy Sauer, Councilmember Place 3 said, “We just need to flatten the curve to give the hospitals a chance to catch up.”

However, not everyone agreed with this approach.

Elaine Hays, Councilmember Place 1 stated, “I feel that our businesses currently are already under so much stress, so much pressure. They are struggling financially. I don’t think this is a healthy response and supportive of our businesses.”

As mentioned, the ordinance has a penalty clause. If necessary, Miller said that a citation can be issued to businesses. That fine is not to exceed $2,000.

Potential violations of those minimum standards would include: customers, patrons, or employees at businesses, inside the facility, not wearing their face covering and are within six feet of somebody else.

Additionally, Environmental Health Officers could give citations due to gatherings of more than ten people inside the facility and failure to use sanitization measures on a regular basis.

“Everybody says they care about their first responders. Everybody is very passionate about saying how much they care about their first responders and their people in the hospitals, who are nurses and doctors, who are on the frontline. But if you’re not wearing the face covering when you’re out and about, and you’re within a certain distance of people… it contradicts that statement,” said Miller.

“The Texas Health and Safety guidelines do provide those measures, but this makes it very clear that COVID-19 is one of the conditions that we are trying to protect against,” said Miller.

Miller explained that if a citation is not issued upon first witnessing a condition that is a violation, the business has the opportunity to make corrections. However, the Environmental Health employee or City employee who witnessed the violation would then revisit in the future, and if they witness the condition has not been corrected then a citation would then be issued.

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