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'I trust our citizens to not sneeze on each other': Rockwall council allows large outdoor events to continue

The Rockwall City Council held an emergency meeting Friday. Council members opted to allow outdoor July 4 events to continue.
Credit: WFAA
Rockwall City Hall

The Rockwall City Council voted Friday to allow large outdoor events to continue ahead of the Fourth of July.

Council member Dana Macalik made a motion to cancel large outdoor events, including the Concert by the Lake series, in response to spikes in new cases of the coronavirus across North Texas.

She said she worried that people from other cities and counties where events have been canceled would flock to Rockwall to celebrate.

The other city council members voted to let the events continue.

Mayor Jim Pruitt said individuals should be allowed to make the decision to wear a mask or to socialize at outdoor events.

"I just do not think that the government should be the one telling people how to handle their own socialization,” Pruitt said at the council meeting Friday.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott allows local leaders to put limits on outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people amid ongoing COVID-19 surge in Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday issued an executive order that limited outdoor gatherings to no more than 100 people, but gave mayors and county judges the authority to allow larger events and mandate certain health precautions. A previous statewide order only gave local leaders the power to limit outdoor events with more than 500 people.

The Rockwall mayor said he doesn’t believe anything can be done to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the population until there is a vaccine.

“The whole idea of this all along was not to prevent people from getting the virus. It was to slow it down so the hospitals weren’t overwhelmed,” Pruitt said of statewide and local stay-at-home orders.

“We went through that,” he said.

Council member Trace Johannesen said he opposed canceling outdoor events because “there is little to no evidence that the virus is spreading outside.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the novel coronavirus is spread “mainly from person to person” in close proximity through respiratory droplets when people cough, talk or sneeze. The CDC recommends people wear a mask to prevent the spread, even outdoors.

RELATED: CDC expands list of groups at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness

"I'm getting a little bit tired of having government telling us what we can and can't do and living in fear. Do we think that we're going to stop the spread of the virus? It's not possible,” Johannesen said.

He said the City Council is not a “health care organization up here, y’all. We’re a municipal government.”

He said he trusts Rockwall residents to decide what is best for them and to social distance.

"I trust our citizens to not sneeze on each other and to not put their fingers in their mouths,” Johannesen said. "The people did not elect me to tell people how to take care of their own hygiene."

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