Faced with a low number of confirmed COVID-19 infections and large-scale, public disregard for the governor’s face-covering order, County Judge Rob Kelly asked the governor’s office to exempt Kerr County from the order.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s July 2 face-covering order requires all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions.

Kelly signed the exemption request on Sept. 14 and the county, on Sept. 15, confirmed he’d submitted it to the Texas Division of Emergency Management. 

In order to obtain the face-covering exemption from the governor, a county must have fewer than 20 active cases and the county judge must file an attestation to that effect, according to Sept. 14 comments by William “Dub” Thomas, Kerr County emergency management coordinator. If a county receives an exemption and then has 20 or more active infections, then the county can’t apply for another exemption for another few weeks, according to Kerr County Attorney Heather Stebbins

During their Sept. 14 meeting, county commissioners expressed agreement with asking Abbott’s office for the exemption. Officials noted that many people at the large, outdoor patriotic event on the courthouse grounds on Sept. 12 didn’t wear face coverings, even though the event organizer submitted a COVID-19 safety plan to Kelly, who approved it. Abbott’s July 2 order also prohibited outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people without the approval of the mayor or county judge. 

“My observation is, for example, the patriot gathering this weekend: there was very little social distancing, there was hardly any masks,” Kelly said. “I approve all of these COVID-19 safety plans for these gatherings; nobody follows them, nothing’s being enforced. I’m just being realistic; I’m not being pessimistic about (it), I’m just saying this is the way it is. And so I have to ask myself, what do we really need to be doing at this point?”

Kerr County Sheriff W.R. “Rusty” Hierholzer made it clear earlier this year that he wasn’t willing to divert law enforcement resources to making sure people were wearing face masks in compliance with the governor’s order, and went so far as to call the order unconstitutional

At the Sept. 14 meeting, Thomas mentioned he had been at the gun and knife show last weekend and saw there were “a significant number of people not wearing masks.”

“And we were packed in there like sardines,” Thomas said.

Kerr County Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Moser noted a general lack of compliance with the governor’s order at a large Sunday event he attended. 

Thomas told commissioners local COVID-19 infections have declined since the end of July, and there hadn’t been more than 20 active infections since Aug. 14. There were well over 150 active cases at one time in Kerr County, he said. As of late Sept. 14, there were 10 active infections and 10 deaths attributed to COVID-19. 

Based on Kelly’s comments during the Sept. 14 meeting, and the preceding discussion with his colleagues on the court, it was clear that Kelly had made up his mind to submit the attestation.

“So you know what you’re going to do?” asked Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris at the end of the discussion that day.

Kelly replied, “Yeah, I do,” and then called the next agenda item.


(6) comments

Teri Harrison

Judge Kelly’s actions in his decision in regard to not wearing masks is negligent and lethal to our community. He should be held accountable to the highest degree to what is about to happen to our county if his request is granted. Judge Kelly are you prepared to step down as you will be responsible for an increase in Covid cases and deaths in our county?

Once more I am posting the explanation of herd immunity for the benefit of Judge Kelly since he clearly stated his lack of knowledge as to what is required to achieve herd immunity. Herd Immunity:

Most scientists think 60% to 80% of the population needs to be vaccinated or have natural antibodies to achieve herd immunity, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program, said last month.

Kimberlee Keller

If our leader(s) are frustrated and disgusted with people not adhering to safety protocols during this pandemic, then perhaps more should have been done to enforce it!!! It's up to them to protect the community and the county and they have fallen short.

Alan Pazdernik

A gun and knife show is hardly a reason to end the mask mandate. Of course this would be a place that wearing would not be observed. On the other hand, when I go to HEB or Walmart, most everyone is properly wearing a mask. Last Sunday when I was in HEB, I saw only one man with his mask under his chin, everyone else was complying. As far as the Sept. 14 gun show goes, we have no way of knowing weather or not there won't be several virus cases, as it takes two or there weeks to infect. Most of Kerrville residents wear the mask in public which is why we have had a decline in cases. It would be a mistake to drop the mandate just to please a few who have no concern for others.

Alan Pazdernik

ms keller and ms tanner good good comments - we need to vote the next election as they should not be in that position I thank you both keep it up

Kimberlee Keller

Seven more cases in the county since the judge asked to rescind the mask order and due to the Labor Day holiday and the large gatherings that were allowed to happen, there could be more. Unfortunately, for our community, people's health and safety will be jeopardized because of some people's beliefs that their "rights" are more important instead of wearing masks and social distancing realizing that they, the "anti-maskers," are taking away the the rights of those who are trying to stay safe by exposing their germs. In other words, it's not okay for me to wear a mask and social distance, but it's okay for me to expose my germs and get close to you.

There are many selfish people in our community, so it seems, as they are only thinking about "me, me, me." While the businesses have been trying to protect their employees and customers, it has not been easy due to lack of support. How sad it has come that "rights" have become more important than the health and safety of the citizens of this community. I had heard that this city comes together to help one another during times of crisis, but, the way it looks and has looked for the last few months, is a community divided and unwilling to protect its citizens from a deadly virus. What a shame that a surge in cases could very well have an effect in that we could have done something to prevent it from happening, but, refused to do so because our "rights" were more important. How sad it has come to this. But, like they say, "what goes around, comes around," and it will, more than likely because stupidity can't be fixed and it can't be quarantined.

Natalie Tanner

Firstly, what a shame that I'm looking at a photo of people who could be serving as a role model and wearing masks to show the public you support the governor.

As you are all elected officials I know I preach to the choir when I say that in politics appearance is everything. People who vote for you are watching. I, for one, am not impressed. Secondly, it seems to be lost on those who supposedly SERVE the public by representing what the public wants, that our numbers are low BECAUSE we are all wearing masks. We do not need to stop wearing them now because our numbers are low. What will happen to our numbers when we let our guard down and stop wearing masks? Thirdly, let's remember that we are now back in school. We are not physically able to social distance so we rely on masks. If we don't wear them what will happen to that vulnerable population? Teachers WANT masks so we can teach in person.

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