AUSTIN, Texas - Mask-related calls to Austin police, Fire, 3-1-1, and code have spiked since Governor Greg Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate, and some service industry workers worry St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will exacerbate the problem.
An average of 34 mask-related calls was made per week during a 6 week period from January 25 - March 7. Since the governor lifted the mask mandate on March 10, that weekly number has risen to 113.
"Every single person that’s got a customer-facing job immediately knew that our jobs got that much more difficult," explained Jeannette Gregor, co-founder of Austin service industry advocacy and support group Amplify Sound Coalition.
Austin-Travis County is still enforcing its mask mandate as officials remain locked in a battle with the state.
Still, Gregor, a bartender, says it has done little to help, with many following the state's lead. "We have to try and enforce these rules to thousands of people that don’t want to, and it becomes so exhausting. It wears you down," she said.
Gregor told FOX 7 Austin she is thankful her employers enforce COVID-19 protocol, but says that’s not the case for many of the service industry workers she represents. She is worried St. Patrick’s Day will add insult to injury.
"This is like the first big, you know, ‘hoorah’ after the lift of the mandate," said Brita Turner, bar manager of URBAN Eat. Drink in Round Rock.
Like Gregor, Turner says she is grateful her place of employment enforces COVID-19 protocol but says that’s not the case for many of her friends.
After a year of financial hardship, some cannot afford to leave unsafe working conditions. "I feel, it’s like everything that could have been done, it’s just been undone. There’s no protection for us, there’s no protection for us, it’s really upsetting," she explained.
A city spokesperson confirms Austin police made no mask-related arrests between January 25 and March 7.
These are the number of mask-related incidents reported to Austin officials each week:
- Jan 25 - 31: 65
- Feb 1 - Feb 7: 35
- Feb 8 - Feb 14: 33
- Feb 15 - Feb 21: 17
- Feb 22 - Feb 28: 40
- March 1 - March 7: 12
- March 10 * - March 16: 113
Note: There were two reports made on March 8 and March 9
* Governor lifts mask mandate