Coronavirus

Bell County is now recommending all residents to wear a fabric face mask in public.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn and Amanda Robison-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, announced the suggestion — which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued last week — Tuesday afternoon.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event that will require action on the part of every person in order to mitigate the spread,” Robison-Chadwell said. “New knowledge about COVID-19 has informed this CDC recommendation, and I urge citizens to follow the recommendation.”

Wearing a cloth mask or covering over your mouth and nose in public is an appropriate personal safety measure, according to a news release. Children under 2 should not wear a mask.

The county recommends wearing a simple mask — such as a bandana or a face covering made from other household items — while grocery shopping, going to the pharmacy or other public places where maintaining 6 feet of distance from another person may be difficult.

The health district said that cloth face coverings are not surgical or N-95 masks — supplies that the medical system needs and should be used only by health care works and other medical first responders.

“I urge Bell County residents to continue to practice the social guideline recommendations that are in place. Personal hygiene measures, along with aggressive, active practicing of social distancing still remain the best defense against mitigating both the impact and the duration of the virus,” Blackburn said in a statement. “This new recommendation from the CDC on wearing cloth masks in places like the grocery store or Walmart furthers those efforts.”

Bell County does not have significant community-based transmission of COVID-19, according to a news release. However, the health district wants residents to observe the recommendation to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

The Temple, Belton and Killeen police departments will allow officers to have the option of using a fabric face mask while working, according to law enforcement officials.

“Belton officers have been asked to take a common sense approach,” Belton spokesman Paul Romer said. “They will not wear masks at all times, but it is highly recommended that they wear them when they enter a residence or have close contact with an individual.”

Bell County previously supplied all of its first responders, including the Sheriff’s Department, constable offices and juvenile detention, with N-95 respirators, Blackburn said.

“All other county employees who are ‘non-first responders’ but at work will be supplied with cloth masks consistent with the CDC recommendations,” the county judge said.