WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — Each day this week, our local health department has been reporting more than 100 new COVID-19 cases in Wichita County, and the number hospitalized is now more than 70, a trend that is causing much concern to government officials, such as Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom and Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana.
“I just wish he would stay in his lane,” Gossom said.
Those are the sentiments of Gossom as he explained local government’s inability to execute mask mandates per Governor Greg Abbott’s order, as we see COVID-19 numbers exponentially rise in our area.
“It doesn’t hurt anybody to wear a mask,” Gossom said.
Gossom said while elected officials such as himself and Santellana are prohibited from enacting emergency mandates, residents should feel the need to do their part in preventing the increasing spread of the virus.
“I can take a horse to water but I can’t make him drink, our job is to offer advice and things to do to people to hopefully voluntarily come aboard the ship and do these things to try to protect themselves, their family and their friends,” Gossom said.
Santellana said though, while he believes every community is independent and special, we do have to follow rules and regulations, like those set by Governor Abbott and he doesn’t believe a mask mandate is what the city needs right now.
“Mandates sometimes drives that wedge between the citizens and the government official and you won’t get anything more done, what you do is you create this controversy and you drive this wedge in between, I think we should go back to the educational piece, get the facts and figures out so people see,” Santellana said.
He does admit though, these cases are troubling.
“We have people in their 20s and 30s dying, that’s a big concern to me and if it’s just a matter of getting a shot, I urge those people to go get a shot,” Santellana said. “Will we have to force them? I will never be somebody that forces you but common sense plays into this.”
And to that end, Gossom said while government officials can’t, he believes businesses can ask not just their employees to mask up, but customers too.
Santellana and Gossom hope citizens will work together in this fight.
Gossom also appeals to residents to be tolerant of each other, and respect each other’s views as we fight this battle together.