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Fort Worth City Council votes down mask requirement 5-4

'This is not a political decision, it’s a health decision. Look within your heart. Consider somebody other than yourself,' one member said in support of the motion.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The City of Fort Worth will not implement a mask requirement after a narrow 5-4 city council vote struck down such a motion, Tuesday.

The council proposal would have required people to wear a mask while inside city facilities. 

While some council members, like Elizabeth Beck of District 9, voted in favor of the measure, others, including Mayor Mattie Parker, opposed it. 

“Anytime you say something is mandatory and at the bottom say it’s not enforceable, it’s incredibly confusing," said Parker. "Our governor is working alongside his health officials just like he had from the very beginning. You may not like the decisions he’s making, but you don’t have the information in front of him that he does."

Beck said she had been reading letters from concerned citizens as "the delta variant is raging through our community" and wanted to require masks to help keep city employees and residents safe. 

"We were elected to lead for this city. It is time Fort Worth lead in this issue," Beck said.

Councilmember Cary Moon, of District 4, felt vastly differently.

"I’m not going to enforce this. I view it as political theater," he said. "My children don’t want to wear masks. I will not be supporting this order."

District 5 councilmember Gyna Bivens did not support the motion, either. 

David Cooke, the city manager, added that officials have "made getting a vaccine as easy as possible" and that anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so. 

But Chris Nettles, the councilmember for District 8, said he thought it was "silly" that people still weren't treating COVID-19 seriously enough to consider a mask mandate after hundreds of thousands have died from it. 

He also added that while vaccines are now readily available for most, they are not an option for children under 12 years old.

"You worry about you and your mask and nose, but children are suffering right now," he said. 

He also added that it's "not just about you," and people should be willing to wear masks to protect others around them. 

"This is not a political decision, it’s a health decision. Look within your heart. Consider somebody other than yourself." 

Carlos Flores, the member from District 2, said he supported the motion because officials should be working to implement "reasonable measures" to prevent the need of more restrictive measures if the situation worsens.

Residents of Fort Worth spoke before the members of council, and many of them urged leaders to support the mask order. Greg Hughes was one of them. 

"We elected you because you know Fort Worth," said Hughes. "Do the right thing to keep citizens and children healthy." 

The vote comes at a time when the COVID-19 situation is worsening, both in Texas and across the country, as the delta variant continues its spread.

Multiple hospital regions throughout Texas were completely out of ICU beds over the weekend, with even more only having single-digit numbers of beds available. 

The week before, cities like Houston and Dallas were struggling to keep pediatric ICU beds open as a rise in both COVID-19 and RSV cases in children have begun to overwhelm hospitals.

Doctors and public health officials appear to be at odds with other leaders throughout the state as they plead for masks to be implemented once more, particularly in schools where children under the age of 12 can not yet be vaccinated. 

RELATED: Before Fort Worth ISD mask requirement, pediatricians urged district to 'please help us'

Over the weekend, though, the Texas Supreme Court removed a temporary restraining order on Gov. Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban, allowing that ban to remain in place. 

But, multiple school districts across the state are now openly defying that order, including Dallas ISD, and school leaders say they are willing to pay the fines associated with that civil disobedience to ensure safety in their schools.

RELATED: President Biden calls Dallas ISD superintendent, thanks him for holding firm on mask requirements

Jose Menendez, a Texas state senator from San Antonio, tweeted over the weekend he was starting a legal defense fund for school districts as they fight it out in court with the governor.

Many are advocating for local control over such decisions to protect public health overall, while Abbott and other state officials believe masking and getting vaccinated should be an individual responsibility and choice.

RELATED: Law expert predicts outcome on fight between state, counties over mask mandates

Nearly the entire country is currently under the "high" COVID-19 community transmission level, according to the CDC, including all of North Texas. To check your county's community transmission level, click here. 

When transmission is high, health experts say everyone should mask up, especially indoors, no matter if they are vaccinated or not.  

Nearly 51% of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, however, and that number rises to 59.4% when accounting for people 12 and older.

In Texas, state officials report more than 13.1 million people have been vaccinated. That's about 54.5% of people 12 and up. 

WFAA Digital Content Producer Jennifer Prohov and Reporter Adriana de Alba contributed to this report.

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