Businesses respond to new mask orders in Sugar Land, Fort Bend County

SUGAR LAND – Some business owners are asking for clarity about their responsibilities, as Sugar Land and Fort Bend County officials enact similar orders requiring facial protections in public.

Both orders levy potential fines against business owners, and not customers, a $500 maximum for Fort Bend County, a $1000 maximum fine in Sugar Land.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out, what we’re needing to do,” said co-owner of F45 Training Greatwood Derek Blacksher. He runs a high-intensity interval training gym.

Blacksher re-opened weeks ago with strict new rules that incorporate distancing and disinfection. However, he is concerned about his members wearing masks during workouts, which can cut their oxygen levels while they burn 800 calories in a single 45-minute session.

“I think that could impact their safety,” Blacksher said.

Neither the Fort Bend County nor the Sugar Land orders specifically mention gyms. KPRC 2 asked for more insight from Mayor Joe Zimmerman, who said he crafted the order with the goal of public health and not punishment in mind.

“A high-intensity workout, if you can maintain six feet between everybody then you’re not going to have to wear a mask,” Zimmerman said.

A representative with the County Judge KP George echoed the sentiment.

It remains unclear if other gym activities would be subject to the same exception. But several Sugar Land gyms were requiring members to wear masks Tuesday.

Another issue arose Tuesday geared toward places that serve food. Eating and drinking, out of necessity for the activity, is exempt from mask-wearing. But patrons and employees are expected to wear masks in restaurants and bars when not engaged in those activities.

“I went to Southwell’s. I wore a mask there. When the food came I took off my mask and ate. When I was leaving I put my mask back on,” Zimmerman said.