Courthouse on the Square

A view of the Denton County Courthouse on the Square.

While no mandate requiring the public use of face masks is expected during Tuesday’s meeting of the Denton County Commissioners Court, significant discussions pertaining to the COVID-19 health crisis are anticipated.

For several months, Denton County Public Health Director Matt Richardson has provided commissioners and the public with weekly COVID-19 updates and is expected to announce a worsening situation on Tuesday.

On Monday, the weekly positivity rate — the percentage of positive tests compared with overall tests — increased from 9.3% to 11.6% as coronavirus cases continued to spike.

“At this time, we [do not] see a reason for Denton County cases to trend downward yet,” said Jennifer Rainey, spokesperson for the county health department.

Denton County Judge Andy Eads said in an email Monday that he does not anticipate commissioners adopting a countywide mask ordinance during their meeting on Tuesday.

In addition to hearing from public health, commissioners also are expected to approve purchasing exemptions for three Canon ballot scanners and two Okidata ballot printers.

The equipment would be purchased from Hart InterCivic, an election technologies company, and would improve speed and efficiency compared with current machines, according to an agenda document.

Because of state requirements, only certain election machines can be used, said Frank Phillips, elections administrator for Denton County.

“We are only allowed to purchase printers and scanners that have been certified by the State of Texas that are compatible with our voting system,” Phillips said via email on Monday. “So the short answer is that these are the ones that are certified by the State.”

In total, the Hart InterCivic scanners and printers cost about $50,275, according to an agenda document.

To ensure authenticity and integrity of the ballot, Phillips said election equipment undergoes a multi-point verification process and is tested against expected results.

In total, he said three tests are conducted, with the second being on election day and, again, after all results have been received. This, he said, is to ensure that nothing changed while voting.

“Additionally, Denton County votes by paper, so there is much less opportunity for ‘unforeseen hiccups with the equipment’ as many other counties may have, because they vote all electronically,” Phillips said about the county’s hybrid system.

With the pandemic disaster declaration scheduled to expire on Tuesday, county commissioners are expected to issue an extension through July 31.

Aside from an unlikely ordinance that would mandate public use of face masks, large changes are not expected, because county and local governments are unable to supersede state actions during the pandemic.

RYAN HIGGS can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @ryanahiggs.

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