Campaign signs line the Panola County courthouse parking lot during early voting in the March 2020 primaries.

Visitors at the Panola County courthouse are now required to wear face masks, Judge LeeAnn Jones said. 

The requirement is in accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask order and for the health of courthouse employees, Jones said. It was effective at 8 a.m. Monday. 

Jones also said the main courthouse entrance will be locked. Entrance to the courthouse will be made on the ends of the sides of the building, so that mask checks can be done. 

Jones said Monday that Panola County had added three COVID-19 cases: a 34-year-old man, a 53-year-old man and a 69-year-old woman. Jones said the county's active number of cases was 24, and the cumulative total was 237.

Regionally, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission was reporting 116 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19. There were 104 ICU beds available, 577 hospital beds available and 251 ventilators available.

Carthage police, Panola County Sheriff say they won't enforce mask order

The Carthage Police Department and Panola County Sheriff Kevin Lake said Monday their officers would not issue warnings or citations for not wearing a face mask.

But Carthage police said they would enforcing criminal trespass laws if a business or individual property owner requires the wearing of a face mask, and Lake said they would respond if a person refuses to comply with a business's mandate and a breach of the peace occurs or if the owner requests a person be criminally trespassed.

"We encourage everyone to practice every precaution available to stop any spread of COVID-19, which includes social distancing and good hygiene practices," the Carthage Police Department said.

Lake said his department is strongly encouraging everyone to practice safe social distancing, proper personal hygiene and to use all necessary precautions while we are in this COVID-19 pandemic.

His office is encouraging voluntary compliance with the mask order, Lake said, but keeping up with enforcing the order would require resources they don't have.

"The order states that a verbal warning must be issued to each violator first, then a citation to be issued for repeated violations," Lake said. "That would require a database to be created to keep up-to-date names of each individual warned, then the data base would have to be manually checked prior to a citation being issued. While we encourage precautions, we do not have the staff to enforce the basic mask order, much less to keep up with a database who has received a warning for not wearing a mask and who has not, along with conducting our regular duties."

Lake said businesses have the right to require a mask to be worn while conducting business at their establishment, just as they have the right to require shirts and shoes be worn.

"We would only intervene in this instance if a breach of the peace occurs, if the business owner asked for someone who is causing a problem to be removed, and/or a criminal trespass warning is requested to be issued for their place of business," Lake said.

Lake said his office would also not be enforcing gatherings of more than 10 people unless a breach of the peace or criminal act has occurred.

"Again, we strongly recommend practicing social distancing, proper personal hygiene, and other safe practices while in the public, in an effort to protect yourself and others," Lake said. "We continue to practice social distancing and other safety protocols at our office for the safety of our staff and the public. We all must work together to combat this and other contagious diseases. However, this office will not force restrictions on our citizens that should be voluntarily decided by each individual."