Longview police, fire and EMS employees will continue to wear masks despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement lifting the state mask mandate next week.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said nothing will change for city staff, including Longview Police Department and Longview Fire Department staff.

“We have decided to continue to require employees to wear masks,” he said.

Hara said the city is taking into consideration the governor’s mandates and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Abbott announced Tuesday that, effective Wednesday, he will lift the mask mandate and allow businesses and facilities to operate at 100% capacity. Abbott also indicated residents are still encouraged to take personal responsibility for their health and the health of their community and follow the advice of medical professionals.

The Gregg County Sheriff’s Office has not announced changes to protocols.

Longview Mayor Andy Mack and Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt each said Tuesday they will follow Abbott’s orders and lift the local mask mandate.

Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne said Thursday that masks work well to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses and it’s important to continue wearing them.

Elsewhere, Rusk County Sheriff Johnwayne Valdez said COVID-19 protocols for the department and the jail will not change much.

Masks are recommended in the Rusk County Justice Center in Henderson, and there is no visitation, he said.

“Are we still going to take the same precautions because they are in the same space? Yes,” Valdez said. Jail staff will continue to quarantine incoming inmates for safety.

“We want to make sure our jail staff is safe, our inmates are safe and deputies on the street are safe,” Valdez said.

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.