EL PASO, Texas — School is in session in one of the regions of the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and El Paso city and county leaders aren’t taking any chances.
El Paso Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza is set to impose a mask mandate in the region in violation of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive orders forbidding them. El Paso City Council, meanwhile, voted 5-3 Monday night to file a lawsuit against Gov. Abbott over his mask mandate ban.
The council did not meet to approve or disapprove the mask mandate but to provide protection for Dr. Ocaranza to implement his mask mandate for indoor spaces. The city is making a case that health authorities are allowed to impose emergency health mandates under state law.
Seventy El Pasoans were present via ZOOM prior to the vote to voice their opinions.
Per the mandate, everyone over the age of 2 must wear some kind of face covering while indoors. For those who are medically unable to wear a mask, a face covering will not be required. The mandate goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 18 and will remain in effect for 30 days.
El Paso may have an uphill battle over the mandate. On Sunday, the Texas Supreme Court sided with Gov. Abbott, issuing stay orders preventing mask mandates from being enforced in Bexar and Dallas counties. The stays are temporary, however, and a final decision from the state’s highest court is forthcoming.
Monday’s developments come a few weeks after El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and El Paso Country Judge Ricardo Samaniego sent a letter to Gov. Abbott formally calling on him to reverse his position and permit school districts to mandate masks on campuses.