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El Paso Health Authority imposes mask rule; City Council suing governor

UPDATE: El Paso City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza told City Council he planned to impose a mask mandate, requiring that face coverings be worn at all indoor establishments, including schools, starting Wednesday morning. The mandate would be in effect for 30 days and the re-evaluated based on local Covid-19 conditions.

In defense of Ocaranza's decision, Council voted 5-3 to file a lawsuit Monday night against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Ocaranza's mandate would defy an executive order from the governor banning mask mandates. The city's legal position is that state law allows the Health Authority to impose emergency health mandates - and the governor can't override it with an executive order.

Prior to the vote, 70 El Pasoans on both sides of the issue spoke out during a public comment session. You can watch that entire meeting in the video player at the bottom of this article.

Here are the details of Ocaranza's order, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 18...

  • All individuals over the age of two (2), are to wear some form of face covering over their nose and mouth, while in indoor spaces.
  • A face covering may include a variety of options.
  • Parents and guardians of children over the age of two (2) and under the age of ten (10) shall be responsible for appropriately masking children when outside their residence.
  • A face covering is not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, has a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering, or is actively exercising indoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household.
  • A person is not required to wear a face covering while the person is consuming food or drink.
  • Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for the Covid-19 vaccination, for maintaining 6-feet social distancing and handwashing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.

Ocaranza issued the following the statement that accompanied the details of his order:

“While our community has been doing a phenomenal job on getting their vaccines, our state is facing a very difficult time with the Delta variant, as we continue to see an increase in new Covid-19 cases, primarily among those who are un-vaccinated.

This in part is why we have continuously recommended the use of face coverings when indoors.

The scientific evidence behind the use of a face cover as a preventive tool is compelling and it has shown in our region a positive effect in previous surges.

We do not want to wait until we see another surge in our community, but rather take the necessary steps now to protect our community to reduce case numbers and the risk of deaths.

In addition to face coverings, we urge eligible individuals to get fully vaccinated as the vaccine remains to be one of the greatest public health tools that we have at this moment.”

ORIGINAL REPORT: EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso City Council scheduled an emergency meeting for 4 p.m. Monday to consider taking legal action against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over his executive orders limiting the ability of local governments to issue health mandates to deal with Covid-19.

The meeting comes after several school districts and a handful of counties across the state have defied Abbott's order that restricted local entities from instituting mask mandates. The Texas Supreme Court in recent days temporarily upheld that order from Abbott.

The meeting also comes after El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego over the weekend asked City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza to defy Abbott and impose a mask mandate as El Paso hospitals were nearing capacity.

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

Comments

68 Comments

    1. This time , the city and county will refuse to honor the Court’s decisions and they will certainly ignore any edicts coming from an obviously incompetent governor. All other counties are ignoring any orders that are not in the interest of public health. We should too.

      1. Delusional much? The city/county will bend over once SCOTEX rules against them. This has nothing to do with public health. It’s all political.

  1. It makes no difference. If municipalities, really people on behalf of municipalities, can ignore the Governors order, then we can ignore their orders. We now live in a state of anarchy. Bidens America.

    1. Has nothing to do with Biden. It has to do with a governor who ignores science, is not acting in the public interest, and who should be removed from office.

    2. This is valid. You’re gonna tell me that you can defy the governors orders but i better not violate yours? The part that baffles me is some workers do everything to avoid work but will stop at nothing to enforce a mask rule. You put yourself at risk for personal litigation and danger for minimum wage. I think some businesses will defy the city mandate and win in court

  2. Why doesn’t the City worry about more important things like the 1 billion dollar debt we have, the horrible streets we drive on, the 25% poverty rate, the 25% high school is drop out rate and giving section 8 and food stamps to lazy people and illegals?

    1. Most Texas cities have ten times this amount of bond debt. We do have terrible streets. Worst in Texas. Municipal governments can do nothing about poverty or school dropout rates. The Section 8 program and food stamps are a combined state and federal program. They don’t pay or reward “lazy” people. Those programs address the poverty you claim to be concerned with.

      1. Most poverty can be prevented. Stop having kids you cannot afford but want the government to help them & get a formal education or a valuable skill.

        We grew up poor but we put education first and NEVER depended on the government for a handout.

        Section 8 & food stamps should be given to the disabled and the elderly.

        You should never receive a tax refund more than you pay in

      2. When I was in graduate school we did a study on a book that was done on education and poverty . The researchers interviewed thousands of people living in areas across the country known for high poverty levels. The result that study? Poverty raises poverty. Many people said they don’t want their kids to go to college or better themselves. Many would even question why their kids would want to go to school when the government gives you everything that you need to survive . Some of them were even insulted by the fact that their children would ask them about going to college. They didn’t understand why they would want to have anything more than what the government provided. Why work if you don’t have to. Not my study. Just trying educate you like I seem to have to do far too often. So yes, lazy people are rewarded by those programs.

        1. You have no degree. Graduate or otherwise. Your comments on this blog point to your low educational level. Just the type of person who would be vulnerable to Trumpism.

          1. You are the most uninformed, uneducated person on this blog. Your rhetoric and your propoganda are evil and dangerous.

      1. We are and have been for months. 7 fully vaccinated died this week. Ill take my chances. The science is on our side. The left politicized the science and turned it into leftist propoganda and disinformation.

  3. The powers that be are nothing more than lemmings following a failed party. Those idiots downtown can’t think for themselves, they listen to the like of escobar and she does nothing but pose and nod yes when she’s told or asked to speak, she’s just another liberal moron.

    1. When the Republicans hooked their wagon to Trump, they signed their Party’s death sentence. There are now a total of 12 Republicans left in congress.

  4. It’ll just be harder for the city to impose law enforcement on businesses that don’t want to mask customers. It’ll get dismissed by the Texas Supreme Court and the city will have to decide how much they wanna spend suing businesses. There is a difference between saying you can wear a mask if you like and you have to wear a mask. What happens when a business starts to ban vaccinated customers?

      1. You really believe your mask is going to protect you against a microbe that is less than 2.5 microns in size? If masks work why the high number of covid cases last year. All you follow is junk science.

  5. Always gotta love the visually apparent low white IQ maggots that stay in El Paso and bash El Paso. Complain about immigrants but have JAP wives, etc….

  6. Once again, El Paso will squander tons of money on a useless lawsuit they will lose. The Texas State Supreme Court has already issued an injunction against mask mandates. Who are we supposed to follow, the state Supreme Court, or a few wannabe fascist dictators like Samaniego and Leeser?

  7. The Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates ordered by two of the nation’s largest counties that defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as COVID-19 cases surge. The unsigned order by the state’s highest court Sunday halts mask requirements that county leaders in Dallas and San Antonio put in place as the delta variant tears through the nation’s unvaccinated population. see1

  8. There’s an article here where Dr Alozie says EP is in a good position. The county/city is playing a political game where they’re not listening to the doctors or adhering to the science. We’re at an 80% vaccination rate. The idiots who don’t want the jab that even Trump got can go ahead and die, and that’s their right.

    1. But Dr Alozie does sound very credible especially concerning people that have recovered from the covid and have natural antibodies. Possibly 6 times more effective versus just the vaccine. All it takes is a simple antibodies test to prove it.

  9. Best thing for businesses to do if they want to ignore the invalid city mandate is to keep it on the low. Absolutely don’t go on tv and tell everyone you’re not gonna follow it. Believe me your business will do great

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