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El Paso in limbo: No clear answer if re-opening will be delayed after county judge, governor talk

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told ABC-7 he and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have spoken about his letter signed by other local officials asking to halt the re-opening of El Paso.

The next phase in re-opening the state is currently set for Monday, May 18.

Samaniego said he expressed his concerns to the governor about why he believes El Paso is not ready to reopen. He said the governor told him he would get back to him and take his concerns into consideration, but was not given a time frame as to when he would make a decision.

"He might not," Samaniego said. "His answer might be what happens on (May 18). I’m not sure. I know he said he’d get back to me but I keep working hard on making sure that we do keep our community safe.”

Samaniego added that this was the first time he had received a call from Gov. Abbott.

ABC-7 reached out to the governor's office for comment but has not heard back. The governor's office has also not replied to requests for comment by the Associated Press either.

According to the Texas Tribune, other county judges in Texas have been receiving letters from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, warning them that they could face litigation if they don't pull back on restrictions. El Paso has not yet received such a letter.

Samaniego said county judges of the "metro six" counties believe the attorney general's threats "don't carry any weight."

"Anybody can file a lawsuit... but I think we stand on the ground, a very strong ground, that our numbers are climbing," Samaneigo said. "We have the proximity issues and I think that's very defensible."

Offices within office buildings, non-essential manufacturers and gyms are still set to re-open at 25% capacity across the state including El Paso come next week.

Gyms like Rise Performance, located in west El Paso, is preparing to open Monday. Owner Carlos Hernandez said only 20 people will be allowed inside, which allows him to keep a closer eye on who's coming in and out. Clients must also wear gloves and masks in order to workout.

Samaniego said not all businesses need to reopen right away, adding that they should not reopen unless they have the proper equipment, resources and training. 

Hernenadez said he’s ready to open, but the safety of his clients comes first.   

“Whatever (county officials) think is best, I will totally agree and stand by what they think," Hernandez said. "But for now, the mandate says (we can) open May 18, so we’re trying to get everything ready, prepare and keep everyone as safe as we possible can."

Article Topic Follows: El Paso
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Brianna Chavez

Brianna Chavez is an ABC-7 reporter/producer.

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