In late fall of 2020, El Paso was the top story in the national and international news when we became a huge COVID-19 hot spot. El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego issued a stay home order with a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in October and it came with a possible fine of $500 if you were out during those hours and not going to work or seeking out essential services like going to the grocery stores and getting healthcare.

Things got so bad that there were mobile freezers full of hundreds of bodies that couldn't be processed by the County Medical Examiner quickly enough. We had bodies. Human bodies. In mobile freezers. In parking lots. In our city. But it appears that Texas governor Greg Abbott has forgotten about all of that because he won't allow city or county governments in the state to mandate mask wearing. Our top local elected officials wrote a letter on Wednesday telling him why that is a bad idea and asking him to let us decide if we need a mask mandate.

City of El Paso
City of El Paso

Oscar Leeser and Ricardo Samaniego both signed off on the letter that outlines the challenges El Paso has faced and how we have bounced back to be one of the highest vaccinated cities in the nation with almost 70% of our population fully vaccinated. Leeser and Samaniego wrote that they've heard back from educators who are asking for "local discretionary authority for facemask requirements." Put it simply, they asked Abbott for the ability to put a mask mandate into place for children in school.

They wisely brought up the fact that kids under 12 can't get vaccinated and they likely also will be less careful about wearing a mask if there is no mandate. I applaud the Mayor and County Judge for standing up for kids and speaking out for parents who don't have the ear of the Governor. I hope he allows local officials, who know best the problems their communities are facing, the ability to put a mask mandate into place if they feel it is necessary.

Well done Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.

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