The City of El Paso announced in a tweet on Wednesday that "The City of El Paso will continue to require individuals entering any facility owned by the City to properly wear a face mask over their nose and mouth."
The day after Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that "Texas is OPEN 100%"
El Paso city leaders including newly elected Mayor Oscar Leeser, and El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego held a joint press conference to discuss the Governor's latest executive orders and give local El Pasoans guidance on what comes next for the city.
In a statement County Judge Samaniego said:
"It’s not the time. We have no clue of the variation of the new virus. To me, it’s a complete disrespect. It’s going in a totally different reaction, where Dr. Fauci is asking for double masking and Gov. Abbott is saying you don’t have to wear the mask,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. "Right now it’s a political statement."
The City of El Paso went on to state
"By wearing a face mask you're helping stop the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our community safe."
While some business welcome the move by Abbott to re-open believing that enough Texans and El Pasoans are tired of the mask mandates, and have what some have referred to as "COVID-fatigue"
Others caution that lifting restrictions now is a mistake.
Most notably President Joe Biden criticized the announcements to re-open and lift mask mandates in both Texas and Mississippi as "Neanderthal thinking"
"I think it's a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody's realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms."
"The last thing -- the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters."
How will business enforce their own policies?
While many businesses plan on continuing to keep their own mask requirements in place, some are worried about the number of escalations that may happen between customers with opposing viewpoints.
Some large retailers like Target and Starbucks announced that masks will continue to be required in their stores even after Texas March 10 date for lifting the mask mandate.
Other companies such as Albertson's grocery stores plan on following the State guidelines set for by Governor Abbott and allowing maskless patrons to shop.
Healthcare workers speak out.
Many healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of battling the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now have expressed reactions on social media condemning Abbott's decision.
What about schools?
School districts in El Paso have stated that the safety protocols they have in place will not change based on the Governor's announcement.
What about you El Paso?
For now, El Paso will have to wait and see what effects the restrictions scheduled to lift on March 10th have on the rate of spread of the COVID-19 infection rate, hospitalizations. That along with how ready are El Pasoans to venture out together either masked or maskless.
As a close-knit community of El Pasoans, we shouldn't let our political differences get in the way of protecting one another from infection, or illness.
We're all tired of COVID. We've all had enough of quarantine. Some are tired of working from home. Children have had to adjust to homeschooling and online learning for the first time. Food insecurities and financial distress have taken a toll on our community and across our nation.
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In my opinion, The city of El Paso - Mayor Leeser - County Judge Samaniego are taking the right steps to protect our beloved city and its citizens.