El Paso, TX

Two El Paso School Districts Vote to Require Masks in School

Tom Handy

On Tuesday night, El Paso Independent School District and Socorro Independent School District voted to require masks in schools for children age 2 and over. There was only one dissenting vote.

El Paso Trustee Daniel Call voted against requiring masks in school.

The likelihood of a mask mandate standing up to scrutiny with the Texas Supreme Court is very small, so if there is a mask mandate it probably will not last very long,” he said. “To me, judicial activism is not something that I think a school district should be involved with.”

Fellow Trustee Israel Irrobali said decisions about what’s best at the local level shouldn’t come from lawmakers who live in Austin which is hundreds of miles away.

At the end of the day, local control should be supreme and I believe that we should have the power in this situation to make that decision,” said Irrobali, who has said he briefly worked on Abbott’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. “It shouldn’t be left up to individuals in Austin that don’t know how it is in El Paso and have not been down here in quite a while.”

Half an hour after EPISD, Socorro voted unanimously in favor of wearing masks at school. Socorro trustees had a closed-door briefing from their lawyer, Steve Blanco, about litigation and other legal issues.

Parents shared their thoughts for hours as some were for the mask and others were not.

Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 prohibits school districts from mandating masks in schools. As of Tuesday, it was announced that Governor Abbott had the coronavirus.

"The Governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result," Abbott's communications director Mark Miner said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government officials to ensure that state government continues to operate smoothly and efficiently. The Governor will isolate in the Governor's Mansion and continue to test daily."

Governor Abbott sent out a tweet about his status and health condition.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweetTwitter screenshot

It will be interesting to see if Governor Abbott has a change of heart after experiencing COVID himself.

According to local data, on the week of Aug. 2, the first week of school, there were 309 active cases in children to the age of 19. The following week, 373 active cases were reported. This week, El Paso's public health department reported 501 active cases in that age group.

"We don't want to get to the point that we need to lock down and that we affect people's livelihoods. The best way to get those two results is to make sure that everyone gets vaccinated, particularly our teens, and really encouraged them to wear masks," Dr. Edward Michaelson said. Michaelson works at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences of El Paso.
"The fact we don't have a (mask) mandate really is a political decision. It's not medical advice. The best medical advice for all of us is to continue to wear masks even those of us who are vaccinated."

On Monday, the El Paso City Council voted 5-3 to protect Dr. Hector Ocaranza’s mask mandate.

Compared to the rest of the country, El Paso is doing well.

1,900 children nationwide were hospitalized with Covid-19 which is a record high in the U.S as of Saturday.

According to CDC data, more kids are being infected with the virus across the country. Compared to this time last year, data shows for 100,000 cases, 418 kids ages up to the age of 17 have Covid-19. Last year, 177 kids were infected for every 100,000 cases.

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