A look back at KTSM’s top stories of 2020

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — 2020 is almost over and it was dominated by a virus that transformed the world. Every part of our lives was affected by the coronavirus and a look back at KTSM 9 News’ top stories of the year is evidence of that.

Here is a quick look at the stories that united or surprised our readers this year. These are the top stories that appeared on KTSM.com in 2020, according to Google Analytics.

10. COVID-19 victim posts haunting warning on Facebook days before death; El Paso family mourns death

In June, one local family mourned the sudden death of a family member from California who contracted COVID-19 at a party in California. The family had to wait two weeks to conduct funeral services, at a time when COVID-related deaths were not as common as they are today. The man who died, Tommy Macias, had attended a party and started showing COVID symptoms a week later. He posted an impassioned message on Facebook, lamenting previously ignoring social distancing and mask-wearing recommendations and expressed guilt for exposing his family.

9. These El Paso area business are hiring immediately

There was a lot of confusion and anxiety at the start of the pandemic, especially for small companies that were already marginally operating. In the weeks after cities across the country and the world mandated shutdowns or cancellations of large events, small businesses either slimmed down their workforce or put employees on furlough, leaving many wondering how they could make ends meet. The popularity of this story shows how the community worked together to help those who were financially affected by the coronavirus.

8. El Paso Walmart defies mask mandate, corporate responds

In April 2020, KTSM received photos and reports from shoppers at Walmart on Yarbrough and Gateway West, who said employees told them the store was not enforcing the mandatory mask order because Walmart is a privately owned company. The company responded, encouraging El Pasoans to adhere to mask mandates.

7. City of El Paso hires legal counsel to help collect Trump campaign’s outstanding debt

On Feb. 11, 2019, President Donald Trump made a campaign visit to El Paso. The “MAGA Rally” at the El Paso County Coliseum cost the City $470,417 for police, firefighters and other emergency services. By August 2019, the City added late fees to the unpaid amount. In November 2020, City Council approved of hiring outside legal counsel, the Law Office of Snapper L. Carr, to help collect the unpaid debt.

6. Teacher whose viral video of first graders greeting each other has died from COVID-19

In 2019, KTSM 9 News profiled Zelene Blancas, a first-grade dual language teacher at Dr. Sue A. Shook Elementary whose video of her students giving each other high-fives, hugs, fist-bumps and handshakes went viral in 2018. She tested positive for COVID-19 in October and died from the virus earlier this week. “The ripple effect of love and kindness that she put out into the universe through teaching her kids through the years is immeasurable,” said Nick Adkins, founder of Pinksocks Life, who worked with Blancas to encourage students to spread kindness every day.

5. El Paso rated ‘F’ in social distancing

It didn’t take long to see that El Pasoans struggled with social distancing throughout the pandemic, particularly in the first days after the City imposed a stay home order. According to data provided by Unacast.com using cellular GPS data indicates El Pasoans continued to go out and gather in large groups after the order was put into effect. El Paso County residents only decreased activity by just 4 percent. The “F” rating for El Paso was among the worst in the nation and accounted for less than a 10-percent change in activities. The city was later upgraded to a “C”.

4. Parts of El Paso experience West Texas earthquake

In what was already turning out to be an unusual year, some parts of El Paso felt the rumblings of an earthquake in March 2020. The U.S. Geological Survey showed reports of an earthquake in Mentone, Texas — about three hours east of El Paso — at about 9:15 a.m. on March 26. It was a 5.0 on Richter scale. There was also an earlier earthquake and an aftershock. The earthquake was strong enough to be felt in Northeast, Central and Far East El Paso.

3. Orders issued for all workplaces, daycares, assisted living facilities in El Paso

Before the Stay Home, Stay Safe order was imposed, the City of El Paso closed bars, lounges, taverns, arcades and private clubs to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in El Paso early in the pandemic. was reinforced by County Judge Ricardo Samaniego Tuesday afternoon, extending the measures to businesses in unincorporated areas of El Paso County. Understanding how widespread COVID could become and how it affected the most vulnerable of El Pasoans, City Council also issued guidance to all workplaces in El Paso, assisted living facilities and daycare centers.

2. El Paso officials announce ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ order to prevent spread of COVID-19

On March 24, 2020, Mayor Dee Margo and El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order to suppress the spread of COVID-19. Those who were found violating the order were supposed to face fines of up to $1,000 or be jailed for up to 180 days. The city even advised residents to report non-compliance with the order. In the days immediately following the order, the streets of El Paso were empty, except for those considered essential employees.

1. Questions raised over vaccine injection at UMC event

Local health care workers were understandably excited when the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in El Paso in mid-December. In the following days, health care workers from area hospitals were to receive their vaccinations, with workers at University Medical Center of El Paso among the very first to get the shots. But KTSM 9 New viewers were confused by what seemed to be an empty needle that was administered to one of the nurses. KTSM broke the story, and UMC officials later said that all nurses did indeed receive their vaccines. However, to clear up any confusion, the nurse in question received a second vaccination to assure the public that he was, in fact, vaccinated against COVID-19.


As we look back on these stories, we hope that 2021 is dominated by news that the pandemic is coming to an end, that the economy stabilizes and people can find employment that nurtures their soul as much as their bank account, and that we will collectively come out of the pandemic stronger, wiser and united.

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