El Paso City Council initiates ‘legal action’ against state; Health authority to issue indoor mask mandate

Local News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The El Paso City Council voted to take legal action against the state and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over preventing mask mandates.

The council called an emergency meeting on Monday and, after spending some time behind closed doors, proposed a motion to take action against the state.

El Paso City-County Health Authority Hector Ocaranza said he also intends on issuing an indoor mask mandate, including at schools. It will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning and last for 30 days and include the following:

  • All individuals over the age of 2 are to wear some form of face covering over their nose and mouth while in indoor spaces.
  • A face covering may include a variety of options.
  • Parents and guardians of children over the age of 2 and under the age of 10 shall be responsible for appropriately masking children when outside their residence.
  • A face covering is not required on anyone who has trouble breathing, has a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering or is actively exercising indoors and not within 6 feet of any other individual not from the same household.
  • A person is not required to wear a face covering while the person is consuming food or drink.
  • Wearing a face covering is not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccination, for maintaining 6 feet social distancing and handwashing, as these remain important steps to slowing the spread of the virus.

Ocaranza said he would evaluate whether the region is improving in COVID-19 cases and positivity rates.

“While our community has been doing a phenomenal job on getting their vaccines, our state is facing a very difficult time with the Delta variant, as we continue to see an increase in new COVID-19 cases, primarily among those who are unvaccinated,” Ocaranza said. “This in part is why we have continuously recommended the use of face coverings when indoors.”

Shortly after Ocarnza’s comments, the El Paso County Commissioner’s Court discussed the same topic in a coinciding meeting, passing a resolution supporting the health authority’s intention to issue an indoor mask mandate.

And, the commissioners also approved to have County Judge Ricardo Samaniego to pen a letter to school districts calling on them to pass mask mandates.

The City Council voted unanimously to challenge Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates. It’s an undertaking that San Antonio and Dallas have also taken against Abbott.

Recently, the Texas Supreme Court struck down a restraining order stopping Abbott’s executive order. A trial court hearing is set for Aug. 24.

City Attorney Karla Nieman said the city’s legal action will be before a court by Tuesday morning. City officials say the city’s legal action will help support Ocaranza’s order and oppose Abbott’s executive order.

The council voted in favor with Rep. Joe Molinar casting the sole no vote. Reps. Claudia Rodriguez and Isabel Salcido were not present for the vote as they were experiencing technical difficulties, according to Mayor Oscar Leeser.

Rodriguez was able to return to the meeting and the council tried voting again. In the second vote, the council voted in favor of initiating the legal action. Molinar, Rodriguez and Salcido voted no.

You can view the meeting in full in the player below:

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