File photo of Mayor Leeser (Lf) and County Judge Samaniego (Rt) during Wednesday's news conference. | Clip courtesy EP County

Video+Story: County Judge Samaniego, Mayor Leeser respond to Governor’s ‘Reopen Texas’ orders

Wednesday morning, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and Mayor Oscar Leeser held a joint press conference in light of Governor Greg Abbott’s new directives to reopen Texas and rescind his state-wide mandate on masks, beginning next week.

Judge Samaniego and Mayor Leeser stressed to the El Paso community the importance of wearing a mask and continuing to follow all health guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We must continue to make decisions based on the information we receive from our health professionals to ensure the safety and health of our loved ones,” said County Judge Samaniego.

“The Governor’s timing would have been much more legitimate if he would have waited to relax restrictions when vaccines are readily available to all Texans and when we reach herd immunity. We also need to better understand the new variations of the virus.”

“Our goal is to keep our community safe and work together to maintain a low hospitalization rate so that we do not overwhelm our healthcare system,” said Mayor Leeser. “We cannot revert to being one of Nation’s top COVID-19 hotspots again.”

Both the County and the City will maintain health protocols currently in place and will continue to ask employees and the public to wear a mask before entering a County or City facility.

Officials also strongly encourage area businesses to continue to require a mask and or face covering, enforce social distancing, and continue to offer curbside and online services.

During the news conference, both the Judge and the Mayor applauded businesses, entities, and school districts who have been proactive by communicating to the public that they will continue to enforce these measures.

“As a reminder, due to President Biden’s Federal mask mandate the public is required to wear a mask on federal property, airports and buses which includes the El Paso International Airport and Sun Metro,” officials said.

During the press conference, Judge Samaniego highlighted the effectiveness of wearing a mask by referencing the University Medical Center’s recording of the lowest number of flu related cases reported in years due to the mask mandate.

UMC has more than 844 flu cases recorded at the hospital from October 2019 to March 2020 compared to only 58 flu cases recorded at the hospital during the pandemic during the state-wide mask mandate. To read more about UMC’s findings, click here.

“Data is showing that during the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing has had a huge impact not only in El Paso, but throughout our Nation,” officials added.

Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-34 will go into effect next Wednesday, March 10th.