In a heartbreaking and powerful letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser explains why face masks are necessary.
Leeser starts his letter with a painful memory of how he lost his mother in November to COVID-19. He explains his two sisters and brother visited her, not knowing she was COVID-19 positive. His brother didn’t wear face masks, but his two sisters did.
Sadly, that visit resulted in Leeser losing his brother on Christmas Eve.
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“I share this very personal story not to seek sympathy, but to convey to you that when I speak about face masks, I do so not only in my role as Mayor leading our wondering City of El Paso, but as someone who is deeply aware of the power and protection that wearing face masks can provide an individual,” Leeser stated in his letter to Abbott.
The March 4 letter comes after Abbott announced he will be lifting his face mask ordinance as of March 10. He also said he is opening Texas “100 percent,” allowing businesses to run at full capacity. These actions, Abbott said, are to help small businesses bring in revenue it lost in the COVID-19 era. Leeser said he supports the plan for businesses, but encourages Abbott to allow local authority members to require face masks.
“Having seen our City come back from being one of the most infected cities in our nation in November, to the point where we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, it is my duty to encourage my community to wear face masks, and advocate to you for local authority to require them,” Leeser wrote.
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Abbott’s order is allowing local discretion if COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above 15 percent for seven straight days, which Leeser believes could potentially be devastating for businesses. Leeser said how “100% masks equal 100% business,” explaining the more protected his citizens are, the safer and healthier the city will be. Leeser points to this as what will ensure businesses can remain open at 100 percent.
“There are 254 counties in your jurisdiction,” Leeser wrote. “Each one is different. Each one faces different challenges, risk factors, geographical issues, and dynamics in underlying conditions of our populations that should be thoughtfully considered and uniquely addressed. That can only be done with local authority.”
You can read Leeser’s full letter below:
In an interview with CBS 11 News on Thursday, Abbott addressed the criticism for ending the face mask mandate, saying it is backed up by the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rates. The governor also noted the rising number of people being vaccinated led to his decision, saying doctors believe that every Texan who wants a vaccine can get one by early May. To note, three of Abbott’s COVID-19 advisory strike force said they weren’t consulted about the mask mandate, and currently only 7.5 percent of the more than 28 million Texans have received both doses of the vaccine.
“All the metrics are moving in the right direction,” Abbott said. “You cannot wait until you get to the very end until there are no more COVID cases, because we’re never going to get to a position where there are no more COVID cases.”
Priscilla Aguirre is a general assignment reporter for MySA.com | email@example.com | @CillaAguirre