March 4, 2021
The Honorable Greg Abbott
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Dear Governor Abbott:
I lost my mother in November. To COVID-19. The night before she passed away, my two sisters and brother visited her. I implored them to wear a facemask. We didn’t know that was COVID-positive, but I suspected she might be, We later learned that she had COVID-19. My sisters wore a facemask and were not infected. My brother did not wear a mask. Sadly, we lost my brother on Christmas Eve.
I share this very personal story not to seek sympathy, but to convey to you that when I speak about facepmaskes, I do so not only in my role as Mayor leading our wonderful City of El Paso, but as someone who is deeply aware of the power and protection that wearing a facemark can provide an individual.
When you issued Executive Order GA 34 on Tuesday, our senior leadership team and our regional health experts quickly assembled to assess its implications for our region. I wholeheartedly agree with you that it is important to support businesses in our State – small business in particular – and that their survival, and the economic vitality of our state hinges on those businesses remaining open. That said, having seen our City come back from being one of the most infected cities in the 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 continue to wear facemarks, and advocate to you for local authority to require them.
The use of facemasks will aid, not hinder, operation of business in our community. Your Executive Order allows for local discretion should the 7-day average of hospitalization rate rise above 15 percent. If that were to happen, going back to 50 percent, then back up, and potentially back down again would be devastating for business. The more protected our citizens are, the safer and healthier we will be, which in turn will ensure that businesses can remain open at 100 percent. In short, 100 percent masks equals 100 percentage business.
There are 254 counties in your jurisdiction. 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. El Paso may need facemasks, other cities may not. I am a business owner. You will not find a stronger advocate for business than I am. But I want to keep my employees safe and I want my customers to feel safe. As Mayor, I need to keep my community safe. If my brother had worn a facemask, he would still be alive today. I ask for your reconsideration. Allow local communities authority to best decide facemark requirements based on the individual challenges each community faces.
Editor’s Note: The above letter was penned by Oscar Leeser, mayor of El Paso and sent to Governor Greg Abbott on March 4, 2021. The letter appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of Mayor Leeser. Mayor Leeser can be reached by email via: [email protected]