For the next 30 days, at least, El Paso County will be under a mask mandate. The mandate, from Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, is in direct violation of an executive order from Gov. Abbott back in May. Abbott himself is now positive with Covid-19 but by all indications this won’t mean that he’ll relent on his anti-masking order.

I believe that this latest mandate, because of its wording, will not accomplish what it hopes to. Here are my reasons for believing this mandate, while well-intentioned, is poorly conceived.

----It’s going to almost certainly be challenged in the courts. Just days before test positive himself, the Texas Governor threatened to sue anyone in government (including school districts and health authorities) who try to mandate mask wearing. You’d think getting a breakthrough case of Covid would make most people rethink their position, but Abbott has already said he’s not feeling any symptoms. Of course, the Governor has round-the-clock healthcare, he’s receiving antibody treatment that isn’t widely available to most AND he doesn’t want to back down in front of his base, who are mostly anti-mask and worryingly anti-vaccine. I don’t see him giving an inch.

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----The one thing a mask mandate MIGHT achieve is allowing schools to require masks. Again, Abbott has staked his position on this issue so even that small concession is likely to be tied up in court.

----The El Paso County mandate has so many exceptions that anyone can claim an exemption. According to the mandate, face covering won’t be required for anyone who has “trouble breathing” or a “medical condition” that prevents wearing a mask. In other words, if someone doesn’t want to wear a mask, all they have to do is claim they have trouble breathing. If anything, this will cause more confusion and conflict than we already have.

I think most anti-maskers have at least grudgingly acknowledged that a private business…a store or a business, for example…has a right to require a mask for entrance. Most in El Paso have not been. With this mandate, especially with its built-in exemption based on the honor system, I’m afraid Walmart greeters and restaurant managers are going to have an impossible task: require a mask, but anyone can claim, with or without merit, an automatic exemption.

With such an open-ended mandate I fear it only invites abuse for anyone whose job is to ask customers to mask up. If the last 18 months have shown us anything it’s that mask-protestors love using loopholes to make their stupid points.


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