ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) – In an eleventh hour vote, the Ector County Independent School District voted to approve a resolution for a temporary mask requirement, but with a notable change.
The mandate will not take effect immediately, or tomorrow, as expected. Instead, ECISD Superintendent, Dr. Scott Muri, will have the power to implement the mask mandate when legally permissible.
Today’s vote and decision to delay implementation hinged on a decision made by the Texas Supreme Court. The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked a mask mandate issued by San Antonio and Bexar County for their public schools.
After two hours of public comment, with an overwhelming majority of speakers who stood against the mask mandate, ECISD board members convened for discussion.
The board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the resolution for a temporary mask requirement, after a presentation from Superintendent Dr. Muri, ECISD Medical Director Dr. Timothy Benton, and MCH Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons.
ECISD Superintendent Dr. Muri cited a rise in COVID-19 cases among students, and COVID-19 cases in Odessa, which he called “at crisis levels.”
Dr. Timothy Benton, ECISD Medical Director, explained how masks/PPE are common place in medical facilities because they are an infection control measure, especially for respiratory infections. Benton said infections aren’t caught in hospitals because of masks, but infections are caught in the public where masks are less likely worn. He said masks help control and limit infections.
MCH Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons mentioned heavily affected morale among nursing staff who are caring for COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic. She said the amount of people dying from COVID-19 in her facilities is alarming for her staff, that the age in which people are dying and hospitalized “are our age.”
“They’re people we went to school with,” Timmons said. “I’m actually scared and I’ve never been scared at work… I feel like I’m one patient away from losing control.”
Timmons talked about how the “community doesn’t understand what we see because they don’t walk our halls… and that’s heartbreaking. So that’s where we come to the community and say, ‘Just trust us.’”
After Timmons, Dr. Muri said ECISD is in a public health crisis and cited the recommendations for mask use from a list of medical organizations.
ECISD’s chief legal counsel said the state of Texas Supreme Court is still deciding on further course of action regarding statewide mask mandates. Amid the deliberations in the court system, the mask mandate resolution has been approved in ECISD to give the superintendent such power to implement a mandate. But it will not take effect until legal battles are resolved.
This is a developing story and will be updated.