50% capacity ordinance ends Friday

A controversial ordinance limiting Odessa businesses to 50 percent capacity will end Friday, but employees and customers will continue to be required to wear mask coverings inside businesses or face up to $250 fines for each infraction, city officials announced during a Thursday press conference with health officials.
Odessa’s Director of Communications Devin Sanchez said business capacity will revert back to 75 percent, as recommended by CDC guidelines.
“As far as I know, the mask requirement will remain in effect indefinitely,” Sanchez said. Mayor David Turner, who usually represents the city at the weekly COVID-19 press conferences, did not participate Thursday.
Odessa Regional Medical Center Chief Officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan on Thursday said the face mask covering mandate should remain in effect until Ector County’s test positivity rate decreases to 5-10 percent. That rate has hovered around 30-40 percent recently, officials said.
Turner, and Commissioners Dewey Bryant and Michael Shelton were defeated in Tuesday’s runoff election, and will be replaced in January by new Mayor Javier Joven, Denise Swanner, the new at-large council member, and another newcomer, Mark Matta, who will represent District 1.
County and city health officials said they will make it a priority to work with elected officials to encourage them to continue to support the city’s efforts to keep COVID-19 rates low.
“We need to continue to impress upon our leaders the need to continue following guidelines and preventive practices,” Saravanan said. His comments were echoed by Medical Center Hospital System CEO Russell Tippin and Ector County health authority Dr. B.A. Jinadu.
MCHS reported that on Thursday they were housing 80 COVID-19 patients, 23 who are in critical condition and 21 on ventilators. Thirty employees are currently off work due to COVID, “a huge drop for us,” Tippin said.
ORMC reported 31 COVID-19 patients Thursday, 15 in critical care and 7 on ventilators.
Tippin and ORMC CEO Stacey Brown said they are expecting the first vaccine shipments to arrive on Dec. 21 and will begin vaccinating staff immediately. Nursing home residents will then begin to be vaccinated.
Both hospitals are still working on when and how vaccinations will be distributed to the general public. Tippin, said he has been inundated with calls from the public seeking to be vaccinated. He noted the earliest public vaccinations could likely start is February or March.
Jinadu said the county plans to coordinate the general public vaccination plans.
“The County will be taking a leadership role in this effort,” said Jinadu, who noted he will soon begin talking to MCHS and ORMC about the issue. “We need to start talking about planning for public distribution.”