Abbott mandates masks - Local News - Odessa

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Abbott mandates masks


Governor Greg Abbott authorized an executive order Thursday requiring Texans in public areas to wear face coverings in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases with few exceptions.

The order will go into effect at 12:01 p.m., Friday. 

“The Governor also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others,” Abbott’s press office detailed in an email.

The executive order, which includes Odessa comes days after the Odessa city council shut down a city mask mandate in a 5-1 vote.

Odessa Regional Medical Center chief medical officer Dr. Rohith Saravanan said in Thursday’s virtual hospital briefing that, “It’s about time,” Abbott issued a mask mandate.

“Even If we make this change today,” Saravanan said, “we will still see effects of what’s going on for a week or two weeks,” he said, “so our cases are still going to continue to increase despite this order for a week or two weeks and then we’ll see it start to stabilize.”

The Ector County Health Department sent out a press release Thursday detailing 1,092 cases of COVID-19 are in the county, 718 are confirmed positive and 374 are probable positive, 405 people have recovered from the virus and 678 cases are listed as active on the county website. The release showed that 1,526 tests are pending and nine Ector County residents have died from COVID-19 complications.

The Ector County Sherriff’s Office main lobby closed to the public Thursday until further notice due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, an ECSO press release detailed.

The release instructed that wearing a mask is mandatory and people can reach an investigator at 432-335-3050 to schedule an appointment if needed.

ECSO Sheriff Mike Griffis said in a phone interview that the decision to close the lobby came after a patrol officer tested positive for COVID-19 and exposed multiple people.

“I’ve been requiring everybody at the jail to wear a mask and now I’m making all the employees over at the sheriff’s office wear one also and it appears that there are probably several people who were exposed but they’re telling us to wait five days after exposure before we get tested unless somebody develops symptoms,” he said.

Griffis had concerns regarding how long test results would take for the peace officers, because, “we can’t afford to lose a lot of people to quarantine,” he said.

An email from ECSO Sgt. Gary Duesler detailed that currently 12 inmates and four officers have tested positive with COVID-19 out of ECSO and the jail.

County Commissioner Eddy Shelton detailed in a text message that, “The sheriff had to close due to the exposure level,” adding that neither the annex nor the courthouse has had that issue.

Odessa Public Information Officer Devin Sanchez sent out an email detailing that the 200 tests at the 11 a.m. Thursday mobile testing were signed for about 20 minutes after it began.

Medical Center Hospital sent out a press release detailing that out of 450 positive cases, 35 are in the hospital. Twenty-one are on seven central including two from Focused Care at Odessa, two from Ward, one from Andrews, one from Kermit and one from McCamey.

Fourteen COVID-19 positive patients are in MCH’s CCU including three from Focused Care at Odessa and one from Big Bend. Four in the CCU are reportedly on ventilators. No persons under investigation are in the hospital and 532 tests are pending.

MCH Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons said that MCH is preparing an expansion of another 13 to 28 beds for those in the CCU who may need it.

MCH President and CEO Russell Tippin said that there are patients currently in the new COVID-19 unit on MCH’s eighth floor, which opened up this morning.

ORMC President Stacey Brown reported that out of 941 tests, 102 have been positive, 688 negative and 151 are pending. Saravanan said that 11 are in the hospital and six are on ventilators and that ORMC is struggling with staffing nurses.

“Our nurses have stepped up…but there’s only so much of them. They’re working overtime, they’re covering shifts they wouldn’t normally cover, but definitely we need more nursing staffing,” he said.

Reach Michael Merlo at 432-333-7769 or by email at