EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Faced with a surge in COVID-19 cases, the state of Chihuahua is again mandating the use of face masks.

The state Health Council on Thursday voted to require the use of masks both indoors and outside, and to reduce occupancy in businesses to 80 percent. The mandate is to go into effect next Monday.

Dr. Leticia Ruiz, head of preventive health services, said coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities have been going up in the past four weeks.

“It’s important to slow down the increase. We have had six deaths, when we had been going entire weeks without deaths,” Ruiz said in a teleconference Thursday. She said the state has recorded 2,980 new infections in the past week, with 529 reported in Juarez, and urged residents to vaccinate if they have not done so.

Chihuahua news media reported the Health Council made its decision after projections showed new COVID-19 cases could reach 12,000 to 13,000 in the next two weeks if nothing is done. Council members said strict prevention protocols would be enforced at “mass attendance” events, something that was no longer being done.

In El Paso, the COVID-19 health alert remained high on Thursday, with 498 new cases reported and 85 people hospitalized.

Thor Salayandia, president of the Juarez Chamber of Industry, issued a statement calling for business occupancy not to be restricted. “Even if you close businesses, people have parties and go to concerts, which is most of the contagion takes place, as well as in government offices,” he said. “We have spent two years going from (health condition) red to yellow, to light green and back to red. We urge the government not to restrict economic activity.”