Covid-19 frustrations, fears mount as Thanksgiving, Christmas seasons approach

As the El Paso region continues to see the number of coronavirus cases increase, and daily deaths at times approaching or surpassing the number of people lost during the August 3rd massacre, residents are on edge, upset and frustrated.

After a four-week fight between County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and Mayor Dee Margo, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton along with ten local businesses against the lockdown order initially imposed by Judge Samaniego, the 8th Court of Appeals decided to strike down the stay-at-home order that was scheduled to remain in place until December 1st.

Currently, El Paso has the same regulations as New York, a city that was once the epicenter of the pandemic, a city that is now reporting less than a 3% positivity rate of coronavirus cases compared to almost 20% from El Paso.

For some younger locals, these measures are not enough to stop the coronavirus spread; Paseños question whether leaders from El Paso and Texas care about their lives. Pepe Longoria, a 21-year-old UTEP student, is one of them.

“They don’t really care about their voters or the people they are supposed to be representing and helping… makes me trust them even less, honestly.”

Omar Hernandez, an artist who uses his illustrations to send political messages, said nothing is more valuable than keeping Paseños alive. 

Graphic courtesy Omar Hernandez

“I am legitimately angry at leadership in El Paso…these three people (Gov. Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, and Mayor “Dee” Margo) have different interests, and Latino, our Latino community does not fit in that interest…I think it is a direct attack to Latinos and Latinos in our community.”

Hernandez created a graphic with the faces of Governor Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, and Mayor “Dee” Margo right in the middle.

On top, the title that reads, “El Paso will never forget these three.” Hernandez also included some data from the coronavirus cases and deaths reported in El Paso last week. 

“A lot of people are angry at the leadership, they are angry at people going to parties and bars, but I don’t think that people are putting a face to that anger, and I think it’s important to put a face in the name and names to that anger… the deaths that have come from this pandemic and this mismanagement from leadership is huge.” 

Paseños aren’t the only ones sharing this sentiment toward El Paso and Texas leaders. After the 8th Court of Appeals ruled on the County’s Stay at Home Order, Judge Samaniego released a statement expressing his disappointment.

“I disagree with both the reasoning and the logic of the Court’s opinion. However, I am so grateful to Justice Yvonne Rodriguez for her dissenting opinion and her recognition of the current health crisis we are facing,” Judge Samaniego said, and then he added, 

“My message to the community is that we learn from our mistakes and take more precautions. Our situation will surely get drastically worse before they get better if we continue to be careless.”

Oscar, a 22-year-old UTEP Accounting student, has some conflicted feelings and wants to understand both sides of the aisle.

 “I understand people need to make money, which is why I think they should attempt to extend unemployment for everyone that losses their job due to the restrictions,” Oscar said. 

“I know there might be a better way to handle everything. It just hasn’t been found or been able to be executed.”

These last few days, El Paso has seen a slight decrease in cases compared to the all-time high of 3,100 coronavirus cases,  reached during election week and followed by the Halloween and Día de Los Muertos celebrations. However, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, experts fear the worst for El Paso and the entire country. 

Based on a recent survey conducted by the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, 2 in 5 Americans are likely to attend a large gathering this holiday season.

The risk of running into a coronavirus positive person at a holiday gathering in El Paso is 90%, said data collected from The Washington Post.

People outside El Paso share the same worries as the Paseños. José Gustavo Bravo Flores, a 23-year-old student from Mexico who will join the Master program in Physics at UTEP, who also fears the situation in El Paso could get worse.

Flores lives in Sonora, Mexico, but he follows the health crisis since he will move to El Paso in January, however the virus – and people’s behavior – has him reconsidering his options.

“it’s easy to know that it’s not only the government’s fault, the people are not taking the right precautions about the virus, risking not only themselves but anybody else…so many lives have been lost due to the misinformation, the wrong decisions and the lack of common sense,” Flores shared.