Three city reps release statement supporting County Judge’s shutdown order

City Representatives Alexsandra Annello, Cassandra Hernandez, and Peter Svarzbein – who is also Mayor Pro Tempore – released a statement supporting County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s ‘Stay at Home’ order issued Thursday evening.

At the same time that Mayor Dee Margo held a lengthy news conference regarding his decision and subsequent fallout, the trio of reps made their support of the County Judge’s plan public.

Below is their joint statement:

Press Statement: Attorney General Paxton Opinion Non-binding and City Representatives urge El Paso residents to follow County Judge Ricardo Samaniego Emergency Directives:

As City Representatives of the El Paso City Council we stand in solidarity with County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, State Representative Cesar Blanco, the majority of our state delegation and with all the public health experts and physicians who are seeking additional measures to help an overburdened healthcare system. The current state of our City and County is dire and we are in a state of emergency. El Paso County’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 44% and El Paso County’s hospitalization rate has spiked from 8.3% to 44% COVID-19 related hospitalizations; a 365.2% increase over the last four weeks. El Paso County area hospitals Intensive Care Units have exceeded capacity and hospitals are now forced to establish temporary alternate care sites and airlift patients to other cities. (Source: El Paso County  Attachment A.)

Our community is composed of 82.9% Hispanic or Latino individuals and El Paso is experiencing a disproportionate and devastating impact in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. However, Hispanics represent 39.7% of all COVID-19 positive cases in Texas and very alarming, Hispanics represent 55.7% of all COVID-19 fatalities in Texas.

Mayor Dee Margo has always been quick to tout his Austin, Texas insider connections and yet he failed to leave an impression of urgency with  Governor Greg Abbott to lift the orders temporarily, for two weeks, for El Paso County so that the County Judge may take swift action to help slow the spread.

Further, Governor Abbott has repeatedly said that the county and city have failed at enforcement and we must do more to enforce the directives. Even with council pressure, the mayor continued to break ties that would have pushed for more enforcement. Our enforcement efforts have yielded very few citations with an emphasis only on educational campaigns. (Attachment B.) We have urged our colleagues and city management to increase enforcement and they have been quick to shift blame to our youth and personal behaviors.

What Mayor Margo has done, since Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced his orders on Thursday, October 29th, is confuse El Pasoans and exacerbate a divide on an already emotional issue.

Mayor Margo should retract his statements and efforts to undermine Judge Samaniego authority and efforts to slow the spread temporarily. Attorney General Ken Paxton has further created mass hysteria by stating Judge Samaniego does not have authority, yet under Texas Government Code Chapter 418- clearly gives the county judge the power to declare a local disaster within the county for certain circumstances.

County Judges from Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis counties all have sent letters to Governor Abbott supporting Judge Samaniego on his orders. (Attachment C.) We agree with these communities, because our overburdened system will create additional surges and strain other Texas and New Mexico health facilities. El Paso needs to be given the ability to protect the health and safety of our citizens if the Governor or Mayor are unwilling to.

We support these temporary measures because all El Paso County area hospitals Intensive Care Units have exceeded capacity and families are losing loved ones every single day and unfortunately they are dying alone.

We urge Mayor Margo to step aside so that our local leaders can come forward to ensure that safety, health, and welfare is prioritized over partisan politics and re-election campaigns. Neither Mayor Margo nor Attorney General Paxton have the authority to stop the County Judge’s orders and we ask El Paso County residents to strictly follow County Judge Samaniego’s Emergency orders.

Attachment A
Attachment B