The Laredo Council may break the sitting law to solicit vaccines and government aid


Following news that Laredo has the largest number of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the country, the city council held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the tools available to contain the spread of the virus.

Seven local doctors spoke to the council about the need to take immediate action. The general practitioner Dr. Arturo Garza Gongora and the cardiologist Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa recommended, like the council, launch a citywide shutdown in March 2020 to stop the rapid spread of the virus and reduce hospital stays and deaths.

But Laredo, like all other Texas cities, is now bound by Governor Greg Abbott’s emergency order that limits local store occupancy to 50% and no more. At a meeting last week, the council asked the governor for permission to limit the occupancy in restaurants and restaurant bars to 25%. Abbott hadn’t responded until Monday.

If the council repealed this order and restricted takeaway and roadside businesses only, they would invite the state to file a lawsuit. But these doctors recommended it anyway.

“The governor did not give us the authority to quarantine, but quarantine is where it goes,” said Cigarroa. “… We have to resist the ‘no’.”

Cigarroa also noted that Laredo did not receive an adequate number of vaccine doses from the state. Lubbock County, which is only slightly larger than Webb County, has received 15,700 doses in the past three weeks. Webb County was allocated 4,200. He wondered if this was due to discrimination or inefficiency of the state.

Dr. However, Victor Treviño, the Laredo Health Authority, did not recommend the council to implement a citywide shutdown as it would create a humanitarian crisis among the poor and migrant communities who depend on the daily work to bring food to their table. Instead, he recommended strategic closings.

The council unanimously voted for the item on the agenda of City Councilor Alberto Torres, instructing the city government to send as many city workers as possible from home, each entering a city building to wear a double face mask, splitting a total of $ 90,000 six local. on notice boards and shelters and urges all other local government agencies to implement the same measures.

According to the Texas Open Meetings Act, agendas for a typical council meeting must be published three days in advance of the meeting. The agenda for an emergency meeting has to be posted two hours in advance. And the measures taken at emergency meetings must be limited to what has been clearly identified as an emergency, noted City Prosecutor Rene Benavides.

Council member Dr. However, Marte Martinez expressed frustration that the agenda only included the item set by Torres, arguing that this limited their ability to act at a time when 1,500 more Laredoans were likely to be infected by the next meeting.

He made a motion that was likely beyond the agenda, in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, to send Governor Abbott a letter asking for additional vaccines and asking why they were not providing an amount appropriate to the other counties have received. He also asked the governor to put in writing whether he would not allow restaurant occupancy in Laredo to drop to 25%.

When the prosecutor protested the legality of this request, Martinez replied that “you can arrest me”.

Mayor Pete Saenz, following the city attorney’s advice, refused to take the motion forward, but asked the council to vote to overrule it, which they did.

Martinez’s proposal was unanimously approved.

Councilor Alyssa Cigarroa, the daughter of Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa, also made a motion, probably beyond the agenda, to write a resolution to their federal and state officials calling on the National Guard or additional personnel to help Laredo’s introduction of the vaccine.

The council voted again for the mayor’s repeal and passed the motion.

Julia Wallace can be reached at 956-728-2543 or [email protected]


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