City council members on Monday will consider a new public health declaration that could include keeping city pools closed all summer, limiting access to city parks along the creek and prohibiting door-to-door sales.
Del Rio City Council members have scheduled a special meeting to begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss renewing the city’s existing declaration of disaster for public health emergency. The existing city declaration expires Monday.
Council members discussed the declaration and what provisions it should include during their regular meeting Tuesday.
Councilman Rowland Garza initiated the discussion following updates on the city’s COVID-19 activities, presented by City Manager Matt Wojnowski and City Emergency Management Director John Sheedy.
“My questions revolve around game-planning on what we do from here ... I’d like to hear council’s thoughts on what we may or may not be able to do ... Matt, what is your recommendation on an order or a declaration moving forward?” Garza asked.
“There are two routes: One is just to have the declaration itself and follow the governor’s orders as much as we can. The second one is to localize it and add our own restrictions here for our parks and the creek, door-to-door sales, et cetera, similar to what the county had in the past. This is where I think some council discussion would be beneficial on what we think is best for Del Rio at this time,” Wojnowski replied.
“As we know, it’s going to be much easier to maintain things closed and slowly open up than to open up and have more cases and have to close things again, so I would lean toward the side of proceeding with caution and opening things up slowly. Our recommendation to the council as a staff is to maintain the pools closed for this summer season, as hard as that may be, in the name of public health,” the city manager added.
Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano asked Sheedy to weigh in on the city manager’s comments from an emergency management perspective.
Sheedy told the council he is wary of losing the ground the community has gained in fighting the spread of COVID-19. He said he believes the city needs to do what it can “to prevent groupings of people.”
Lozano pointed out Eagle Pass “has a high number of cases relative to ours,” though he added that city is also keeping many public facilities closed.
“A fear is, that as challenging as it is for our city, if we open up the parks, what happens is that we have neighbors an hour away from us, from Uvalde and Eagle Pass, where they may have restrictions, and they’ll come and use our parks and we’ll be stuck with an outbreak due to their traveling to our community,” Lozano said.
“I feel we need to continue to have the declaration of disaster for public health emergency in place. Right now is not the time to slack off,” the mayor added.
Councilman Alfredo “Fred” Carranza Jr. said he believes the city needs to keep its two public swimming pools closed.
“Kids are very unlikely to social distance, so for their health and their safety, I think it’s a good idea that we do keep the pools closed. As far as the parks and the creek, I’m not saying right now, but I think we need to take a look at this at the next council meeting and surely in the next 30 days. If we can keep our numbers flat like we’ve been able to, I think we’re going to come to a point where we’re going to have to open them up, but keep the guidelines in place of 10 to a group or whatever we decide, and the social distancing aspects,” Carranza said.
Carranza said he believes the local declaration needs to “include and continue” with the curfew for juveniles and to include language “strongly recommending” face masks.
Councilman Jim De Reus said he, too, believes city pools should remain closed and the city should revisit the issue of re-opening city parks every 30 days.
Councilwoman Diana Bejarano Salgado, Councilwoman Liz Elizalde De Calderon and Councilman Raul C. Ojeda agreed city pools and parks should remain closed.
“It’s the health of everybody that’s important, and it’s a small sacrifice to make, to ensure that we all stay healthy,” Salgado said.
When Lozano began discussing making a motion regarding the declaration, Garza said he believed it would be beneficial to the council to see a draft of the proposed declaration, incorporating the points and language discussed, before making a decision.
The mayor then pointed out the current declaration expires on Monday and suggested the council schedule a special meeting on that date to consider extending the declaration and incorporating some of the language discussed by council members.
Garza said before voting on anything, he would like to hear from the city manager, Sheedy, and “the boots on the ground” personnel working to enforce the provisions of the existing declaration.
Wojnowski said keeping the pools closed would not be an issue and pointed out, “The city manager can close parts of the parks, and I’m doing so in the name of public health.”
He added prohibiting door-to-door sales would not be a problem.
Sheedy said, “As the emergency manager and those of us in public safety, we just have to err on the side of caution, so if I’m asked, I’m going to consider one thing: What is going to save the most lives? ... I would have to be in support of closing the parks. Nobody wants to do it, but there would be a lot of interactions at the parks,” Sheedy said.