The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on all of us.
Since the middle of March, County Judge Lewis Owens has been at the forefront of the public information campaign in Val Verde County.
Owens has been the primary spokesman day in and day out, and he was also leading efforts to create public health rules related to the pandemic. While no elected official was prepared for what has happened since March, Owens was the one who stepped forward when we needed a leader.
Mayor Bruno Lozano was a little slower to respond. Lozano did all the right things from a legislative standpoint, but it was easy to tell he was not as experienced or as prepared to lead in a crisis like Owens was.
I’m not saying that to be critical of Lozano. To be honest, few people would be ready to step forward during these times of crisis and turmoil.
Last week, from my standpoint, that seemed to be changing. The mayor came out forcefully in public regarding community safety and stood with Owens as the top leaders in the community answered question after question related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lozano even asked the community to voluntarily sequester for 21 days, if possible.
And then the mayor went on a TV program over the weekend and said some things that set off quite a few. I watched the brief clip Lozano did for TV, and frankly I don’t see what the problem is. Lozano said pretty much the same thing we have been reporting for the last week.
I then watched as Owens responded in a video he made.
In listening to both, there seems to be conflict on two or three points. First, the mayor made a statement that the hospital has “patients in the hallways.” He also said if things don’t change, the hospital could turn into a COVID only hospital soon.
In his discussion with KENS5, the mayor talks about patients in the hallways, but he never says they are COVID patients. Yet, the county judge strongly refuted Lozano, implying the mayor said they were COVID patients. I listened several times and Lozano simply never said the patients in the hallways were COVID patients. Both agree there are patients in the halls, but neither said COVID patients.
As far as the hospital, Owens strongly defended the work being done at the hospital.
While I agree the doctors and nurses at VVRMC are doing amazing work, I don’t see where Lozano is critical of the hospital in anyway. It seems his concern is simple — if people don’t change their behavior, the hospital will be so overrun with COVID patients they won’t be able to care for others. I think that’s actually the truth.
There also seems to be some contention about the 21-day stay at home request, the mayor made. Owens said he is not in favor of the order in large part because it would destroy the economy.
I happen to agree with Owens on this, but unless I’m mistaken Lozano requested people to stay home unless they were working or doing an essential task. That includes shopping, getting food and things like that.
I happen to agree, and I suspect Owens does, too. If what you are doing is not essential right now — work, healthcare, shopping — just stay home.
That’s what I try to do. I left my house today because I had to go to work.
My wife left to see the doctor. I will probably go by Walmart and get prescriptions. That’s it. I’m obviously not at home, but I am limiting how often I leave and where I go.
That’s what I can do. I do that, wear a mask and wash my hands frequently. And I hope for the best.
As far as our leaders, there is no doubt Owens has been the man in charge since day one. He has led all the local efforts in combating COVID-19 and he has been the primary source for accurate and fair information.
While Lozano has been more quiet, I for one am glad the mayor is finally stepping up. I know they have the same goal, so we need our leaders working together, not against each other, during these difficult times.
David Rupkalvis is the publisher of the Del Rio News-Herald. His column runs every Wednesday in the Del Rio News-Herald.