RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO)— Cases of the Delta variant are rising here in the valley, bringing new concerns over the use of masks. Governor Greg Abbott has threatened to fine local officials who enforce mask mandates and local officials consider pushing back.
“Lives are certainly more important than $1,000 a day,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, when reacting to Gov. Abbott’s executive order.
Judge Cortez said he would consider going against Gov. Abbott’s orders banning local officials from enforcing mask mandates if it means saving lives.
“If I were to get 30%, 20%, 10% of the people to take additional precautions I was 30, 20, or 10% better than I was before so I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose and everything to gain, same thing here,” he said.
Those who go against Gov. Abbott could face fines of $1,000. Hidalgo county announcing 4 new delta cases on Friday and Cameron County confirming 3 cases of the delta variant, raising concerns from local health officials.
“There’s only so much we can do,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, Hidalgo County Health Authority. “All of us agree personal responsibility is key, and what is personal responsibility? Mask wearing and getting vaccinated and what have we seen? People have not in the past done it.”
Health officials agree local entities should have the ability to make decisions based on what’s happening within their county.
“Local officials are best informed to know what’s going on in their community and give that direction to the community whether it’s through mandates or strong recommendations,” said Dr. James Castillo, Cameron County Health Authority.
As the valley continues to see a surge in cases officials are asking the governor for more tools to help lower COVID rates and hospitalizations.
“I don’t want to be responsible for one death if we can avoid it so I’m simply asking him to give us back the tools, let us use our own judgment,” said Judge Cortez.
Local officials are encouraging the public to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated in order to slow the spread of the virus.