Border lawmakers urge Texas governor to ‘shut the state down’ as COVID-19 deaths mount

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This screenshot from Facebook Live shows U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez speaking at a news conference Wednesday, July 22, 2020, outside the U.S. Capitol. Behind him are Texas Congressmen Filemon Vela and Joaquin Castro, both Democrats, who called on Texas Gov. Abbott to shut down state to stop COVID-19 deaths.

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As they monitor the rising death rates in their Texas hometowns from Washington, D.C., three border lawmakers issued harsh words for Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday telling him to close the state to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“We are asking the governor to shut the state down,” said U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from McAllen in hard-hit Hidalgo County.

“Folks in my district are dying at two and a half times the rate of people across the state of Texas and in three counties we are losing over 12% of the fatalities in the state due to COVID-19,” Gonzalez said during a news conference that was live-streamed on Facebook on Wednesday from outside the U.S. Capitol. “We appreciate the governor going down and bringing resources the past few days, and hopefully more to come, but there is only one way to corral this virus and that is to shut regions of the state down.”

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat from Brownsville, criticized Abbott for beginning to re-open the state in early May just as northern Mexico was beginning to see a surge in cases.

“Today, because of his tactical decisions, Texans are being killed en masse,” Vela said. “Every scientist we asked said, ‘don’t open this up.’ Then July 4th came and we have such an extreme surge of cases that our hospitals can’t stand it anymore. So if ever there was a time to issue a stay-at-home order it is now and it can’t come soon enough because more people will die if that doesn’t happen.”

Hidalgo County on Tuesday reported 49 deaths — a one-day record since the pandemic began. Cameron County had 15 deaths on Tuesday. Altogether, the Rio Grande Valley has had 513 deaths and 21,760 cases since the pandemic began, reports.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from El Paso, came late to the news conference and got in a few words before a storm started forming and quickly ended the event. She also urged the governor heed the fatalities and horrific events happening in the border region and allow local leaders to issue shut-down orders if Abbott doesn’t want to do so himself.

“We need leadership from Gov. Abbott,” Escobar said.

“The governor has chosen to put politics and ideology over science. Our state of Texas now finds itself in a scary and harrowing situation,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“We’re asking Gov. Abbott that if he’s not going to muster the political will to order a real statewide mask policy without a million exemptions … then he should allow the leaders in those counties to step up and issue their own orders,” Castro said. “The governor has to give local jurisdictions the ability to do that.”

Border Report has reached out to Abbott’s office and will update this story is a response from the governor is received.

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