EL PASO, Texas -- County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has asked the governor to halt the further re-opening of businesses in El Paso until the coronavirus curve flattens.
The request was made in a letter sent to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed by Samaniego and co-signed by a group of other local elected officials including El Paso's state legislative delegation and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
Mayor Dee Margo, who was not a signatory to the letter, said he had a conversation with Abbott on Friday night where he too expressed his belief that El Paso wasn't ready to re-open further due to increasing caseload and the hospitalization rate. Margo said the governor asked him to explore alternatives before the re-opening is halted and agreed to send a rapid response team to immediately increase available testing.
But Judge Samaniego told ABC-7 that "to have a better sense of our community challenge will take several weeks of allowing the new testing initiatives to evolve," and in his view El Paso can't afford to wait that long.
The judge also said he and the mayor were trying different approaches to "get the governor to be more aware of our regional uniqueness," adding that Margo wasn't intentionally left off the letter - but simply may not have had a chance to review it before it was sent.
Samaniego wants Abbott to allow all current restrictions to remain in place, delay additional business re-openings scheduled for May 18, and not allow any increase beyond the 25% capacity for those non-essential business that have already reopened.
The judge told the governor he doesn't want to do any additional re-openings or lifting of restrictions until the county has had "a 14-day downward trajectory of positive cases."
The reasons cited in the letter include what Samaniego calls "the disproportionate impact of the virus on minority populations, the steady increase in positive Covid-19 cases as well as the fact that El Paso has not yet reached its peak, testing rates continue to be low and the geographically unique situation El Paso finds itself."
Samaniego summed up his request by saying, "I am asking Gov. Abbott to acknowledge the unique situation where we find ourselves and are in the best position to understand the needs of our community more than anybody else."
You can read the judge's entire letter to the governor below.