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Over 3-dozen El Paso gatherings have been allowed during pandemic with mayor-sanctioned waiver

La Perla Bar in the Plaza Hotel
La Perla Bar in the Plaza Hotel.

EL PASO, Texas -- From weddings to graduations to fundraisers, dozens of events are still happening in El Paso during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the blessing of the mayor and the health authority.

ABC-7 obtained public records showing who asked for a waiver from the rules restricting the size of public gatherings during the health crisis.

Venues uphold safety guidelines

The Plaza Hotel in downtown El Paso was on the list of venues.

The newly renovated historic hotel opened in June. Management unveiled its final establishment, La Perla bar, in September.

Shanon Woodruff, the hotel's marketing manager, acknowledged the hotel is applying for waivers from the mayor's office to hold events.

"Whatever is decreed by the government and the regulation is what we follow," Woodruff said. "We look at our meeting spaces and we go, 'We used to fix x amount in there; now we have half an x.' We just have to go with that," Woodruff added.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said under state rules issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the city is mandated to look at any gathering of more than 10 people.

The venue must also stay at 50 percent occupancy and require face masks.

"If people are complying and doing the best they can, life needs to go on to a certain extent," Margo said.

Waivers granted to more than 3-dozen events

The mayor then sends the request to the City-County Health Authority, Dr. Hector Ocaranza. He examines the size of the venue, the number of guests or participants and even how organizers will serve food, according to Margo.

According to the data ABC-7 obtained from the open records request, from May 14 to Aug. 13, 39 waivers went before the mayor.

Of those, six were weddings.

"I'd hate to not approve a wedding," said Margo as he grimaced. "I mean, that is - that's a big deal."

Of the 39 requests, the mayor only declined waivers for two events.

One was for a recurring farmer's market in a space the city deemed didn't allow for social distancing.

The other was for a July 4th parade.

The parade organizer told the mayor the format was going to be a drive-by, and the city ultimately allowed it.

Mayor: We must 'adjust our life'

ABC-7 asked Margo if the relatively short list of waiver requests concerned him.

"Well, if people are not following the health protocols, yes, it's a big concern," he replied. "And yeah, that would be an area for spread if they're not wearing face coverings, if they're not maintaining distancing, if they're not washing and if they're not doing temperature checks.

"Most (event organizers) are realizing that there is a vulnerable population out there," Margo added. "Remember, weddings typically have multi-generational attendees. I think they have recognized that."

Woodruff said he realizes the looming threat.

"We are working hard to make sure we handle the pandemic and all that comes with it as best we can," he said.

Margo said he will continue to scrutinize events until scientists develop a coronavirus vaccine.

"I think we're going to have to adjust our life and how we comport ourselves," he said. "And how we conduct our businesses, go to school, and how we go to universities. How we do everything," he added.

Margo said the city trusts organizers to adhere to the guidelines once the city approves the event.

He added that the city prioritizing its limited resources to inspect restaurants and other businesses suspected of operating out of compliance.

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.



      1. Well gee comrade turner, here is your hero Karl Marx’s record:
        Never ran a company.
        Never held political office.
        Never oversaw any accounts.
        Never even held a job – any job.
        Supported throughout his life by his friend Friedrich Engles, the son of a wealthy factory owner. (ironic that Marx was supported by a capitalist)
        Considered by many to be the greatest political, social, and economic philosopher of all time.
        All applications of his theories have ended in failure.
        This is your ignorant and uneducated plea. Notice the similarity of Marx and Obama?

    1. NadoucheRomero, that would be Trump!! The a**hole does whatever he wants without ever thinking about how it will affect others. You choose to continue supporting such a selfish prick just shows you are just as hideous on the inside as you are on the outside.

      1. I choose to support the followers of what Camel la la said, the TRUTH. Even though she doesn’t know the meaning of the word. You mia are just a black racist. You hate everything that is not black. Just like the demoKKKrat slave owners hate everyone that is not white. Doesn’t matter to you only the hate you carry in your head for others. You and the demoKKKrats deserve each other. And you talk about hideous? You break mirrors when you look at yourself.

      2. This is mia’s hero June 7, 2006: Biden in Manchester, NH said “In Delaware, the largest population growth is coming from India. You cannot go to any 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts without an Indian accent”
        And Trump is the racist mia? Really?

    1. That Trumptard pack are all a bunch of retired Border Patrol who spend their free time posting crap on forums and getting even fatter. No one gives a rat’s behind where you went to dinner.

  1. The big question is in any of these waiver cases did anybody get the COVID19 or die from it? Otherwise this is just another leftist panic porn article.

      1. You’re a moron. No one is saying the virus is left or right. It’s the response to it that is. The left are politicizing this virus. Leftist want total control of the population. They want to be able to make decisions for every person. They want us all dependent on them. This is all about control. They are using the plandemic to set the stage for full Socialistic, tyrannical society. In this case, they are continuing to go against the science to make it happen. We need to reach herd immunity or this is never going to end. Effective treatments are now on place. Less people are dying. Get people back to work.

        1. Trying to talk sense to the likes of mia, turner, uxcrement is like trying to water a dead tree. No affect whatsoever. They spew their hate without reason, just hate. They don’t talk sense and they get their narrative from the liberal media. Useless individuals indeed.

      2. You might try to run your rants through a spell or grammar checker. Your English sucks. But obviously your knowledge is very limited in scope.

    1. Dummy markturner has reading comprehension problems. ADD maybe? I never said the COVID19 was left or right or political. My comment was sarcasm directed at the leftist media. Last I checked KVIA is on the left. BTW – The Demoturds made the coronavirus a political issue over 7 months ago. Just like you do when you try to blame President Trump for the virus which originated in Chi-Com China.

    2. What I would like to know, is if the Mayor and City Council put any COVID patients into nursing homes, and if they did, how many died because of it?

  2. Well, get back to us all when someone in your family comes down with the virus, is on a ventilator, and is now dead……………………….. Mayor definitely will not be getting my vote. Don’t preach safety to me & turn around & allow people to spread themselves. Wearing a mask has nothing to do with your rights being violated. I personally have a right not to get sick from a diseased person. Go ahead & vote for agent orange and when your rights as a woman are taken away from you, when the government can decide that you can or cannot abort a baby due to incest or rape, when the wall is built and if you’re an illegal immigrant or have parents and grandparents living in the U.S. who are not citizens, they are coming for you, when voting rights are changed, when polling stations are removed from poor areas of the city, when you can no longer have health insurance which many of you enjoying, when he tells White Supremists & other Racists to STAND BY, they are coming for you ————— just thank FAT, OVERWEIGHT, UGLY, RACIST, AGENT ORANGE. If you’re noT PURE WHITE, he’s coming for you. Many of you, do not know your own groups history let alone the history of the United States. And, if you haven’t, take a trip down deep South and you will see racism as it’s finest. As a Black, Asian, Hispanic, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Haitian, etc. you will be putting your life at risk if you get caught outside after a certain time, they’re waiting for you. If you’re listing to Fat Ass Agent Orange and Fox News, try picking getting your news from reputable sources. If you’re listing to Agent Orange, I can’t say I feel sorry for you.

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