Presidio adopts new emergency policies to combat COVID spread

PRESIDIO — As coronavirus cases have climbed in Presidio County, local officials in the city of Presidio are considering additional policies and resources to keep residents safe.

City leaders are hoping to set up a task force to improve plans and communication during the coronavirus crisis. While city council regularly discusses coronavirus safety precautions at meetings, the goal of the task force is to create better coordination with other public entities in the region, including county government and the Presidio Independent School District.

At press time, the new task force — including its membership — has not been finalized. But the group would likely include city, county and school officials, Mayor John Ferguson said, as well as local health experts like county health authority Dr. John Paul “J.P.” Schwartz and Presidio EMS Director Malynda Richardson.

Presidio ISD is currently facing controversy as school officials plan more cuts to virtual learning, as The Big Bend Sentinel is also reporting this week. And at the virtual city council meeting, the news that the school would likely be included in the task force prompted disapproval from some residents.

“If we’re going to use the school as a model for how to combat the spread of this virus, we’re in the worst hands possible,” resident Jesus Hermosillo said. “Community spread is being driven by the school being open. Look at the statistics. Every day, a student or a teacher tests positive.”

In another action to combat misinformation, the city plans to release ordinances and PSAs more frequently.

According to Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide orders, Presidio cannot adopt coronavirus rules that are stricter than the state’s. But at the city council meeting, city leaders instead floated a novel idea: Enforcing a curfew ordinance, already on the books, that requires youth to be home by 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

When students were on the streets at night, Councilmember Irvin Olivas said, it was often because of events at the school, like sports games.

“Personally, I didn’t allow my girls to play in sports this year,” Olivas said — though he acknowledged that few in the community likely support cutting school sports. He suggested city officials instead discuss such measures with the school district.

Separately, city officials also considered an ordinance to encourage people to take more precautions — for instance, by not bringing children to the grocery store. But again, because of the statewide rules against local precautions, City Administrator Joe Portillo acknowledged the ordinance would have “no teeth.”

Instead, the city will likely issue more PSAs, including possibly in the newspaper and on radio stations in Presidio and Ojinaga. The PSAs, Mayor Ferguson explained, would be “an impassioned reminder for people to keep doing the right thing.”