Several Upper Valley cities make disaster declarations

Local municipalities are taking proactive measures to help ensure that resources are available to local constituents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following emergency and disaster declarations made by President Donald J. Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, as well as Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, many local leaders are making their own declarations.

McAllen

Mayor Jim Darling signed a declaration of local disaster on Tuesday afternoon in relation to COVID-19.

Darling’s declaration, which authorizes the mayor and the city of McAllen to take steps needed to protect public health and welfare as laid out under Texas law during declared disasters, went into effect immediately.

An emergency joint meeting of the McAllen City Commission and the McAllen Public Utility Board was held Tuesday, in which a resolution extending the emergency disaster declaration was passed.

“The order that was approved today gives the mayor additional authority and additional powers, some that he already has,” said McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez. “He is the emergency director as the mayor, that’s the state law. If these events continue to change and increase in severity, he was basically given authority to take certain actions. On the other hand, I was also given additional authority on operational issues, in personel, the number of people needed at their stations, I’ll call them, if we have to provide leave, compensation.”

The commissioners took action in limiting the number of people in McAllen facilities to no more than 50, but the prohibition does not apply to private businesses, though they are strongly encouraged to follow suit.

The emergency declaration is anticipated to be in effect for four weeks.

Pharr

Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez declared a local state of disaster and public health emergency in relation to COVID-19 (coronavirus) for the city of Pharr on Friday, March 13.

The declaration designates the mayor as emergency management director for the city and allows him to authorize the use of all available resources to assist in the city’s response to the public health emergency.

“City officials have determined that extraordinary and immediate measures must be taken to respond quickly, prevent and alleviate the suffering of people exposed to and those infected with the virus, as well as those that could potentially be impacted by COVID-19,” the release read. “City officials have been taking measures to mitigate the virus, including increasing community awareness providing information and methods for personal health and safety via social media and the city’s website. City leaders ensure the public that the city’s continuity of operations (COOP) and continuity of government (COG) plans are actively reviewed and updated to ensure that critical government services remain uninterrupted during this crisis.”

Pharr is also taking measures to assist residents by announcing it would not be shutting off water for non-payment during the duration of this crisis.

City officials are encouraging all residents to follow health and safety precautionary measures, and heed the advice of authorities to stay safe during this disaster.

Edinburg

Mayor Richard Molina issued a disaster declaration for the city of Edinburg during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

“Your safety and wellness is our number one priority,” said Molina during a new conference. “As we have told you, the city of Edinburg is following the guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the guidelines of Hidalgo County. As you know, County Judge Richard Cortez issued a disaster declaration for Hidalgo County effective today. I was just with the judge for the signing, and I fully support the move. As your mayor, I will do the same for the city of Edinburg.”

The declaration is expected to be in effect for seven days.

Palmview

The city of Palmview called an emergency meeting Tuesday to declare a state of disaster. Mayor Ricardo M. Villarreal issued the declaration after Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez consulted with all 22 municipalities and issued a county-wide order.

“After consulting with County and State officials, it is imperative the City of Palmview follow suit to ensure that the health and safety of our citizens remain our number one priority,” a city news release read.

The declaration is effective immediately and will remain in effect until county and state officials reassess the situation. In accordance with the county’s declaration, the city is prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 50 people.

“Alongside other City officials, our administration recognizes the hardship this prohibition may impose,” the release stated. “However, in order to keep our citizens healthy and ensure we limit the potential spread of the virus, this step is necessary and vital to our community. We ask each citizen of Palmview to be proactive with their health, be mindful of your neighbors and follow all recommendations published by the Center of Disease Control.”

Peñitas

Mayor Rigo Lopez also issued a disaster declaration Tuesday afternoon, announcing closures of the city’s public library and the splash pad.

The city also suspended all parks and recreation activities and postponed all city events until further notice.

“With the imminent threat and possibility of exposure to disease, and to prevent the spread and control the risk of disease, the City of Peñitas will take action to promote the public health, safety, and welfare of Peñitas residents and families,” the city stated in a news release. “City officials encourage the public to practice good hygiene, implement social distancing where appropriate, and follow the advice of authorities to remain safe and healthy during this time.”

Weslaco

Mayor David Suarez declared a state of disaster on Tuesday. With the declaration, the city’s emergency management plan has been implemented.

According to the declaration, which is posted on the city’s website, the state of disaster will last for seven days, and it goes into effect immediately.

Rio Grande City

Mayor Joel Villarreal made a declaration of a state of disaster for public health emergency effective immediately on Tuesday.