Mayor Gunter: Your Leadership Needed to Fight COVID-19


OPINION — Leadership is thinking about others, not just about yourself. Leadership is not standing in the middle, it is making the tough choices even when you know you will be criticized and ridiculed. We, as a City and as elected officials have been challenged to make all the right decisions to protect the health and safety of all our citizens. The last thing any of us want to do is take rights away from our citizens. We hear you and we understand your concerns about government overreach. I have always stood and will fight hard for less regulation and government oversight in our businesses and lives. Have we made all the right decisions? Time will tell and history will be the judge. There is no playbook or guiding document on how we combat this novel virus. 

I look at it this way, football teams have great strategies and playbooks. Each game is approached differently and yet they don't win every game. Because you cannot control every single aspect of the game, or in our case, control every single citizen. Nor do we want to control the citizens. Ultimately, we would like for the citizens of San Angelo to band together and take personal responsibility to protect not only themselves and their families but every person and family in the Concho Valley. But, as we live in a nation of free will, that is simply not attainable.

I know that our local health authority and our city attorney, in conjunction with myself as mayor and our city council, have worked every day to try to make the right decisions with the information we have. Have we gotten it one hundred percent right? I don't know, but what I do know is we have worked tirelessly to do the right thing for all citizens and what we felt was the right decision in regard to protecting the health of our community.

During this global pandemic, the decisions made on a state and local level have been called into question. The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives state governments the authority to control the health, safety and welfare of the community, including spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdictions. These powers allow them the authority to take public health emergency actions such as setting quarantines, business restrictions or wearing masks. In a similar fashion, the state of Texas has given authority over the management and control of public health and infectious diseases to local health departments. Due to the nature of the pandemic, COVID-19 qualifies as a disaster and a local health emergency.

Our local health expert is not an elected official but is a highly qualified doctor and medical professional. His advice and direction is paramount during this pandemic. His role of local health authority is specifically meant for times like these. With his guidance and expertise, we collectively collaborate on the best course of action for our community.

When governments make safety mandatory, people pay more attention. We have some great state and local examples. 

In 1985, the State of Texas required front seat passengers in vehicles to wear seat belts. The purpose: to help reduce deaths in car crashes.

In 2010, voters came out in strong support and voted for a ban on smoking in San Angelo. The purpose: to help improve the health of the community.  

In 2020, during this coronavirus pandemic, health experts have stressed the importance of wearing face coverings. The purpose: to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 between humans. Governor Abbott signed an executive order on July 2 requiring all Texans, in counties with at least 20 COVID-19 cases, to wear face coverings in public where social distancing is not feasible.

We are not choosing to make decisions to take away individuals’ rights or civil liberties. We are not asking citizens to do anything that we don't believe will help stop the community spread of this virus.

What we do know is that over the last month we have seen a surge in positive cases in our community. On June 5, we had 13 active cases. As of July 3, we have 231 active cases. Community spread of the coronavirus is now a fact. People are getting together for parties, celebrations, cook-outs and many other types of gatherings. We all miss seeing friends and family. But it is because of the increase in gatherings that the virus is spreading rapidly through our community.

We know there are many people who disagree with the actions taken by the governor and local authorities. We also receive many comments from citizens who are supportive of the actions we are taking to protect the health of our community. We are relying on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control, the State Department of Health Services and our own local professionals in making health decisions for our community. All of these sources state that wearing masks, canceling large events and maintaining social distancing are necessary measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. One of the primary goals with any action we take is to protect the capacity of our local hospitals and the overall health of our community.

We have been working with both of our hospitals throughout this pandemic to make sure they have what they need. On June 5, we had zero patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Four weeks later, on July 3, we have 27 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Since March, 63 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in San Angelo. Very early on in this pandemic we executed contracts with several hotels in town should we need them for overflow capacity from our hospitals. The situation with COVID-19 has continued to evolve daily. What was permitted to be safe one week may not be possible the next.  

In the Declaration of Independence, it states that governments are created to protect their communities. “LIFE...liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Life comes first, before rights. Without life...liberty and the pursuit of happiness lose their meaning.

Brenda Gunter is the mayor of the City of San Angelo. Contact her at [email protected].

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if this was a true statement and her and Vretis cared so much about the people- they'd have cancelled the christoval VFD fun run and barbecue too.

they didn't.

either the virus is serious enough to cancel all events or none of them. you can't pick and choose like this if people's lives are truly on the line.

just because Vretis is friends with those people doesn't give him the right to give them a pass. his judgement is flawed and he needs to be removed from his position. or at the least the city council needs to put pen to paper and hold a vote for any decisions he wants to make in the future.

the mayor and vretis both should've spoken out during the protests back on June 1st. when hundreds of people were laying side by side at the courthouse. those actions defeated the purpose of the masks. and our numbers started spiking afterwards.

during the two weeks after the first protest our numbers increased by 68%. and there were more protests since then. the numbers continued spiking after those events as well. like clockwork.

we went nearly 3 months without a mask order and our numbers never went up like this.

the protests were a good thing. they were peaceful. it was beautiful. they were even necessary. but you can't deny they helped lead to this increase we're seeing now. requiring masks and cancelling events now is too little too late. they should've put more restrictions on gatherings before they happened. they didn't. only now are Gunter and Vretis speaking up about the importance of masks. Vretis in particular doesn't even wear a mask in his videos to the public.

it's fear mongering.

231 active cases in Tom green county.
119,200 people in Tom green county - as of last years census.

that's .19% of the population.

San Angelo’s Trauma Service Region has a capacity of 523 hospital beds.
27 people hospitalized for the virus.

that's 5.16% of the total available beds being used by covid patients.

we need to pay attention to the numbers going up. we need to be safe. but we need to focus more on sanitization. all the masks in the world won't do any good if we're all touching the same dirty checkout stations at Walmart and HEB. if you've been in line at one of these places you can see for yourself that they abandoned cleaning things up properly after the first week or so.

but the simple fact of the matter is the mayor and vretis don't actually care. otherwise the fun run and barbecue event would've been cancelled as well. that really says it all.

is the mayor of San Angelo, not Christoval. She has absolutely no jurisdiction over the VFD Fun Run and BBQ. Cool your jets . . .

I do believe that Phase 2 of the reopening of Texas was in mid May and Phase 3 was at the beginning of June. I guarantee, that 100 protesters did less damage than opening up bars and gyms. The governor knew he was going to get a spike, but he was betting on the populace do be responsible and it not be this big. Freedom always has a price.

It's not what we can handle when it comes to covid-19, its how to prevent getting there. All the stats in the world matter less than knowing China with it's billions of citizens, was outdone by the US in infections and deaths.

the bars and other businesses definitely helped the increase but those numbers just don't back up the massive increases we've seen in our county since then.

from may 22 (the day the bars and such began reopening) to June 5th (the day of the first two protests including the big one was June 1st- so there is clearly a potential for a direct overlap in the numbers) there were 21 new cases.

from June 7th (this is accounting for a gap from June 1st to the 5th for the first data set with no cases reported on June 6th) to June 20 there were 120 new cases.

a more than 400% increase in positive cases from the prior 2 weeks.

i have no doubt that more businesses being open contributed to the increase but we can't ignore that vretis and the mayor not taking more steps to prevent transmission and proper social distancing at the protests led to a direct and marked increase in our numbers.

and again, if they truly cared they'd be cancelling the fun run tomorrow. our leadership can't pick and choose who gets to be exposed anymore. it's all or nothing.

Not Prudent, Fri, 07/03/2020 - 20:42

The Declaration of Independence does NOT say life comes before rights as you state. I'll quote you in case this article gets revised, "In the Declaration of Independence, it states that governments are created to protect their communities. “LIFE...liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Life comes first, before rights. Without life...liberty and the pursuit of happiness lose their meaning."

Here's what the Declaration really says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Life isn't separated from Liberty or the pursuit of Happiness. Life is declared a right, not before rights. They were, and are, considered equal rights. You said, "Without life...liberty and the pursuit of happiness lose their meaning". I would contend that without Liberty, life has no meaning. We fought a Revolution and Civil War over that in case you missed it. I expect my elected leader to have a basic grasp of our founding principles.

I am certainly not an expert in medicine or law but my concerns are real based on the conflicting information we are given day to day. I am only going to ask questions and maybe someone smarter than me can answer them. What are the mortality rates of seasonal flu and other communicable diseases compared to covid-19? Why are treatments like hydroxycloroquine being suppressed by some very smart physicians and extoled by other very smart physicians? There have been multiple stories of successful use, even by a few nursing homes in Texas. Why turn a medication that has been used for decades with no substantial side affects into a political football?
With the current political climate, I am sad to say I don't trust much that is being fed to the population.

Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are not mutually exclusive. All three refer to the rights of the individual which have been endowed by the creator and not from the government. Our government only exists by the consent of the governed. Governments have taken rights away for as long as they have existed. How far should a government official go in that endeavor?
I am sure that when a government official is given the reins and responsibility to serve the community, the right decisions can be hard to make. Pressure comes from good intentions and bad.

This has always been a nation of risk-takers in business, sports and life. If we lose the ability to make choices about our own well-being, how long will it be before all our choices in life are taken away. Sports, drinking alcohol, and just participating in anything slightly risky will be gone. Personal responsibility is necessary for an individual to remove themselves from risk. When this is given up then I guess the only choice is to have that leader make every single decision in life for you.

U watch and see. And just drive around San Angelo tomorrow. Lol peoples drive ways and the streets in front of peoples houses and on there lawn will be loads of vehicles for 4th of July parties. Half of San Angelo don’t really GIVE A CRAP what’s going on or what u tell them. U can tell them till your blue in the face there not going to listen. Then we will say new record for the next month. More like listening to a broken record.

Open declarations of emergency, like war, quicken the state’s march toward totalitarianism as it rallies the public into unquestioned obedience. Fear is chronically brandished by demagogic leaders to coax the masses to accept anything in the name of safety. This has become a fixture of the Amerika.

Amerika has turned the creed of the Republic on its head. The Republic proclaimed that the sole purpose of government is to secure unalienable individual rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The INDIVIDUAL is placed at the center of society. It was believed that this liberty was attainable through mere absence of governmental restraints, and that government should be entrusted with few controls and only the mildest supervision over men's affairs. That lofty and revolutionary vision has succumbed to the belief that the mission is to aggrandize government in the name of national, state, or economic security in a yearning to bequeath risk-free lives to its citizens. Like in war, as a result of the overstated and inflated emergency, the masses, still brainwashed into feverish nationalism, end up paying the costs with their pilfered income and eroded liberty. There are no exemptions to liberty. All my rights, all the time.

We have come full circle from resisting and fighting Empires to becoming an Empire.

Be mindful of what we are celebrating today...I fear it something we truly no longer actually have.

Happy Independence Day.

The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was thought to be under control and people began living as usual with parades, parties and gatherings. It turned out to be a huge mistake with somewhere between 17 million to 50 million people losing their life due to the error of haste to get back to normal. Just how normal is tens of millions of lost lives. let that sink in.

How about a town hall event, or something similar, where these decision makers can come before the residents and explain themselves, and also give us the opportunity to address them directly?

Madam Mayor:
First, thank you for responding. The responsibility for these executive orders and how the Texas lockdown has been handled lie mainly on the shoulders of the governor. The governor has given in to media panic and is no longer respecting individual liberties. The governor is simply wrong on some points and what you have stated is either unproven or untrue.
1. Face masks are not proven to be effective to stop viruses. Period. Government and health should stop misleading the public about the effectiveness of face masks. Even the WHO recommends that they not be used extensively and that they are not a substitute for social distancing. There is no proof that cloth face masks can stop viruses. Face masks have really become just a symbol to show we're "doing something" or to make the uninformed feel better.
2. You say "Without life...liberty and the pursuit of happiness lose their meaning." It sounds nonsensical, since with out life you would be dead. No it's quite the opposite: Without liberty life is not worth living. Liberty comes first. Liberty or death, remember?
3. The numbers you give do not indicate an impending hospital capacity crisis in San Angelo. Why the panic?
4. You say that "it is because of the increase in gatherings that the virus is spreading rapidly through our community." There is no way that you can know that. Is the virus spreading faster or are there more confirmed cases due to increased testing? Probably the latter.
5. You imply the corona virus is a threat to our lives. That is just false. Even the CDC currently estimates the death rate at .26%. Some countries have published much lower rates. We know that current infections are largely milder than past ones and there are more asymptomatic cases. Most people recover and require no hospitalization. Stop scaring everyone.

Government, please get out of the way. Your "help" is not required here.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C.S. Lewis

It's a shame we don't teach civics better in high school. Most people don't even have a good idea of their responsibility to remain informed and active as citizens and are increasingly as content to blindly follow authority as any denizen of a banana republic. The alliance of frenemies that is the UN is flexing their power, and we're largely caving due to division and lack of perspective.

The dishonest accounting methods being used to report the Kung Flu cases?
Strange that the rules were changed in May on how to account for and create out of thin air dishonest numbers and nobody in local government is talking about it. Some counties have refused to jump on the never-Trump-collapse-the-economy-with-fake-numbers band wagon. Seems like here they are all in though as we are not allowed to celebrate the 4th.
What's wrong with families sitting in their cars watching fireworks?
Sad, just sad.

As an an observer of people, this pandemic has shown that no matter how much of a head start some may have been given, we still might be waiting a very long time for them to catch up.

I never gave the City, nor the State the authority to be my nanny. I'll take care of myself, thank you Mayor Gunter. You seem to be fond of quoting the founders; how about Patrick Henry's statement, " Give me liberty, or give me death."

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