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El Paso mayor defends not wearing face mask, not social distancing in public


El Paso mayor Dee Margo dining out on Friday, May 1, 2020. (Credit: KFOX14/CBS4)
El Paso mayor Dee Margo dining out on Friday, May 1, 2020. (Credit: KFOX14/CBS4)
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CBS4 has learned that the Mayor of El Paso is not following his own safety guidelines to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

A source confirmed that Dee Margo was dining out without a face covering and not social distancing.

The photograph taken at the El Paso Country Club in west El Paso on Friday, May 1 was provided to CBS4.

Adair Margo, the first lady of El Paso, is sitting beside him accompanied by two others at the table and three men standing next to the table.

The other parties have not been identified.

An employee of the country club is the only one wearing a face covering.

Margo along with city health officials have repeatedly expressed the importance of wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, health authority with the El Paso Department of Public Health said on Monday, “Residents need to understand that social gathering are not allowed." He added, “Going shopping or out to eat with anyone that does not live with you such as your extended family or friends is not allowed." Ocaranza concluded, "Take responsibility for yourself in order to keep our community safe.”

The Stay Home order was lifted by Governor Greg Abbott on May 1.

Margo provided a statement about the photo:

I did not violate the re-open order because it doesn’t not explicitly say that it’s limited to members of the same household. Dr. Orcaranza has strongly recommended that because he is being as protective as possible. I went with my wife to support a local restaurant as we are allowed to do. Adair and I wore masks walking in and we wore masks walking out. Obviously you don’t wear masks when you’re eating. As for the others in the photo, they were not part of our group and had merely walked up to say thanks for the work you’re doing.

"When you read the governor’s orders, which are incorporated in the orders that I have signed, it merely refers to no more than six people at a table, proper spacing," said Margo.

"Doctor Ocaranza likes to encourage that and so does the judge. But there is nothing in the order conveying a requirement that you should only be with members of your own household," said Margo.

"The restaurants, if you comply with the no more than six at a table and social distancing, you’re fine," he said.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego was questioned in March about a gathering at his residence after the Stay Home order was implemented.

El Paso city representatives Claudia Lizette Rodriguez, Alexsandra Annello, Peter Svarzbein and Cassandra Hernandez provided the following statements regarding Margo.

Rodriguez:

As the city’s highest elected official, it is important to lead by example. If the Mayor truly believes that these strict guidelines of wearing face masks and social distancing will keep the community of El Paso safe, then he should practice what he is asking of El Pasoans to do.

Annello:

I was disappointed to see Mayor Margo dining out with a number of people during this pandemic. Despite the state orders that allow the public to dine out with two people outside of our household, the city, including the mayor, have encouraged all El Pasoans not to do that. Further, the governor Abbott was caught on tape saying the reopening of the state would result in more deaths. Margo should be leading by example and his number one priority should be the safety of the community he represents. We are facing a serious and deadly virus across the globe and the best measure we can take to stay safe and healthy is to continue to social distance and stay in our homes.

Svarzbein:

I don't follow the mayor's personal actions closely, but I have faith that he would respect the rules and requirements set by the city and county during this public health emergency. I know for me and my family, I find the guidelines and directives absolutely critical to follow.

Hernandez:

I’m not surprised that Mayor Dee Margo is not leading by example and his action is a hallmark of his administration. Mayor Margo puts El Paso essential workers, many who are minorities, at risk with his negligent actions. What stands out to me in this photo, is that the hospitality employee has been put at risk by our very own Mayor who is sending mixed messages to the public. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, stated minority communities, such as El Paso, have been disproportionately impacted and based on our underlying health and socio-economic conditions of our population, El Paso is a high risk community. My message to El Pasoans, is to continue to remain diligent to protect your families and to stay home.

CBS4 wants to know how you feel about this story. Comment on our Facebook page: CBS4 Local

For the latest on COVID-19 in our area and around the world, click here.

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