MCALLEN, Texas – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez said he would support the closure of international bridges, airports and interstates if it saved people from dying of COVID-19.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, the McAllen Democrat said nothing should be ruled in the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Asked by reporter Sandra Sanchez of Border Report if he would condone the closing of an interstate, an airport, or the ports of entry in his district, Gonzalez said:
“If it saves lives and it is going to keep us healthy, absolutely I would agree with those types of measures.”
Gonzalez’s position appears to mirror that of some elected officials on the Mexican side of the border. Three senators from the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas, along with the mayor of Matamoros said they are concerned U.S. citizens traveling south might bring the coronavirus with them. They noted that Mexico has far less cases of COVID-19 than the United States.
President Trump did limit the number of people who can cross international bridges on the Canadian and Mexican borders. He allowed trade and commerce to cross but not non-essential travel, such as visits made by visa holders.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez is thought to be considering stricter enforcement of his stay-at-home policy, after learning that more people were out and about this past weekend than expected.
“We are in a war now,” Cortez said. “Each one of us is a soldier and we have the weapon to fight this. Stay home and follow good hygiene.”
Asked how would go about balancing the need for legitimate trade at international bridges with stopping the spread of COVID-19, Rep. Gonzalez told reporters: “We have to be careful we do not shutter our economy but the most important issue at hand is keeping people healthy and keeping them from contracting the coronavirus.”
Gonzalez said in that regard South Texas has been “ahead of the curve” compared to many other counties.
“We still have many other counties here in the state that have continued completely open,” he said, pointing out that he called for greater restrictions on travel in a recent letter to gov. Greg Abbott.
“As you know, I wrote a letter to the governor a week ago suggesting he shut down the entire state, that we have a stay-at-home order for the entire state, and that we are careful on our borders of who comes in and who comes out,” Gonzalez said.
“As you know, right now they are having interdictions with people who come in from the states that are at highest risk when they fly into Texas. But they could be flying in from a third location where we cannot track.”
Gonzalez said attention needs to be paid to a sudden surge of coronavirus cases in Louisiana.
“There is a huge issue that seems to be developing in Louisiana, especially New Orleans. There is a lot of traffic coming from that direction on I-10 and we need to figure out how we are going to address that at our state’s borders,” Gonzalez said.
“We need to be very, very, careful, that we try to quarantine and self-protect at the county level but really at the entire state level.”
Gonzalez said he had a long conversation last week with the German ambassador to the United States about the need for strict enforcement of shelter-in-place directives.
“We were trying to find testing kits and expand our capabilities with some of the resources they have in Germany. We addressed what was happening here in Texas in terms of the governor leaving it up to the different counties to address their own issues,” Gonzalez said.
“In my opinion it is kind of a patch job and she reminded me that that is what Italy had done at the beginning and it didn’t really work. Now they have shuttered the entire country and their numbers still haven’t dropped and they have been at it for three weeks in a row.”
Gonzalez said Texas and the nation need to be looking at other parts of the world to see see how they have reacted to the coronavirus.