In a debate, the late Senator Patrick Moynihan is reported to have said, “You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts…” Unfortunately, there are members of El Paso’s City Council who think otherwise: that they are entitled not only to their opinion but to their own facts.

I broke a tie vote at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on releasing names of businesses with COVID-19 clusters, defined as two or more individuals testing positive, because the release of such information is prohibited by state law (Texas Law Sec. 81.046) and can only be released for statistical purposes.

There is no intention to limit public access to cluster information or to limit transparency, and statistical information is available on a public website, Cluster data released shows general business categories, including nursing homes, with the number of positive cases, not names and locations.

If the City Council had ruled in favor of this disclosure, in violation of state law, businesses would be listed publicly as having a cluster. For example, assume you own a small family restaurant and you have implemented all safety protocols, but two of your employees test positive from community spread due to a family or social gathering – and not from your restaurant. The city would publicly disclose your business as having a COVID-19 outbreak.

Think how devastating this would be, without any real impact on “flattening the curve.”

All businesses are responsible for informing their employees and customers of COVID-19 cases within their organization, and the Department of Public Health works with the private sector to address the outbreak for cluster management. Our presiding health authority for this pandemic, Dr. Hector Ocaranza, has advised City Council the disclosure of business names would not limit the spread of COVID-19.

The only way to combat a disease with no cure or vaccine is to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding gathering.

This is why I broke the tie on Tuesday.

-Dee Margo

El Paso mayor


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