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A Mission city employee has tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a memorandum obtained by the Progress Times sent on April 1, City Manager Randy Perez notified all department directors that one city employee was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The memo stated that the Hidalgo County Health Department is still investigating the point of origin.
Perez was not available for comment in time for publication.
Eleven city employees/leaders (referred to as “individuals” in the memo) were recommended to be tested after Mission city council member Alberto “Beto” Vela tested positive for the coronavirus last week (March 25). Five results came back negative, two are still waiting on results and three were not tested as recommended by Hidalgo County.
The city determined those eleven individuals based on who was in the main city council chambers during a special emergency meeting and regular council meeting, according to Mayor Armando O’caña. Both meetings took place on Mon. March 23 – the last in-person meeting the city held.
“The instructions I gave was for everyone in and around the area of the city council meeting [to be tested],” O’caña said. “So it had to do with the council members, our city attorney, our city secretary and our Police Chief, who was asked to move from a conference room to inside the chamber. All of them were asked to be voluntarily tested.”
For a person to be tested, they have to meet criteria set by the state and Center for Disease Control. The Hidalgo County Health Dept. asks a person if they have traveled to a high-risk country or area of the United States, if they have been in contact with someone exposed to COVID-19 and if they are showing any symptoms for the virus.
According to the CDC, people may be sick with the virus for one to 14 days before developing symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness and dry cough. More rarely, the disease can be serious and even fatal, especially for the elderly and people with other medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
All the individuals tested from the city of Mission, according to the memo, are not showing symptoms and are “feeling well.” Since Vela’s confirmation, the Mission City Hall has been disinfected twice.
The memo encouraged staff to continue social distancing, hand washing and the disinfecting of their work areas with a chemical solution. O’caña said the city is taking all the necessary precautions in keeping with CDC, local, state and federal guidelines.
“Some of the strategies include that we’ve already implemented the sanitation and disinfection of city hall,” O’caña said, noting that after the employee tested positive they outsourced the cleaning of City Hall with a secondary company. “We notified the staff that this happened, so they can be more vigilant and self-report if they’re feeling anything.”
O’caña added that he has implemented three levels of “strike teams” for surveillance to ensure those who should be quarantined are staying home and everyone is doing their part to comply with healthy social distancing and sanitation mandates. He said they were also considering placing travel restrictions on the city, and road blocks for vehicles entering the Mission city limits.
“It wouldn’t be for those going out of Mission, just those coming in,” O’caña said.
It asked that directors let their staff know that if employees choose not to report to work over a “concern,” they must use their comp time or vacation. A “concern” does not qualify for Emergency Sick Leave Pay.
Perez stated in the memo that employees should continue to adhere to the Mission Employee Speech, Expression and Social Networking Policy.
The memo ended with an assurance that the city employees’ health and safety are a priority for leaders, protective orders will evolve accordingly and the situation is being “diligently monitored,” adding that the mayor, city manager and city council are grateful for their work and dedication in these times.
O’caña is asking Mission residents to remain vigilant and practice healthy habits.
“I just listened to the governor’s news conference, and he claims that there have been over 90 fatalities [due to COVID-19] in Texas, and I think there’s three in Laredo,” O’caña said, noting that Laredo is only 100 miles away. “I would like to plead to the citizens of Mission to stay home.”