City council meeting reveals NDA sent to health authority

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 8:52 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The coronavirus pandemic is once again catching up with the City of Laredo.

Health officials mentioned at last night’s council meeting that the hospitalization rate could get to the point of requiring businesses to reduce capacity.

There was a bombshell reveal that city officials attempted to limit the release of public health information.

Monday night, there was a line of questioning from District 8 Councilmember Alyssa Cigarroa to Laredo health authority Doctor Victor Trevino on his authority to release quarantine orders.

The conversation ultimately led to a reveal of what is going on behind the scenes.

”I was made aware of a document that was sent to your office... from City Hall, which is a non-disclosure agreement... that I believe others have seen or other council members have seen, that was sent to you back in May.”

According to Cigarroa, the NDA stated that the health authority would have to report to city management for approval on quarantine orders, and if he didn’t then he could face criminal consequences and even get fired.

Doctor Trevino did not sign the NDA because he’s an officer of the state, not the city.

His role is to establish a local quarantine, report the presence of epidemic diseases in the community, enforce public health orders, and provide statistics related to outbreaks.

“So I guess I’m just curious from management as to where this NDA came from and why are we perhaps trying to limit information?” asked Cigarroa.

Not much more was said after this because the doctor preferred to have this talk behind closed doors.

Before the drama started, local health experts provided a snapshot on the state of the pandemic.

According to Health Director Richard Chamberlain, they predict that the hospitalization rate could reach 15% by the end of July, which is only a few days away.

If that rate is maintained for seven consecutive days, that triggers a separate action.

“That would trigger the ability for the county judge to be able to implement a reduction of capacity for businesses to go down to 50%,” said Chamberlain.

As far as requests to the state for additional medical personnel, Emergency Management Coordinator Chief Guillermo Heard says their call for help has not been answered.

“No staff have been sent to hospitals in the state of Texas,” said Heard. “They are still at that level, at their highest level to try and see how they’re help different cities that are having multiple outbreaks.”

As for the non-disclosure letter allegedly sent to Dr. Trevino by city management... city council, members of city management and Dr. Trevino went into executive session to discuss the matter and remained there for roughly 2 hours.

Upon returning to the open forum, the issue was not brought up, council only stating, “no action was taken in executive session.”

On Tuesday, KGNS reached out to Trevino and city management for further comment but both said they would not speak on what was discussed behind closed doors.

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