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McAllen mayoral candidates tackle COVID-19 in youth-led forum

7 months 2 days 11 hours ago Tuesday, April 27 2021 Apr 27, 2021 April 27, 2021 7:56 AM April 27, 2021 in Election Coverage

All five McAllen mayoral candidates hit the stage Monday night for another forum.

But this time, the questions were asked by kids at the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen.

Among the main topics discussed was how the candidates would handle the evolving COVID-19 situation.

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Mayoral candidate Othal Brand Jr. said pandemic money that the city receives should be spent in the private sector.

"Provide the masks and technology that's available and schools are starting to look into and purchase in order to make it an environment where masks and distancing are not required,” Brand said. “That's what I would pursue."

Michael Fallek believes keeping residents safe starts with targeting the most vulnerable and those who may not have easy access to a vaccine.

"We're going to make sure that those susceptible populations are protected,” Fallek said. “It's crucial that we make sure that vaccine availability is spread throughout our community."

Dr. Shahid Rashid said the city need to closely follow guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and believes it's too soon to consider doing away with mask wearing altogether.

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"We are not going to take away the face mandate or frequent washing or social distancing because right now, we're still in the middle of getting the vaccinations done, until the vaccination is down to 60 to 70 percent,” Rashid said.

But since Gov. Abbott issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate back in March, candidate Javier Villalobos reminded the community that at the local level, their hands are tied, even if they wanted to make masks mandatory.

"The opening was a little premature, but it happened, so I think we still need to do as best as we can, very strongly suggest that everybody wear their mask, wash their hands and everything,” Villalobos said. “But we have absolutely no authority."

Veronica Vela-Whitacre echoed that it's up to the community to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

"We don't have a tag that says, ‘I've been vaccinated’, so it's just being cautious, it's just being polite and it's being responsible so the more of us that do wear our mask and follow some type of protocol, it only helps us to decrease our numbers,” Vela-Whitacre said.

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