EL CENTRO — Amid the ongoing chaos surrounding COVID-19 across the nation and locally, the El Centro City Council appears to be the first Imperial County city to go on the record with declaring a state of emergency.
Efrain Silva explained to those gathered in the audience at the March 17
council meeting that it was a difficult day, but it was necessary to take
action and put into place the practice of social distancing.
council voted 4-0 to authorize Resolution 20-14, declaring a local emergency over
the COVID-19 coronavirus. Council member Edgard Garcia was absent.
resolution, which went into effect March 18, designated City Manager Marcela
Piedra as city emergency office center director. Piedra pointed out the potency
of the virus may increase risk to city staff and residents in the coming weeks.
resolution gives the city powers to override existing city policies and
procedures if required to ensure residents’ health and safety, Piedra said.
Imperial County Board of Supervisors ratified previously declared states of
emergency regarding COVID-19 during its meeting March 10. County health officer
Stephen Munday instituted a 23-point health order that included requiring
social distancing and business closures to take effect March 20 through March
31 during a press conference March 17.
Calexico City Council was to meet March 18, but it did not have such a
resolution on its agenda. Also, the Brawley City Council cancelled its regular
meeting March 17.
CEO reassures city on right track
Centro Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Adolphe Edward went
before the council to provide an update on the hospital’s efforts to deal with
COVID-19, including providing a status on the county’s only two positive cases.
said both are recovering. Edward also reported that the prior two weeks saw 11
suspected cases test negatively.
percent of suspected COVID-19 cases ultimately recover and are discovered to
have been the flu, not COVID-19, ” Edward told the council. “But with
school systems closed, it’s important to monitor children and they should not
gather in groups of more than 10.”
went on that not everybody needs to be tested but only cases where there is
evidence of clinical criteria for COVID-19 symptoms. ECRMC has already set up
triage just outside of the hospital for suspected COVID cases.
City Council voted to cancel all city events through April 7, which is the date
of the next council meeting when the council will re-assess whether to maintain
or relax social distancing guidelines.
events include the Spring Fling & Flick at Bucklin Park, the Splish Splash
Census 2020 event at the aquatic center, the mobile Vietnam veterans’ memorial
at Bucklin Park and other events.
told the council he felt much safer if gatherings were canceled until the first
full week of May, including the those at the aquatic center, skate park and MLK
Jr. Sports Complex.
council member Jason Jackson questioned that reasoning.
close open space parks is not a reality,” said Jackson. “The step to
take is education. Let’s have handwashing stations installed. We are a city and
must provide essential services. Keep the skate park and aquatic center open
for now and give recreation opportunities for our youth.”
a result, council decided to close: the MLK Jr. Center, main library and
branch, the adult center, Conrad Harrison Sports Center and the splash pad, 375
S. First St.
all parks, athletic fields (no organized team practice), skate park and the aquatic
center (which had 1,040 visitors in March) will remain open but modifications
regarding the aquatic center remain in the works.
three separate votes, it was a 4-0 decision to close the library and adult
centers, and 4-0 to leave open the parks. However, the council split 3-1 on the
skate park and aquatic center, with council member Tomas Oliva opposing out of
concern for the elderly.
other business, Veronica Rodriguez, director of the Imperial County Social
Services Department, made a presentation on behalf of the Imperial Valley
Continuum of Care Council to explain a number of proposals care council has
recently submitted for funding.
were 13 projects pending with the care council, but Rodriguez focused on a
proposal to build 24 low-income apartments in Heber. The Continuum of Care
Council already received a community block grant from California through the Homeless
Emergency Aid Program for $4.6 million and Rodriguez requested $2.6 million.
She explained two categories would be eligible: the homeless and those at risk
Council Member Cheryl Viegas Walker raised concerns that what is needed first
is a tiered program to move the chronically homeless from off the street to,
first, a shelter, then second, transitional housing. Third, Walker said, they
should be referred to low-income apartments.
explained the homeless must first stabilize at a shelter where they can detox,
and only after moving to transitional housing, should they qualify for
wrap-around services, such as medication, job training and job placement.
explained her biggest concerns was how the construction of the 24 apartments
help the chronically homeless without stabilizing them first with an address to
get benefits then move them in increment steps to greater independence.
heard her (Rodriguez) explanation of vetting the homeless, I have serious
concerns how she’ll move them into low-income apartments,” Walker said.
“I don’t think they’ll get many qualified for benefits without first
linking their underlying problems through successful transitions to a gradual
move to a better living space, and then they can demonstrate an ability to live
was no action on this agenda item, but Rodriguez was invited back to the next
council meeting to re-examine options.