Tanzina: In Plano, Texas coronavirus cases are steadily on the rise. Earlier this month Plano's Mayor Harry LaRosiliere joined eight other Texas mayor's asking governor Greg Abbott to give local governments the authority to make face masks mandatory in the face of the virus' growing threat. Mayor LaRosiliere is with us now. Mayor, how are you?
Harry: Hi, Tanzina. Thank you for having me. I'm well, thank you.
Tanzina: Thanks for being with us. Tell us what do you attribute the rise of Coronavirus cases in your community to specifically?
Harry: Well, I think it's a combination of a number of things. When we reengaged our economy, our numbers were not going down yet. I think there was a rush to move towards that goal. Then secondly, the essential people have been coming out, I think there's just been a dropping of the guard. We did a really good job of staying home and flattening the curve and now I think everyone has dropped their guards.
Tanzina: When you say drop their guards, how much of a rise are you seeing in Coronavirus cases in your city right now?
Harry: We're about 20 miles north of Dallas. We're part of really the DFW area. Our rates have not been going up significantly but we have seen our hospitalization utilization up a good 20% over the last month. We know in Dallas for example, one out of every three emergency patients is for COVID. We're that city just north of Dallas. It is concerning to us because we know that it grows exponentially this virus. It won't take very long for it to overrun our healthcare system.
Tanzina: Mayor, earlier this month, you joined eight other mayors in writing a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking him to make face masks mandatory. We're wearing a lot of face masks in New York right now but not all people are wearing them. Why did you feel you needed to do that and how did the governor respond?
Harry: Well, we're really encouraged that we're having that dialogue with the governor, because he scaled back. After that letter, he did scale back the reopening and closed the bars and capacity went from 75% to 60%. He did put in an executive order that we can make that mandatory in businesses. I think there may be more to go, but we're encouraged by the fact that we came to him on a bipartisan basis. It was eight of the top 10 cities in Texas plus one other mayor from a top 15 city.
We all decided that we just want to do what's right for our constituents in a very cohesive way. We think that if we have that ability on the local level to make those decisions, then we can do what's best for our citizens.
Tanzina: Mayor is it that difficult to implement the wearing of face masks in general? Are businesses open to the idea? Are customers? We are seeing occasional videos that come out of folks who feel completely offended if they're asked to wear a facemask, even though this has proven to be at least temporarily one of the most effective measures for preventing the spread as we know right now. What are business owners and residents of your city saying?
Harry: By and large we have received very good compliance. I think what happened is when the when it's mandatory, and you have more of a reminder, it allows us to again, not drop our guard. Businesses have been call-- I've had a number of businesses say that they're in favor of that, because if we make the declaration of the mandate, there's a higher level of compliance by our citizens, and they want to stay open.
They want to be in business. They're not really trying to make it difficult for people. They want to just make sure that we're safe. The way we've been approaching it here is to talk in a very real level [unintelligible 00:04:25] who do you care about that you're willing to make the sacrifices for staying at home as much as you have to, social distancing, wearing the mask, the proper hygiene.
I think if we approach from that level and try to appeal to that person's true human nature for their loved ones, their family, friends, and neighbors that's how we get through this. It's not that difficult to put a mask on. It is an inconvenience, but it's something we can get through together.
Tanzina: Mayor, the federal government has had varying degrees of encouraging the use of face mask-wearing. In particular, the President himself does not tend to wear a face mask and the Vice President does not either, although we've seen him on occasion do that. He did recently mentioned, wearing face mask and following CDC guidelines more specifically this weekend. However, the federal government at the same time is planning to cease funding for testing sites in Houston, El Paso, and Dallas at the end of June. Your thoughts on that and how that would affect Plano?
Harry: Well, I think in a time of crisis like this, reducing funding is the last thing we want to do. I think he's going to turn it over to the states but as long as the resources are available to help our citizens through, I think is the number one goal. Just to go back to your comment on the face mask, I want to say this. I think if whether you believe it or not that it works, face masks and wearing them is an act of kindness as well, because you're really protecting other people.
Kindness is a strength, not a weakness. I just say, we all have the freedom to do what we want. We all have the freedom to care for one another, as well and that's what this is all about. We got to get through this together. Reducing funding, making political-- Wearing of a health [unintelligible 00:06:28] tool as a political football, it's not necessary at this time.
Tanzina: We've been talking on the show about how people are finding moments of joy in a lot of this moment which is so difficult, even if it's the smallest thing. How are you finding joy and hope in the little things these days?
Harry: Well, I've often said that COVID is an opportunity to reconnect with my family. My daughter lives in the DC area. My younger one is a sophomore in college and because of our schedules, we weren't even going to be able to have a family vacation this year. We've been able to spend several months together now, which is all bonus time for me. Every single day, that was as good for me.
When we did the stay at home, we were home for good 20, 30 days where we just didn't basically leave the house except for just maybe an essential run. Just to reconnect with my baby girls they're 23 and 21 every day for the last couple months is not a bad thing. Not at all. Mayor Harry LaRosiliere is the mayor of Plano, Texas. Thank you so much for your time.
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