By NUBIA REYNA
On the last day of 2020, sitting at the table inside his office located in the second floor of the Dancy Building in Brownsville, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. described 2020 as “awful, dramatic, character-inspiring and life-changing.”
Treviño even made national news at CNN earlier this year after a part of one of his almost daily press conferences went viral. In that conference, he implored the community to take the virus seriously.
“ is everything bad and good that can happen in one’s life, piled into one year and an event, a year, that everybody has a part in,” he said.
“Often times, when tragedy strikes us, we lose a family member or are involved in an accident, or we have a financial situation, that’s usually just our family, ourselves. But, what COVID-19 and this pandemic showed is that all of us, the entire world, was part of the community that had to deal with an attack, and defend itself from this deadly virus.”
For Treviño, 2020 was one of the hardest years. The county judge wonders if many more lives could have been saved with better guidance and coordination by the state and federal governments. As of press time Thursday, there were 1,183 COVID-19 reported deaths in the county and more than 346,000 in the United States.
“I don’t think that anybody in our modern day would have expected to deal with a pandemic in a manner that we’ve had to deal with now for almost a year. When I say it’s been a tragic year I say that because of the number of the people that we’ve lost, locally here in the Valley, in the county, in the state of Texas, in the United States and worldwide; it’s been too many people, unfortunately, and their family members are suffering and we suffer with them,” he said.
“I wish we would have had better coordination with the state and the federal government, better guidance. I think if everybody would have made this about science and health, and not a political issue, I think we would be much better off. It’s a tragic commentary on the state of our country. When we can’t even agree on what the truth on the ground is.”
Treviño said that since the pandemic started he has tried to be as proactive as he could, without worrying about pleasing anybody.
“It’s something that I’ll have to deal with, and I’ll always wonder if we could have done more,” he said.
“That’s why, ever since this started, I’ve tried to be as proactive and aggressive as we possibly could, following the guidelines of the medical and health professionals. I did not do it trying to figure out who am I going to please, who am I not going to please and how many people I’m going to make happy and how many people I’m going to upset, that was not part of my consideration. My thought process was getting as much information correct valid, scientific and health information, speaking to our lawyers and going from there to determine what decisions, what actions we could take to protect and save as many lives as possible.”
For the county judge, the hardest part has not only been the loss of life but also facing the unknown of the deadly virus. Treviño said the county had experience with natural disasters such as hurricanes, but dealing with the global pandemic was like learning to fly.
“None of us were around back in 1918, the last time we had a worldwide pandemic, and so, there wasn’t a handbook that was here in my office that said ‘this is how you deal with a pandemic’. Dealing with hurricanes, and natural disasters, we’ve had some experience dealing with that, so we could rely on our experience, but this was such an unknown and unexpected situation that we had to learn on to fly, we basically had to have on-the-job training,” he said.
“On the good side, it’s that we know that when a difficult situation arises, a crisis, here in Cameron County, I think we’ve been tested and I feel confident that going forward, there’s literally nothing that we can’t handle. I prefer not to have another year, ever, like 2020 but we know that at least for the first quarter, potentially half of the year of 2021, we’re still going to be dealing with this pandemic. The vaccine, obviously gives us hope for the future, but now we are dealing with the whole issue of distribution and enough quantity and supply.”
Treviño said the community learned from the first wave of virus that hit the county earlier this year and continued following recommendations and guidelines to not be in a worse situation, such as has occurred in some other cities in the state and in the country. He said he gives a lot of credit to everyone who have helped each other selflessly.
“Even though we lost 1,183 people as of today, we know it could have been even worse if people hadn’t followed the recommendations that we made following CDC guidelines. I give a lot of credit to the people who have followed the recommendations and the guidelines, to those non-profits, those churches, all of those groups and individuals who have given out themselves to others in need,” he said.
“To see the lines of cars for a food drive, picking up food at a food pantry, at a church, or at United Way. United Way in particular has been phenomenal. It breaks your heart, I participated in as many as I could and a lot of people didn’t want to have to be out there, but they wanted to provide for their family. As I said earlier, this has been a tragic year but it has also brought out the best in the community. We know that we follow the golden rule here, treat others as you would have them treat you.”
While the judge knows that a part of this new year will still look like it looks right now, with the community dealing with the virus, he is hopeful that for the next holidays we’ll be able to live a new normal without face masks, where you can go out to restaurants without worrying about catching the virus and most importantly, without worrying on getting your family sick.
“I hope that whenever we speak we will not have a face mask on, I hope that we won’t have to be as concerned about our distance, I hope that we will be able to go to concerts, to the supermarket, and to football games. Have meetings face to face without having to worry about getting sick,” he said.
“I think that COVID, the virus, is with us, it’s going to be with us for a long time, and I’m waiting to hear what the health professionals will tell us it’s going to be like once we can go back to normal.
“I’m sure everybody is looking forward to being able to do the things that they want to do. Going to a nightclub to listen to music, having dinner without worrying about the table next to you and separating and having to distance; all of those things, that we took for granted, that were shown as a result of this past year how special they are, I think we are going to appreciate them even more.”