Mayor Pro Tem Ernesto Gutierrez argues that the City Council should not overstep boundaries in mandating residents to get vaccinated

CATHEDRAL CITY — Mayor Pro Tem Ernesto Gutierrez, elected to the serve on the City Council in November 2018, has never been shy about taking a view contrary to that of his colleagues — and holding firm. Such is the case when it comes to local government asking for proof of vaccination for some events.

Gutierrez cast the dissenting vote in a 4-1 decision last week when the City Council directed the City’s Emergency Services Director to issue a new Emergency Order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Effective immediately, the Emergency Order mandates the following within the city limits “for the health and safety of our residents and visitors.”

Part of the Emergency Order dictates that “Masks must be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status in public places, such as retail and grocery stores, restaurant, bars and gyms. Exceptions include while eating and drinking as well as children under the age of 2 years and those who have a medical condition that prevents wearing a facial covering certified by a doctor’s order.  It would also include those at home and those seeking services at a salon and/or facial services.

Gutierrez, who owns a local restaurant and acknowledged that he’s been vaccinated, said for the City Council to mandate vaccinations to enter bars and restaurants is to overstep its boundaries.  He questioned how such a mandate could possibly be enforced and explained how simple it is to create a fake proof of vaccination card as well las fake negative COVID–19 test.

The Mayor Pro Tem also argued that the City Council was reacting to an issue that the media has exaggerated.

“Definitely this pandemic, COVID-19, is definitely a bad,” Gutierrez said in making his case. “You can say disease or pandemic, but so is the common cold. We know that’s a lot of these deaths … contributed to COVID are not true. They’re false. They’re false. (Some) 450,000 or more than half a million people that have died, some person died that was killed from a shark attack and it was listed as COVID. My secretary’s relative died of a heart attack here in Riverside County. He was registered that he died of COVID. There’s been numerous amounts of people that have been misrepresented as to their death. It is not true. It is not as deadly as the media says it is.”

On Saturday, Aug. 14, the California Department of Public Health reported that California has 4,008,750 confirmed cases of COVID-19, resulting in 64,138 deaths.

“The amount of people that died with polio or any other disease, I agree with,” Gutierrez said. “This is, it’s a bad thing. A lot of people have died, I wish they didn’t. But a very, very small percentage of the people do die, just like they do with a common cold. I do not agree with mandating people to get vaccinated. It’s up to them to get vaccinated. We should not mandate it. I got vaccinated. No one told me to it. I did it on my own, so therefore I do not want to force people to do it. Now, as far, as like I talked about just recently, a test is as good as the minute you took that test that you’re not contagious. A minute or two later, you walk out of there, that test is no longer good. So what does it do to actually do those two things?”

“Now kids under 12 are not eligible to get vaccinated,” Gutierrez said in a calm, straightforward manner.

Gutierrez: Council Should Not Overstep Boundaries

Mayor Pro Tem Ernesto Gutierrez

“Are they not going to be allowed to attend a restaurant? I don’t see how this is going to work,” Gutierrez said. “Now, I do not want to step over our boundaries and take people’s right from being out and about and their liberties away. This is not right. I don’t think we should be talking about this issue. I agree with a mask. I think we can do that, but I don’t think we should be overstepping our boundaries. And I think that forcing people to show a proof of vaccine, which I can come up with a fake one and show it to people, or I can come up with a fake test that (is) negative. Now, who’s going to police this as well? I just don’t agree with this. I think the media is over exaggerating on this. And I think the mask mandates are good enough. And that’s all I have to say, Mr. Mayor. Thank you.”

Councilmember Nancy Ross said she respectfully disagreed with Gutierrez in that thousands of people do not die annually of the common cold.  A social media post also claims that one is more likely to die of the common cold than COVID-19.

“The common cold is generally not lethal, with some rare exceptions”, a team of global health scientists and infection preventionists at the Meedan Digital Health Lab, a public health information hub that distills complex health and medical science, explains. “The flu, which is deadlier than the common cold, killed 0.1% of the people who contracted it in 2019. It is still too early to discern accurate global death estimates for people who have contracted COVID-19, but estimates have ranged from 1% to 25% of all cases, depending on the country,”

The experts argue that a conservative death rate of 1% would therefore make COVID-19 at least 10 times as deadly as the flu, and therefore “significantly more lethal” than the common cold, according to Reuters.

Mayor Raymond Gregory seemed taken aback at Gutierrez’s comments.

Gutierrez: Council Should Not Overstep Boundaries

Mayor Raymond Gregory

“I’m kind of surprised at some of the comments Mayor Pro Tem,” Gregory said. “… We have been talking about how serious COVID is and how important it is for the safety of the community, yet there’s definitely a change of tone in your arguments here, because now all of a sudden, it’s not that deadly and it’s been over exaggerated according to you. I don’t understand where that logic comes from. If that’s the way that you honestly feel, I don’t understand some of the previous discussion, because it is, in my opinion, and I think it’s clearly borne out in the science that it certainly is a pandemic of deadly proportions much more serious than some of the other things you mentioned. … I’m  sure there are probably times where there’s a comorbidity where COVID and something else killed somebody, but I don’t really know what that has to do with the discussion.”

The item we’re discussing would be whether we have a requirement that people that go into bars and restaurants or participate in large events, whether they have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test within a reasonable period of time, which has been suggested to be 72 hours,” Gregory said directing his comments at Gutierrez. “But that’s not requiring people to be vaccinated, that’s giving them alternatives to ensure the safety of others. So, I think that, that is a surprising argument.”

Comorbidities such as heart disease, respiratory disease, renal disease and cancer lead to an increased risk of death from COVID-19, according to new research reported in Science Daily.

Gutierrez offered no combative rebuttal. He simply listened,

Councilmember Rita Lamb said the McCallum Theater and CV Repertory have vaccination requirements.

Effective immediately, the Emergency Order mandates the following within the city limits for the health and safety of our residents and visitors:

  • City Buildings will be closed to the public with services available online, telephone, and in-person by appointment only.
  • Face coverings are mandated for large outdoor events and gatherings where you cannot safely social-distance between others outside of your household.
  • Masks must be worn by employees and guests in all city-controlled buildings.

In addition, effective no later than Sept. 1, 2021, the Council voted to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours must be shown for patrons entering a restaurant and/or bar with the exception of children under age 12 or those with a medical condition.

Once city management meets and confers with its collective bargaining units about the effects, the city will require employees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test weekly.

Riverside County, which includes Cathedral City, has seen coronavirus cases surge in the past month, according to Chris Parman, communications manager for Cathedral City.  The county’s case rate is now 25.7 people per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 11.6%.  Although these numbers are well below the peak from the holidays, the trajectory of the coronavirus spreading is going in the wrong direction.  The steps taken by the City Council are to help mitigate further spreading of the coronavirus.

Earlier this month, the Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously to require proof of vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test from the past 72 hours for customers of indoor restaurants and bars.

To get an electronic copy of your vaccination card, click here.


Image Sources

  • Ernesto Gutierrez: City of Cathedral City
  • Raymond Gregory: Raymond Gregory
  • Eating Mexican food: Shutterstock