Local health authority resigns in Texas border county battered by coronavirus

Dr. José Vázquez has resigned from his position as Starr Co. county health authority.                    Credit: Spencer Selvidge for The Texas Tribune
Dr. José Vázquez has resigned from his position as Starr Co. county health authority. Credit: Spencer Selvidge for The Texas Tribune

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The top doctor advising Starr County on local health policy resigned abruptly Monday, leaving temporarily vacant a key position in a rural border community already battered by the coronavirus.

Dr. Jose Vazquez resigned from his position as health authority after members of the commissioners court rejected increasing his pay from $500 a month to $10,000, according to a press release from the county and County Judge Eloy Vera.

Vera, who brought the pay increase to the commissioners, said the contract would last only as long as Vazquez’s services were needed and had a termination clause that let either party cancel it. It also would have been paid with federal CARES Act funding.

Vazquez has “been working tirelessly for the county for the last six, seven months getting just a token amount for the last six, seven years,” Vera said.“Since COVID started, he has been putting in at least 60 to 70 hours a week… It was only fair that he be compensated for that.”

Vazquez, who is also board president of the county’s only hospital, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Local health authorities provide guidance to city and county officials on how to manage the coronavirus, often play a role in addressing the public at press conferences or hearings, and can make recommendations about school closures, in the event of an outbreak.

A press release from the county thanked Vazquez for his “outstanding service” and said the appointment of a new health authority “should be forthcoming.”