New Political Action Committee takes aim at Abbott’s COVID-19 response

A new Political Action Committee or PAC aimed at Gov. Greg Abbott’s COVID-19 response features two women taking a stand against what the PAC says is an inadequate public health policy from the state’s most senior elected official, and in support of the Rio Grande Valley’s low-income, predominantly Hispanic, and at-risk communities.

The group hopes to garner support to unseat Abbott in 2022. According to co-founder Zack Malitz, who spoke on a Zoom call Friday afternoon featuring four speakers, the PAC will spend at least seven figures by the end of the year in an effort to educate Texans on what went wrong and why it needs to change.

Rosemary Rangel, of San Antonio, the daughter of Juan Carlos “Charlie” Rangel Gutierrez, spoke on Friday about how proper planning, funding, and attention could have prevented an overwhelmed hospital system, and could have saved her father’s life.

Juan Carlos was 61 when he passed away at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville on July 12.

“Had he not gotten sick, he would have still been with us today,” she told attendees. “He was selfless and he loved helping people and I’ll try my best to take after his legacy, helping others.”

The Rangel family home in Brownsville was multigenerational. When Rosemary’s sister got sick, the rest of the household became infected even though she tried to isolate.

“My father’s last greatest deed was to take my sister to the hospital when she blacked out due to her oxygen levels dropping. He saved her life,” Rosemary said.

But as days passed, Juan Carlos’ oxygen level dropped to 81 percent. When the family called an ambulance, the EMTs were so overwhelmed that they recommended self-care at home, Rosemary said.

Through her still-hospitalized sister, Rosemary said she learned that it was taking between two and four hours for nurses to respond once a patient pressed the call button because the hospitals were so full.

And just two hours after her father’s lungs failed and he passed, the family scrambled to find a funeral home because the hospital could not store more bodies.

“A long-term plan must be considered to assist the many families losing their support systems — their husbands, their wives, parents, grandparents, and caregivers. Because so many lives have been lost, the affected individuals will ripple for generations. And especially in the Hispanic community and the RGV,” Rosemary said.

Those words were echoed by Fiana Tulip, a Brownsville resident who lost her mother Isabelle Papadimitriou, 64, a Dallas-based respiratory therapist from Brownsville on the Fourth of July.

Papadimitriou tested positive just five days before she died and likely contracted COVID-19 in the hospital where she worked. Her rehab unit initially accepted recovery patients but began taking overflow as the hospital reached capacity.

At this time, masks were only a recommendation in Texas as Abbott did not issue a statewide mandate.

“Abbott is making a choice to allow people to die when he could choose to allow county judges to save lives,” said Tulip.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com