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Hidalgo County judge issues new Shelter-At-Home orders amidst spike in regional COVID-19 cases
The Rio Grande Valley, especially Hidalgo County, is struggling to handle a recent surge in positive coronavirus cases – a surge that has been compared to that of New York at their peak of the pandemic.
On Monday, July 20, in his capacity as the county’s Emergency Management Director, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez signed a new county order for all residents and visitors in Hidalgo County. The new emergency orders include a shelter-at-home order, curfew, essential travel limitations and a requirement for everyone to use facial coverings while outdoors.
“Our rise in numbers and fatalities says that we need to take action now and do what’s in the best interest of our community,” Cortez said. “This action will help us do the right thing to save and protect each other from this deadly disease by sheltering at home.”
The new orders went into effect on Wednesday, July 22, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.
The order includes the following directives:
- All individuals currently living within Hidalgo County, Texas are ORDERED to SHELTER-AT-HOME in their residence. It is highly encouraged and recommended that all commercial businesses operating within Hidalgo County, except essential-covered businesses, should cease all activities at facilities that may not be provided by curbside, drive-through, or take-out services.
- There will be a curfew for all persons aged 18 and over from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are for a medical emergency, to provide covered essential services, or any other purpose permitted under this Order.
- To the greatest extent possible, all travel during the SHELTER-AT-HOME and CURFEW within the jurisdiction of Hidalgo to County should be limited to obtaining or performing essential covered services. Travel should be limited to no more than two (2) persons per vehicle for persons obtaining essential services, and four (4) persons per vehicle.
- Every person in the County of Hidalgo shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space; wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet (6) of physical distancing from another person not in the same household.
- Any outdoor gathering of ten (10) or more people is prohibited unless the Mayor of the City in which the gathering is held, or the Hidalgo County Judge in the case of a gathering in an unincorporated area, approves of the gathering. Outdoor areas or outdoor venues shall operate at no more than fifty percent (50%) as underlined in the order.
In accordance with Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-29, following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violation of this face covering, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation.
“I am asking for all of us to come together and fight this battle as one,” Cortez said. “You are all part of the solution.”
After the order was issued, Cortez appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. He spoke with Maddow about the critical situation the county, and RGV, is facing.
“It really is that bad,” Cortez said. “We’re really struggling with this situation here in Hidalgo County. I’m very optimistic that as America sees the pain that we’re going through here, we will follow the American tradition for Americans to help us, and we need a lot of help.”
Cortez noted that over 1,000 are hospitalized in Hidalgo County due to COVID-19, and with only 2,000 hospital beds, the majority of focus has gone toward treating the coronavirus. Overwhelmed, Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez reported half a dozen doctors have gone down in the line of duty, and a triple-digit number of healthcare providers have dropped out of the system.
“To care for the patients who already have the virus, we need more personnel, meaning doctors, nurses, technicians, respiratory technicians,” Cortez said. “We have a shortage of oxygen right now.”
Maddow said their team has been paying attention to hotspots across the country, but “nothing seems as worrying to [her] in the country as the situation facing Hidalgo County right now.” Cortez said the county needs to add capacity and ensure everyone is treated, and added the state of Texas can help.
“We have to find a way, we cannot leave our people unattended,” Cortez said. “The other people who normally need care for other diseases and other ailments are also in danger. Where do we put them? It’s a huge problem, and we’re doing everything we can to manage it.”