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Starr County to issue mandatory shelter-in-place order

Facing an increase in local COVID-19 cases, and the pending vaccine to combat it, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera announced Friday amendments to the local emergency order that will now include a mandatory shelter-in-place order and a curfew.

The curfew, which will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for individuals 17 and younger and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for those 18 and older, and the shelter-in-place order will both go into effect Monday, Dec. 14 at midnight and run through the New Year’s holiday. Law enforcement agencies will enforce both orders, Vera said.

“This is not something I or anyone takes pleasure in doing but we believe it’s in the best interest for our community and citizens,” Vera said. “We don’t want to lose any more people and we want to keep everyone as healthy as possible. Even though I hate to pass orders, I believe this one is needed because of the current numbers.”

Over the past seven days, the county has seen 209 people test positive for the COVID-19 disease and are seeing 42 daily active cases, Starr County Health Authority Dr. Antonio Falcon said. 

Of those cases, 95 of those who tested positive are under the age of 18. There are currently six people at Starr County Memorial Hospital with COVID-19 related complications and two other patients had to be transferred to other hospitals on Thursday.

“We are seeing in our community what the rest of the state is seeing, the numbers are increasing in terms of deaths, hospitalizations and rates of infections,” Falcon said.

On Monday, Hidalgo County announced it was receiving 11,700 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine sometime next week. Falcon said he expects Starr County to begin receiving dosages of the vaccine the week after.

“I don’t know how else to ask the people of Starr County to refrain from having large groups for Christmas and New Year’s,” Vera said of the mandatory orders. “I know it’s hard. We all want to be with family but right now we cannot do it. The risk is too great.”

With the shelter-in-place order, exemptions such as checking in on an elderly relative, going grocery shopping or to a doctor’s appointment will be allowed, Vera said.

“The last thing we need is to have a spike on a spike,” Judge Vera said. “The worst part is we are extremely close to the vaccine,… it would be really tragic and sad if we started losing loved ones because we couldn’t wait and not socialize for another month.”

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