McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — All border counties in South Texas from Laredo to the Gulf Coast are now requiring residents to cover their faces in public, and many have implemented social-distancing rules requiring children stay indoors and away from stores, and limiting the number of people allowed in a car.
From left, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. and Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz.
With its first death from COVID-19 reported Tuesday evening, Hidalgo County, which is the largest county in South Texas, on Wednesday imposed strict rules requiring everyone to cover their faces while in public and forbidding anyone 17 and younger from leaving their homes, except for medical needs. These rules came after officials repeatedly asked families not to grocery-shop together and to take more precautions to ward against the novel coronavirus. The orders are in effect until April 30.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez late Tuesday ordered that all children must stay home “unless the minor is accompanied by a parent or engaged in an essential service or emergency.” An overnight curfew for everyone now begins earlier, from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m., unless the person is going to work deemed essential. Childcare services are limited to only 10 children at a location and only for essential workers. And no more than four people are allowed in a vehicle at a time.
“The basis for the orders is simple,” Cortez said in a statement. “We must all assume we are carrying the virus. Every action we take must be done with the consideration that we will not spread it to those around us. By taking these actions now, we are improving our chances of returning to some sense of normalcy sooner than later.”
His orders came as his office announced that a 76-year-old man from the town of Alamo is the county’s first COVID-19 fatality. A total of 128 people have contracted the virus.
No more than 2 people per car in Cameron County
Cameron County on the Gulf Coast also on Wednesday began stricter social-distancing rules that require no more than two people per vehicle, and also require face coverings to be worn by all in public. If more than one person in a vehicle, then both must wear masks, the order says.
Additionally, no children under 14 “may accompany parents or guardians for routine grocery, supplies or gasoline replenishment trips,” and children may only leave their homes for medical or educational reasons, reads the order by Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr.
There have been 101 cases of COVID-19 and one death in Cameron County, which originally had trouble preventing eager Spring Breakers from flocking to its beaches.
Willacy County says over age 5 must cover faces
Willacy County, a small, rural farming county of just 21,000 people located north of Cameron County, today also started requiring residents over age 5 to cover their faces in public, or face a fine of $1,000. And only two people may ride in a vehicle unless it is a medical emergency. Earlier this week, the county reported its first death, and has had five cases of COVID-19.
Starr and Zapata counties report no COVID-19 deaths
Starr County has had facial covering rules in effect since Sunday for everyone ages 5 and older. This rural county of 62,000 people has had seven cases. Zapata County to the west also has seven cases and requires faces to be covered in public.
Strictest rules, most deaths in Webb County
Webb County, home to Laredo, has had 155 cases of COVID-19, including a 4-month-old and 80-year-old who tested positive on Tuesday, officials said Wednesday. The area has had six deaths from the virus — the most in South Texas — and most of the cases are via “community spread,” Webb County Health Director Dr. Hector Gonzalez said.
In response, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz announced that starting this afternoon all children under age 18 must stay inside their homes, only one person from a family is allowed to shop, and everyone age 2 and older must cover their faces when in public.
The order issued Wednesday evening reads: “Parents and guardians are prohibited from taking minor children to any grocery store, convenience store, or big box store, unless doing so is necessary
because of a lack of alternate childcare.”
It’s something we all have to do, please bear with us. Some members of our community feel overly-burdened and if they’re sacrificing more then I’m sorry.”Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz
“Yes, this new order is more stringent. We’re basically asking people when you leave your home to wear a mask,” Saenz said. “It’s something we all have to do, please bear with us. Some members of our community feel overly-burdened and if they’re sacrificing more then I’m sorry.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.
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