BREAKING: Starr County in rural South Texas on lockdown as first cases of COVID-19 confirmed


McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Residents in the rural South Texas county of Starr today went on lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19, just as officials confirmed the county’s first confirmed cases.

The “Mandatory Stay At Home/Stay Safe Plan” issued by Starr County Judge Eloy Vera requires all residents to shelter in place for the next seven days to stop the spread of coronavirus. It does, however, permit them to leave their homes for necessary medical care and to conduct commerce and business. All restaurants are closed, but take-out services are encouraged, according to the order.

On Thursday morning, Starr County officials confirmed three cases of COVID-19 out of 30 tests returned so far. That is a 10% infection rate in a rural border county of just 61,000 people that borders the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

“Extraordinary and immediate measures must be taken to respond quickly, prevent and alleviate the suffering of people that could be exposed or infected with the virus,” Vera’s orders read.

A Border Patrol aerostat is seen flying over the City Hall building in Rio Grande City, the seat of Starr County in South Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Those who disregard the orders face fines of $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail. That is the same penalties that residents in neighboring Hidalgo County face when a similar shelter-in-place order goes into effect at 12 a.m. Friday through April 10. Hidalgo County has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Cameron County, which borders Matamoros, Mexico, is also on a 14-day lockdown that began Wednesday and is designed to clear spring breakers from its popular South Padre Island beaches. The county has implemented similar fines to those who do not comply with the orders, according to new orders released Thursday.

The South Texas county of Willacy has not issued lockdown orders, but has ordered all parks, businesses, daycare centers and schools to close, and has ordered residents do not congregate in groups larger than 10 people.

Here’s a report on all Texas cities and counties with shelter-in-place rules.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

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