FALFURRIAS, Texas – Brooks County Judge Eric Ramos is urging local residents to go into self-quarantine for 14 days if they have visited the Rio Grande Valley or Nueces County.

The Valley and the Corpus Christi area have seen a huge spike in COVOD-19 cases since Gov. Greg Abbott ended “stay-at-home” orders. The number of new cases in Nueces County grew 31 percent in just two days last week. In Hidalgo County it was 21 percent.

This has setoff alarm bells for Ramos and Brooks County Commissioners Court. The county has only nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 and local leaders want to keep their numbers low.

Falfurrias, the county seat of rural Brooks County, is just 76 miles from McAllen to the south and 78 miles from Corpus Christi to the north. 

Brooks County Judge Eric Ramos

“We are working on an advisement telling our people that if they are going to travel to the Valley or the Corpus area, they have to self-quarantine themselves. We are about to issue that order,” Ramos told The Rio Grande Guardian on Friday afternoon.

Asked how long the self-quarantine would last, Ramos said: “Fourteen days.”

On Friday, Nueces County reported 254 new COVID-19 cases and one COVID-19 death. The county has a total of 3,272 cases and 10 deaths. Of the ten deaths, three occurred during the past week.

On Friday, Hidalgo County reported 278 new positive cases of COVID-19. This brings the total number of known positive cases in Hidalgo County to 4,798. As of Friday, a total of 478 people had been hospitalized with complications from the disease; 115 of those people are in intensive care units.

A total of 339 people were released from isolation in Hidalgo County on Friday, meaning that they have been symptom-free for ten days, including three days without a fever. Currently there are 2,864 net active cases and 2,449 test results pending in Hidalgo County.

Ramos said when he reads about such a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in Hidalgo and Nueces counties, he breaks into a cold sweat. He said county commissioners have worked hard to educate the public on the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask.

Asked why Brooks County – which has a population of around 7,300 – has thus far avoided a large outbreak of the coronavirus, Ramos said its residents have stuck to the advice of local elected officials and health experts.

“So far, so good,” Ramos said of the county’s efforts to thwart COVID-19. “The community is following the measures we have put in place, even if they have been voluntary. We had a curfew that lasted longer than most. That had a lot to do with it because, for me, it is the lack of social gatherings that are making the difference. We did everything we could to minimize the large gatherings.”

Brooks County Commissioners Court imposed a curfew of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. “We had a few rebels at the beginning but after that they were pretty good about it,” Ramos said.

Asked about the wearing of facial coverings, Ramos said he wished Gov. Abbott would have taken a more proactive stance. Under the governor’s most recent executive order on the coronavirus, counties with less than 20 COVID-19 cases do not have to follow the “wear-a-mask” policy. However, Ramos said he would enforce mask-wearing, if he had the authority to do so.

“I think it was a mistake for the governor not to mandate it months ago. The fact that he did not allow us to hold an individual responsible, even though we are have had under 20 cases, is not being proactive. If he would allow us to mandate it for individuals, that, for us, would be a proactive measure. I don’t want to get to 20 positive cases. But if I can’t require the mask as an individual, then I think the chances are that I will get to 20, much as I don’t want to.”

Asked for an example of how Brooks County is being proactive in the battle against COVID-19, Ramos said most every public event has been cancelled. They county did hold a fireworks display in conjunction with HEB on Friday evening, to celebrate Independence Day, but everyone was asked to stay in their vehicles. “The community has heeded the warnings,” he said.

Asked if he is confident the people of Brooks County will continue to adhere to health guidelines on COVID-19, Ramos said: “I do believe so. At least 40 percent of our population fits in into the vulnerable population in one form or another, either because they are elderly or have underlying health conditions. That is why the community is following our advice.”

Asked what he would like Gov. Abbott to do, Ramos said: “I wish he would just untie our hands and let us take care of our community. We want a mandate of ten people or less congregating. It has got to be ten. For a community like ours, where there is not a lot going on, except family gatherings and celebrations… that for us is a horrible possibility. The possibilities are tragic.”

Asked for any wrap-up remarks, Judge Ramos said he is in consultation with Brooks County Attorney David T. Garcia about potential legal action.

“We are trying avoid the community spread. We are seriously looking at the legal options of challenging the governor and placing a violation for an individual not wearing mask or for any grouping over ten. This could be a violation of the governor’s orders. Our county attorney and I are looking very carefully and I am hoping by next week that we are going to challenge that and do an order that would be out of sync with his (Abbot’s) rule. And let us see what the attorney general does.”

Editor’s Note: Credit for the main image accompanying the above news story goes to MGN.

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