Good afternoon, fellow citizens. I am here to announce a new order. 

As all of you know, we have unprecedented challenges that are facing our community. This coronavirus is a serious matter and we are taking this matter seriously. 

As of today, the latest testing that we have is, we have tested 180 of our citizens. Eight have tested positive, that is 4.4 percent of the 180 we have tested; 110 have tested negative, and we are still pending for 62. Out of the eight that were tested positive, four live in McAllen, Texas, two in Mission, one in Alamo, and one in Edinburg. All have not needed to be hospitalized. They are now at home, isolated, trying to recover from this disease. There is an investigation ongoing to make sure that all the people that have been in contact with them are properly traced, looked at and alerted, and (that) precautions will be taken.

In the past I have made a comment to say these are new grounds, new territories. We don’t have this book of wisdom. I believe I was correct a few days ago in not really knowing. But, I can tell you today that I was wrong. We do know how to stop this virus. We do know how to stop the spread. We do it by limited social gatherings and having separation from one another, sanitizing our environment, washing our hands, keeping our hands from our eyes, our nose, and mouth. But, primarily by separating ourselves from one another. 

How do we do this? We live in a free country. A country that all of us enjoy, with many, many freedoms. How do you dare come in and stop some of these freedoms that we enjoy each and every day? Well, Americans, and especially people here in the Rio Grande Valley and especially the people in Hidalgo County, always rise to the occasion. When something needs to be done, we come together and get it done. This is the time to put aside our self interests. I have received many, many, many calls (from people) concerning their business, concerning certain things about them. There is no way we can approach this war, this battle without incurring some hardship. We can’t. But I am going to tell you that I am very proud of the action we are about to take because I can tell you that having a loss for four weeks is a lot better than having a loss for six months or more. 

We know now that other areas didn’t take this virus seriously and now are suffering because of their inactions. The New York, for example, health care system is being overwhelmed. We cannot allow this to happen here. All of the medical community that has contacted me and spoken to me, we are all concerned and these are people that care about you; want the best for you. So, for that and other reasons, today I signed an emergency order that is effective tomorrow, March 26 of 2020 at 11:59 p.m. It will last until April 10 of 2020, at 11:59 p.m. Hopefully we will not need to extend it but we will if we have to.

The order talks about the movement of people and of the occupancy of their premises. It talks about the essential activity, the essential businesses. It talks about the healthcare industry, government, retail, services, the news media, healthcare, and it also talks about price control. Take the time to read it. The last order that I signed was a three-page order. This one is 11 pages. There are always unintended consequences to all the actions that we take. We have tried to be very careful in writing this order. We wanted to accommodate as many people as we could. As many industries as we could, as many businesses as we could. But, there will always be an unintended consequence. So, we would like to hear about those things and if need be we will modify the order. But, please, again, take time to read it.

We have 22 cities in Hidalgo County. And each city is going to be responsible for enforcement. So, if you have questions about one thing or the other, after you, reading the order, and you still need some clearance or clarification, contact your city, let your city help you with any issue you have. If not, we have a hotline, and let me give it to you. It’s 956-292-7765. 

I am going to tell you that I am just so proud to be living in this community. I have been pretty much in daily contact with all the mayors, our commissioners here, the staff, law enforcement, and our medial community. Boy, how lucky we are to have so many people that care about you and want to do the right things. We will win this war, we will win it together. So, I end with, may God bless us all and I thank you and please, please, work with us in abiding by this emergency order. I thank you. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary is based upon the remarks made by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez at a news conference held Wednesday, March 25, 2020, at the county courthouse in Edinburg Texas. The news conference was held to announce a Shelter In Place order for Hidalgo County. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 25, 2020, and ends at 11:59 p.m., on April 10, 2020. Click here to read the order.

Here is a video recording of the news conference: