LAREDO, Texas – El Paso County health officials say they have evidence of community spread of COVID-19, meaning the source of infection is unknown in some of the positive cases.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez is warning of a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases coming to the county.
Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., is getting frustrated that residents are not adhering to his stay-at-home order, and is warning he may have to install checkpoints.
And Laredo City Council has passed a new order mandating that anyone who enters a building that is not their home must cover their mouth and nose with a mask, bandana, scarf or any fabric. If they do not they could face a fine of up to $1,000.
These were some of the headlines along the Texas-Mexico border as the month of March ended with 180 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in counties straddling or close to the border.
The latest figures: El Paso County, 50 cases of COVID-19; Hidalgo County 46 cases; Webb County 45; Cameron County 26: Val Verde 5; Starr County 5: Willacy County 2, and Maverick County 1.
The White House on Tuesday said 100,000 to 240,000 people could die of COVID-19, even if people adhere to social distancing and wash their hands regularly. If they do not, they said, the figure could hit one million.
Concerned that residents of Hidalgo County are not taking seriously the emergency shelter-at-home order now in place, Judge Cortez said he is asking local law enforcement to step up efforts to enforce the order to keep people home.
“We know there is a tsunami coming,” Cortez said. “It hasn’t hit us yet. If there is anything we can do to mitigate this it is stronger enforcement on the orders.”
Judge Cortez said he is receiving calls from residents and others who want more restrictions in place. “I would recommend even more restrictions when we’ve reached the level of enforcement with current restrictions that we are comfortable with,” Judge Cortez said. “I think we would all agree that traffic may have slowed, but not to the levels we had hoped.”
Cortez said there is a tipping point when the county’s health care will be “overwhelmed.” He said the county has to avoid reaching that tipping point.” That can be done, he said, by staying home; practicing good hygiene; and avoiding other people.
“What we need to do today is educate our people to ask themselves what they consider essential. We must stop being outside for any reason. Don’t risk it,” he added.
Judge Treviño made similar comments to Judge Cortez.
“Is somebody going to actually have to lose their life in Cameron County so that all of you who don’t want to abide by the shelter-in-place rule will actually stay at home? Or does it have to be one of your family members to get sick?” Treviño asked.
“We’re trying to get ahead of this. There is no cure.”
Treviño said he might consider installing checkpoints if residents do not comply with his stay-at-home order.
“Even though we’ve made it mandatory, people still can’t seem to understand how serious this is. Taking your entire family to H-E-B to buy groceries? You don’t need to do that. Taking your children, your parents? It’s not necessary,” Treviño said.
“Please, if you do your part, we’ll get ahead of this. If you don’t, this is going to linger and this order’s going to remain in place as long as necessary.”
On Wednesday, Laredo City Council mandated that a a mask, bandana, scarf or any fabric must be worn over the nose and mouth of anyone who enters a building that is not their home. This includes an office, on public transit or at a gas station. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $1,000. The order begins April 2 and continues through April 30.
Some council members wanted the measure to be more stringent, with a requirement that any person going outside must cover their mouth and nose with a mask. This was not approved, however, because it was deemed to broad.
El Paso County
Health officials in El Paso County have confirmed that COVID-19 is growing through “community spread.” In other words, the source of infection is unknown in some of the positive cases; that the disease was not contracted through travel.
The City of El Paso Department of Public Health reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing El Paso County’s total to 50. Of these, 31 are female and 19 male.
”Every time we report new numbers, whether it’s one or two or four, keep in mind that these are more potential exposures for people who may have underlying conditions,” Dr. Hector Ocaranza, of the City/County Health Authority.
Echoing the thoughts of health officials up and down the border region, Ocaranza said:
“We cannot afford to be complacent in the war against this virus and compromise the lives of those who are susceptible. When we ask you to stay home you need to stay home.”