A Texas county judge shutdown non-essential businesses for two-weeks Thursday as the county reports a surge in new COVID-19 cases, CNN reported.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said he issued the order based on data that shows the COVID-19 hospitalization rate at 44% as of Thursday evening, according to the report. The order took effect Thursday at midnight.
“Since the inception of this pandemic, El Paso County has never seen this level of infections through our community,” he said during a virtual news conference.
“Our hospitals, our capacity, our medical professionals are overwhelmed, and if we don’t respond, we will see unprecedented levels of death,” he said.
Samaniego said grocery stores, food delivery services and pharmacies will remain open, the report continued. He also said election related services are essential.
Based upon the advice and recommendation of medical professionals, as well as hospital CEO’s, effective at midnight tonight, I am ordering a shutdown of all non-essential services for a 2 week period.
— County Judge Ricardo Samaniego (@EPCountyJudge) October 30, 2020
El Paso County has reported 595 deaths due to COVID-19, according to the county health department website. There are currently 939 residents in the hospital with 232 in intensive care units, per the same data set. There have been 18,276 COVID-19 deaths in Texas, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said in a statement he is asking the state attorney general to clarify Samaniego’s order.
“The Judge did not consult me and refuses to return my call, so I am seeking clarification from the Attorney General on the new County order, which does not supersede the Governor’s orders,” Margo said in a statement per CNN.
“What I can speak to is the hurt our community is going through. We must strike a balance of keeping our neighbors safe while not destroying people’s abilities to feed their families.” Margo said.
Samaniego issued a 2-week, 10 pm to 5 am curfew for El Paso County Oct. 25. (RELATED: Texas County Judge Issues County-Wide Curfew As COVID-19 Cases Soar)
“The curfew is enough to limit the economic consequences on local businesses by allowing the stores to stay open. We carefully thought about the economic impact if we were to impose a full stay at home order like we did at the beginning of this process,” Samaniego said at the time.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton said, per the report, that Samaniego does not have the authority to order the shutdown. Paxton called it a “direct violation” of orders from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
“I’m also very cognizant and respectful of the governor’s orders,” Samaniego said per the report. “The hard truth is that the people who are dying are El Pasoans; they are not in Austin.”