Hidalgo Co. judge extends shelter order as Valley counts 1,086 new COVID cases

As an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the region, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez extended the shelter-at-home order he issued in July, which was set to expire Wednesday.

The order mandates residents to only leave their home for essential reasons, obey a curfew and wear facial coverings in public.

The announcement was made in a county news release Wednesday evening.

Under the order, residents are only allowed to leave their home for medical emergencies or to obtain essential resources, like food and medication. Anyone under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian while out of the house for these reasons, and while in public spaces, residents must wear facial covering and stay 6 feet away from others.

Those exempt from wearing facial covering include children under 10 years old, and those with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from being able to wear one. The coverings may be taken off while eating or drinking at a restaurant, or while exercising outdoors.

Residents are also allowed to leave their homes for outdoor activities that follow social distance precautions, such as visiting open parks to walk, run or bike, and hunting or fishing.

Additionally, while traveling to obtain essential items, there can be no more than two people in a vehicle; for healthcare operations or government functions, the limit is four.

The extension of the order goes into effect Thursday, and expires Aug. 19.

A warning will be given for first-time violations. Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-29, second violations, and each one after, cannot lead to a fine exceeding $250.

“ In these past two weeks, our residents have adhered to the shelter at home order which has helped our community slow the spread of COVID-19,” Cortez said in the county news release. “We are asking the public to continue practicing the recommendations of our medical experts by continuing to shelter at home, wear a mask and practice good hygiene.”

A curfew from 10 p.m to 5 a.m. will be in place for those older than 18. Additionally, outdoor gatherings of 10 individuals or more is prohibited, unless granted permission by the mayor of the city.

Commercial entities must also remain operating at just 50% capacity, while continuing business by currbise, drive-thru or take out services. Bars and similar businesses that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from alcoholic sales must remain closed, but may open for delivery of take-out.

News of the order came on the same night that the county confirmed 16 additional deaths due to the coronavirus on Wednesday, raising the death toll there to 743.

“ I am truly sorry to hear of the loss of another 16 Hidalgo County residents. My deepest sympathies go out to their friends and family,” County Judge Richard F. Cortez said in a separate county news release. “I urge you to protect yourself and your family from the COVID-19 virus. Masks are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with everyday preventive actions and social distancing in public settings.”

The county also reported 450 new cases of the virus, bringing the total case count there to 18,699.

Cameron County confirmed 21 additional deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, along with 446 new cases of the virus, according to a county news release.

The death toll there is now 324, and the total case count is 15,546.

The youngest among the new cases include 52 children under 9 years old. The oldest include 21 adults older than 80.

On Wednesday, 203 individuals were reported to have recovered from the disease, leaving 9,578 active cases in the county.

Also on Wednesday, 619 individuals were released from isolation because of the disease, leaving 4,991 active cases in the county.

Additionally, according to the release, 742 people with COVID-19 are currently being treated at local hospitals, of which 260 are in intensive care units.

Also on Wednesday, Starr County reported 119 new cases of the disease, raising the total number there to 2,380, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority.

There are now 1,499 active cases in the county. No new deaths were reported, leaving the county’s death toll at 22, with 46 pending deaths.

Willacy County confirmed 30 additional cases of COVID-19 also on Wednesday, raising the total case count there to 644, according to a county news release.

The youngest among the new cases include three children under 10 years old and five teenagers. The oldest are two seniors in their 80s.