Starr County Judge Eloy Vera announced Friday he would issue a mandatory shelter-in-place order next week as the number of new cases there continue to spike.
In addition to the shelter-in-pace order, the amended emergency order will continue to include the curfew already in place in Starr County. Law enforcement will enforce both.
The curfew will be from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for individuals 17 and younger and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for those 18 and older.
Vera said during a news conference held Friday that the orders were precautionary measures to prevent a further spike in cases as holidays draw nearer.
“The last thing we need is to have a spike on a spike,” Vera said.
He clarified, though, that there would be exceptions to the order for essential activities, such as going to work, going to the grocery store, going to the doctor, going to take care of a family member, etc.
The amended order is set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and will last until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2021.
Law enforcement officers will not arrest or detain people for violating the order but a first time violation of the curfew or the existing social gathering limitation of no more than 10 people can be punishable by a fine of up to $250 per violation.
Following a verbal or written warning, a second violation of the existing statewide mask mandate, can also be punishable by a fine of up to $250 per violation.
“This is not something I or anyone takes pleasure in doing, but we believe it’s in the best interest for our community and our citizens,” Vera said. “We don’t want to lose any more people and we want to keep everyone as healthy as possible.”
The amended order comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to significantly increase in the county and throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Antonio Falcon, the Starr County health authority, said there were 209 new cases reported in the past seven days and added that the number of deaths and hospitalizations were also on the rise.
There are currently six patients with COVID-19 at Starr County Memorial Hospital, Falcon reported.
On Thursday, alone, the county had 21 new confirmed cases for a total of 488 active cases of the coronavirus disease and 192 COVID-19 related deaths.
Elsewhere in the Valley, Hidalgo County officials reported five more residents died due to complications from COVID-19 and 375 more people tested positive.
The five individuals who died raised the total number of COVID-related deaths in the county to 2,121. They included a McAllen man and woman in their 60s and an Hidalgo man, a Mercedes woman, and a Mission man all over 70 years old.
The total number of COVID-19 cases in Hidalgo County is now at 47,109, of which 2,551 are active.
County officials also reported 219 cases of the coronavirus in hospitals throughout the county. Of those patients, 79 are receiving treatment in an intensive care unit.
In Cameron County, health officials reported three more people died due to COVID-19 — a man and woman from Brownsville in their 70s and a Harlingen man over 90 years old — raising their total deaths to 1,146.
Additionally, there were 113 new confirmed cases there for a total of 27,291. Of those, 3,210 are considered active cases.
Officials also reported that 14 Cameron County employees tested positive. Among them are an employee from their maintenance and operations department, an employee from the county extension office, seven from the public health department, two from the Pct. 4 public works office, and three employees from the sheriff’s office.
Citing privacy laws, the county said they would not release any more details about those employees.
“The COVID-19 cases are steadily increasing in our county and we are just yet seeing the impact of transmission cases due to the Thanksgiving holiday congregations,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño said in a news release, pleading with residents to only celebrate Christmas with their immediate family households.
“As difficult as this ask may be in our culture, we must sacrifice this year’s usual festivities so we can all see and be with each other next year,” Treviño said.
Willacy County reported 12 new cases on Friday for a total of 1,437 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.