County, city grapple over who’s tougher

Eleazar Cano




Overriding last week’s action by Alpine City Council, Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano issued a mandate that everyone in the county over 10 years old must wear a mask.

The order applies to all public places where individuals cannot keep a six-foot distance, and was effective Tuesday through July 15.

Masks don't need to be worn when exercising or engaging in physical activity outside; when driving alone or with passengers of the same household; when doing so poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk; while pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment; while in a building or activity that requires security surveillance or screening; or when eating or drinking.

At a meeting on June 23, the city council had approved a draft ordinance giving businesses a choice in the face mask debate. All commercial entities could either require a face mask to enter, or recommend but not require a mask, but that was negated by the county’s action.

As the county did Monday, the council came back on June 30 and adopted Gov. Greg Abbott’s June 26 order to shut down bars again and scale back restaurant capacity to 50%, along with banning outdoor gatherings of over 100 people, among other requirements.

Upping the ante, the council also ordered that health and safety guidelines be posted by each business, and voted to meet with restaurant owners to advise them to modify and/or maintain their HVAC systems, and to come up with ways to increase outdoor seating. The orders will run concurrently with last week’s motion, and be renewed at the regular city council meeting on July 7.

“We get criticized a lot that we’re trying to close businesses, but we’re actually trying to help them stay open by implementing a few simple guidelines,” said Alpine Mayor Andy Ramos.

As of June 30, Brewster County reported 137 COVID-19 positive test results out of 2,412 tested, and one death.

Around the state

Abbott’s actions Friday were his first significant moves to reverse the reopening process that has been in place since late April. He again said shutting down the state was a last resort.

In response to Abbott’s decision ordering bars to close, more than 30 bar owners across the state Monday filed a lawsuit challenging Abbott’s emergency order. The lawsuit was filed in Travis County District Court by Houston attorney Jared Woodfill.

The move came as millions of Texans are jobless. The bar and restaurant industry has been hit especially hard, and nearly 800,000 workers in the restaurant industry have lost their jobs since March.

In the lawsuit, the bar owners argue their rights have been trampled by Abbott while thousands of businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy.

The latest data show 2,119,036 Texans had been tested for the coronavirus, with 159,986 testing positive, or about 7.5%, up from last week, and 2,424 deaths, or about 1.5% of those testing positive, down from last week.

There are currently 72,744 active cases in Texas, with 6,533 hospitalized, or about 8.9% of active cases, about the same as last week.

Texas currently has 13,711 hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, and 5,561 ventilators.

In the Tri-County

At the June 30 Alpine ISD Board of Trustees meeting, Superintendent Becky McCutchen announced students will begin fall classes Aug. 19. Plans will be finalized next week for a combination of in-person and virtual instruction, and parents will be given a choice of either option. Health and safety protocols will be in place when students return to school, including hand washing stations, social distancing guidelines, and more.

Students will wear face masks, and every adult in the district will wear a face shield. All buildings in the district have been disinfected and sanitized.

Athletic Director John Fellows said there would be a system to Livestream all events, including everything from sports to plays and elementary school functions. Fellows has hosted athletic workouts for district athletes via Zoom video conference, and all in-person summer workouts were suspended until July 13. 

In Marfa, effective June 22, the city council mandated that all businesses must require customers to wear masks where six-foot distancing was not feasible, among other requirements.

City Councilman Raul Lara told the Avalanche Marfa’s citizens were adapting well, and had no complaints.

The Fort Davis July 4th fireworks display will take place Friday, July 3 at sundown. The county park will be closed, and vehicles may line up along Highway 17. To ensure social distancing, people must watch from their vehicles parked at least six feet apart.

Marathon will host its annual fireworks display, but all other traditional July 4th activities have been canceled. Fireworks will be set off around dark in an open field on the south side of the Ritchie Bros. building on South First Street. There is ample parking around this field and nearby, and spectators can view the display from parked vehicles.

There were 57 unemployment claims in Brewster County for the period May31-June 11. 



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