On Tuesday, Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano ordered all individuals living in the county to stay at home in their place of residence, prohibited all public or private gatherings of any size, shut down all but essential businesses, and banned all travel except for essential activities.
In addition, he imposed a county-wide curfew that ordered members of the public to remain at their residences between 10 p.m.-5 a.m.
Cano’s supplemental order was effective at 11:59 p.m. on March 31, and will continue until 11:59 p.m. on April 7. The order can be seen in its entirety at the Alpine Avalanche Facebook page or at alpineavalanche.com.
As of press time, no cases of the coronavirus had yet been identified in the Tri-County area.
Then at an emergency meeting Wednesday, the court designated Alpine pediatrician Dr. Ekta Escovar as the Brewster County local health authority as it pertains to COVID-19 subject matter, and Cano said her duties could possibly expand in the future.
Commissioner, Pct. 1, Betse Esparza pointed out that the county and the commissioners had already been named in a lawsuit and that Escovar could be a part of legal action in the future. Escovar confirmed that she was aware.
Big Bend Regional Medical Center CEO Rick Flores clarified that Escovar would be functioning with the county as an independent medical provider and not as a representative of the Medical Center.
Also on Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott told Texans to stay at home except for essential services and activities, and announced that schools would remain closed until at least May 4.
Abbott’s order goes into effect at 12:01 tonight and lasts until April 30, aligning it with the new end date for social-distancing guidelines announced by President Donald Trump on Monday.
The order supersedes the one Abbott issued March 19 limiting social gatherings to 10 people. The new order narrows that significantly, and asks Texans to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.
Abbott said in Texas, 42,992 individuals had so far been tested, with 3,266 confirmed positive for COVID-19, and 46 deaths. He pointed out that 2.4% of hospital beds in Texas available for COVID-19 patients were occupied, leaving 97.6% of those available beds vacant for those who might contract COVID-19. Less than 10% of those tested were positive, and just over 11% of those who tested positive had to be hospitalized.
Abbott stressed that the order was not stay-at-home or shelter-in-place, and visiting grocery stores, gas stations, and hardware stores, maintaining physical activity, and going hunting and fishing were allowed as long as in-person contact was minimized.
“All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and domestic travel is still allowed as long as it minimizes personal contact,” said Abbott.
Government entities and businesses will continue to provide essential services, and businesses not categorized as essential can continue to operate from home with the use of technology.
The governor’s executive order further empowers any law enforcement officer in the state to enforce it. Penalties include fines or jail time up to 180 days, and any violator can be subject to quarantine.
Around the Tri-County, on March 27, the City of Marfa issued a shelter-in-place order restricting residents to their homes except for personal activities, essential work services, and essential travel. The order is effective through April 10.
Marfa Police Chief Steve Marquez told the Avalanche the city council was motivated by concerns that visitors from “the hot zones” who were coming through Marfa might contaminate residents. He pointed out that hotels, AirBnbs, and other short-term rentals remained closed.
“They also wanted to limit the residents’ travel,” said Marquez. “People would go to San Antonio and return, and contamination was a concern.”
To see the order, visit cityofmarfa.com.
Finally, on March 31, Jeff Davis County Commissioners Court issued a shelter-in-place order effective through April 24. For all the details, visit co.jeff-davis.tx.us.