Invoking the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez ordered a lockdown and curfew for all residents in the county that takes effect at midnight tonight.
Residents are required to stay home unless procuring or providing goods and services that the county deems “essential.”
The curfew is 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. for adults. Minors are not allowed to be outside their homes at all without a parent or guardian with limited exceptions.
Cortez’s five-page order contains paragraphs of restrictions on residents’ movements and activities, including strict limits on travel and a ban on gatherings of more than ten persons.
He cited a lack of a “downward trajectory” in reported coronavirus cases as part of the basis for the new order, which lasts through August 5 unless he extends it.
While Cortez’s order does call for enforcement, it explicitly prohibits law enforcement from taking anyone into custody for failing to comply.
“No law enforcement or other official may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this Order, provided however that law enforcement may enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner,” the order states.
The order reiterates the statewide face covering requirement, but individuals are only fined for failing to adhere to the mandate after being given a verbal or written warning.
The order comes after Dr. Ivan Melendez, the county’s chief physician, said that residents could be prosecuted for failing to cooperate with the county’s coronavirus measures.
Hidalgo County Commissioners placed the county under a similar order on March 24.
In a video explaining the March order, Cortez denied that the county’s orders constituted a lockdown or “martial law,” and repeatedly said that the county was “requesting” that residents follow certain guidelines.
Nonetheless, in the same video Cortez said that any violators could be punished via a $1,000 fine or imprisonment for 180 days.
However, after the controversy surrounding the arrest of Shelley Luther, Gov. Greg Abbott precluded confinement as a punishment for violating coronavirus restrictions.
Hidalgo County reports 7,203 active cases and 318 fatalities since the beginning of the outbreak.
The county has been in a state of disaster since March 17.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.