Story at a glance

  • “Our hospitals are at capacity and our medical professionals are overwhelmed. If we don’t respond we will see unprecedented levels of death,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said.
  • Nonessential businesses such as tattoo parlors, hair salons, nail salons, gyms and in-person dining at restaurants will close for two weeks.
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to El Paso Mayor Dee Margo late Thursday claiming the two-week shutdown order “exceeds the county’s lawful authority and creates potentially dangerous situations for enforcement.”

All nonessential services have been ordered to shut down in El Paso County, Texas, in an effort to mitigate a worsening COVID-19 outbreak that has pushed the area’s hospitals to capacity.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Thursday ordered a two-week shut down of nonessential businesses such as tattoo parlors, hair salons, nail salons, gyms and in-person dining at restaurants. 


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Essential services that will remain open include schools, child care facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies and health care facilities. Voting will also be considered an essential activity as the presidential election is just days away. 

The order went into effect early Friday. 

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, El Paso County has never seen this level of high infection rates of COVID-19 throughout our community,” Samaniego said Thursday when announcing the order. 

“Our hospitals are at capacity and our medical professionals are overwhelmed. If we don’t respond we will see unprecedented levels of death."

The order comes as cases and hospitalizations have spiked in the region. El Paso has more than 15,000 active coronavirus cases and a 44 percent COVID-19 hospitalization rate — a more than 350 percent increase from the beginning of the month. Currently, 939 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 and 232 are in the intensive care unit. 

The El Paso Convention Center is being converted into a makeshift health care facility while hospitals in the area are setting up tents to deal with the increase in COVID-19 patients.

But the move by Samaniego was quickly met with pushback from state officials. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to El Paso Mayor Dee Margo late Thursday claiming the two-week shutdown order “exceeds the county’s lawful authority and creates potentially dangerous situations for enforcement.” 

The letter said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order to reopen Texas “explicitly preempts all contradictory local orders.” 

El Paso has confirmed 595 deaths and more than 47,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The judge earlier this week ordered a 10 p.m. curfew for residents in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus as local hospitals reached full capacity and announced plans to airlift some patients to hospitals in other cities.


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Published on Oct 30, 2020