After the 34th District Court denied the State of Texas’ request for a temporary injunction and ruled that County Order No. 13 is in force, the El Paso Police Department, all City code and emergency personnel will enforce County Order 13 effective immediately.
“Now that Judge Moody has issued his court order deeming County Judge’s Order No. 13 to be in effect, our police officers will enforce the County Judge’s Order,” said City Attorney Karla Nieman. “Both the Attorney General for the State of Texas and the coalition of businesses have filed their notice of appeal.”
County Order No. 13 orders all persons living within the County, to include the City of El Paso, to temporarily stay at home unless traveling for essential/emergency activities.
Additionally, all persons shall stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless traveling for essential/emergency activities.
The Order requires all non-essential businesses to close immediately; to include, but not limited to, tattoo parlors, hair salons, nail salons, gyms and massage businesses.
Additionally, restaurants are able to continue providing to-go and curbside services; however, restaurants cannot conduct in-person dining per County Order No. 13.
Essential businesses that may remain open include but are not limited to polling sites, schools that provide meal services, childcare facilities, grocery stores, funeral services, all healthcare offices and facilities, pharmacies, government operations, post offices, and retail-to-go services.
The public is reminded that the City continues to enforce the countywide curfew between the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. unless performing or obtaining essential or emergency services. Violations of the curfew are enforceable with fines of up to $500.
The news release from the city also included the following passage, explaining why the city was unable to enforce the County Judge’s order prior to Friday’s ruling.
That portion of the release is included below, as received.
On Oct. 26, 2020, the City Council discussed several items including: calling for the closure of all non-essential indoor businesses; additional masks mandates while indoors; and face-to-face instruction for secondary and post-secondary educational institutions. No action was taken on these agenda items, as the Council did not reach a majority consensus. Therefore, City staff were governed by the existing City and County Orders in effect.
On Oct. 29, 2020, the County of El Paso issued Order No. 13 without Governor Greg Abbott’s approval. On the same day, the Texas Attorney General issued written guidance to Mayor Dee Margo stating that the County Judge’s Order goes beyond what is allowed by the Governor’s Executive Order, and was “unlawful and unenforceable.”
On Oct. 30, 2020, a lawsuit was filed by several business owners and the State of Texas also joined the lawsuit. On the same day, the County Attorney issued an opinion stating that the Texas Disaster Act authorizes the County Judge to issue emergency orders during a declaration of disaster.
All City employees are government officials who have a duty to comply with the laws of the State and local laws. That means they are required to enforce both State and local laws. With the issuance of County Order No. 13, the City faced two conflicting orders and two opposing attorney opinions.
Today’s Court ruling clarifies the conflicting orders and allows the City to enforce County Order No. 13.
In a second news release Friday afternoon, city officials outlined the measures previously taken, as well as plans for immediate enforcement.
The City of El Paso Police Department, Fire Marshall’s Office, Code Enforcement and the Department of Public Health continue to enforce the Emergency Orders and Directives. The City has also increased staffing for COVID-19 enforcement.
All law and code enforcement staff have begun immediate enforcement of County Order No. 13.
The El Paso Police Department Mitigation Response Team is working with the Department of Public Health (DPH). The two teams, which have been on-boarding and training additional staff, will double active staffing beginning this weekend.
The El Paso Fire Department Mitigation Response Team have recently added three additional peace officers, increasing the overall number of officers assigned to COVID-19 enforcement.
FOCUSING ON HOT SPOTS
The Police mitigation teams conduct enforcement in areas identified as hot spots, and in areas where the City receives COVID-19 enforcement calls, as shown by a recent analysis of the data by staff. The analysis was conducted at the zip code level using data from October 1 through November 2.
“Analysis of the data suggests that the Mitigation Response Teams are working where there are the most complaints about COVID-19 non-compliance,” said Deputy City Manager Dionne Mack. “About 97 percent of the Mitigation Response Team’s activities are self-initiated.”
ENFORCING THE ORDERS
The City of El Paso mitigation response teams also have routinely reported that the majority of businesses are following the City’s ordinance to stop dine-in services at 9 p.m. Investigators advised that when staff make contact with a citizen not wearing a mask, the citizen is commenting that they have medical condition that do not allow them to wear the mask. As of November 4 there have been 20,462 inspections, 1,862 warnings, and 184 citations have been issued.