County Judge orders county-wide curfew, increased law enforcement to battle Covid-19 surge

During a Sunday evening virtual news conference, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced several new, comprehensive steps to battle the on-going Covid-19 surge – including a county-wide curfew for the next two weeks.

Judge Samaniego stated that “things had moved very fast since the last briefing, and he felt that it was very necessary to have this discussion on the new provisions with the residents of the county.”

Speaking quite frankly, the Judge said the reason for the new order was the fact that “we are in a crisis stage.”

Under the new provisions of the order, all citizens are required to stay home,  unless they are accessing essential services.  For those out accessing those services, only one person per family member is allowed.

In addition, the county-wide curfew would go into effect Sunday night at 10 p.m. and stay in place up to two weeks.

According to the information provided during the news conference, the curfew works as follows:

  • Imposed for all citizens between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • Purpose of the curfew to limit mobility in the community.
  • The curfew is an option to limit the economic consequences on local businesses, by allowing the stores to stay open.
  • Curfew is not applicable for people who are traveling for work or essential services.

The two week period allows for, as the Judge stated, time for officials to evaluate the effectiveness of the order and builds in time to see if they may need to take stricter actions.

“As Thanksgiving is coming up and…Halloween coming up as well…we’ve always had peaks on the holidays, my goal is that we’re able to understand – very clearly – before Thanksgiving as to how we’re going to address and what limitation will be applied during the Thanksgiving holidays so these next two weeks are very important for our community to show that we’re able to relax on some of them – so that we can have a different situation headed into that holiday,” Samaniego added.

Samaniego also said he had discussions with Mayor Dee Margo and Governor Greg Abbott regarding the possibility of a new ‘stay at home order,’ however it was decided that a move to that type of shut down would be “harsh to the income of constituents.”

The Judge also referenced the enforcement of the new order, as it now falls to any peace officer to enforce the new guidelines.

“Enforcement is a vital component for this to work,” Judge Samaniego added. “We’ve focused on education and compliance, but that has not worked…”

Fines for violation of the order are set at $500, with a $250 fine for violation of the previous order on mask coverings.”

According to Judge Samaniego, in his conversations with Governor Abbott, his concerns were that non-compliance and enforcement of the guidelines were the key issues.

“We are not enforcing as we should be,” the Judge said. “Enforcement is always delicate, but we need to move forward on this issue.”

The Judge also stressed that the county was not alone in this battle, pointing out the regional nature of the response and stating that he would be meeting with regional leaders as soon as Monday to coordinate the response to the virus’ surge.

As to voting, the Judge had the following to say:

It is also very important to note that voting is an essential function and it is the responsibility of each registered voter to vote in this election. Our County Election’s Department has taken every step to ensure the safety and health of El Paso voters. Please continue to exercise your right to vote.

The County’s Stay Home, Work Safe Order (County Order NO. 12) includes the following measure:

Curfew:   A curfew is imposed for all citizens between the hours of 10:00p.m. and 5:00a.m. unless that person is out for an emergency.

For purposes of this Order, individuals may leave their residence, in compliance with the SHELTER-AT-HOME and CURFEW, only to obtain or provide the following essential activities shall herein be defined as (“Essential Covered Services”):
1. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (for example, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies needed to work from home).
2. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of households, or to deliver those services or supplies to others (for example, obtaining groceries and supplies needed for the home).
3. To engage in outdoor activity, such as visiting open parks, fishing, engaging in physical activity like walking, running, or bicycling, provided the individuals, follow CDC Guidance, comply with Physical Distancing including maintaining six-foot (6) physical distancing from each other; washing hands with soap and water at least twenty seconds or using hand sanitizer; covering coughs or sneezes; cleaning high-touch surfaces; not shaking hands; and covering mouth and nose when conducting activity within six feet (6) of another person.
4. To perform work providing essential products and services at an essential covered business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Order.
5. To care for a family member, a child or pet in another household.
6. Election activities as described in Section 2 of this Order.
7. Religious activities as described in Section 5.j of this Order.

To view the entire order, click here.   |  Click here to view the original order from Oct 22nd.

The County Judge’s complete news conference is below.