During a Thursday afternoon news conference, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced a two-week shutdown of non-essential services for two weeks, starting at midnight Thursday.
Judge Samaniego said the decision was made after talking to medical professionals and local hospital officials. He stressed that all election activities will continue throughout this new shutdown period.
A little over an hour after the County Judge made the announcement, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo questioned the judge’s orders.
Via a news release, Mayor Margo stated, ““The Judge did not consult me and refuses to return my call, so I am seeking clarification from the Attorney General on the new County order, which does not supersede the Governor’s orders.”
The Judge’s new order defines some non-essential business as follows:
Essential businesses are partially defined as:
Judge Samaniego started the news conference by letting viewers and county residents know that his decision to shut down non-essential services was ‘highly vetted,’ and that he spoke with a large number of experts in the medical field as well as the business community and other elected officials around the state.
“Once I moved toward the idea of a curfew, and thinking that it was a necessary step…before that I looked at other counties…where they had their curfew…and when I spoke with other county judges and the challenges they had, they were supportive of something they would like to entertain as well,” Samaniego shared.
“I asked them, if their numbers were at the levels that they are here in El Paso, would they take similar steps and I think every one of them…were very supportive.”
As for the legality, the Judge said that as part of his preparation for the new order, the county legal team agreed that they were on “strong legal grounds for doing what we have to do…”
Samaniego was joined by the region’s elected officials Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, State Senator Jose Rodriguez, State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, State Rep. Cesar Blanco among other.
This new order comes on the heels of the Sunday, October 25th evening virtual news conference, where Samaniego announced several new, comprehensive steps to battle the on-going Covid-19 surge – including a county-wide curfew for two weeks.
At that time, Samaniego said, “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.”
At the outset of Thursday’s news conference, Samaniego acknowledged those that would disagree with his order.
“I know I have tremendous support from the community, but I know there are those who may not agree with the handling of the situation,” Samaniego stated. “I’m hoping we can all come together – as that’s the only possible way [to beat Covid-19]”
Texas State Sen. José Rodríguez issued the following statement regarding El Paso County’s Order No. 13, requiring all residents to stay at home unless they work in an essential business or are accessing essential services as defined in the order:
I applaud Judge Samaniego’s courageous action today. COVID-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate, our hospitals are full, and the terrible reality of a wave of COVID-related deaths looms in the near future. This mandatory stay at home order is necessary to slow the spread of the virus, stabilize our health care system, and save the lives of our fellow Paseños. Our government has a duty to protect its citizens, and in this case, stricter orders limiting residents’ activity are deemed most effective by medical experts. I understand this creates economic hardship for many people, but I firmly believe that left unchecked, the surge of COVID-19 would ultimately have a greater negative economic impact.
There’s no doubt El Paso is facing an unprecedented challenge. Since Oct. 1, our positivity rate has jumped from nine percent to more than 17 percent. Our COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 44 percent – almost three times as much as the 15 percent threshold used by the state to determine additional closures and emergency actions. We are the number one hotspot in the country.
I cannot stress enough how critical the next few weeks will be for our community. The lives we have lost, and will continue to lose, are more than mere dots on a graph – each is a person, a family member, a friend. We can all do our part by staying home and limiting ourselves to essential activities, wearing face coverings when out, and isolating if you test positive. By following these measures, we can overcome this challenge and secure a better future for our Borderland.
***FULL RELEASE BELOW
|Judge Samaniego Issues Two-Week Countywide Shelter In Place Order Due to COVID-19 Healthcare Crisis
El Paso, Texas– Today, El Paso County Judge Samaniego made the decision to issue a Shelter in Place Order due the surge in hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 cases in El Paso County. The County Judge’s order encompasses the County of El Paso which includes the the City of El Paso, the Town of Anthony, Town of Clint, Town of Horizon, City of San Elizario, City of Socorro, the Village of Vinton, as well as all unincorporated areas of the County.
“Based upon the advice and recommendation of medical professionals, as well as hospital CEO’s, effective at midnight tonight, I am ordering a shutdown of all non-essential services for a 2 week period,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, El Paso County has never seen this level of high infection rates of COVID-19 cases throughout our community. Our hospitals are at capacity, our medical professionals are overwhelmed and if we don’t respond we will see unprecedented levels of death. I am hopeful that the Governor will work with us and recognize that this is a short-term remedy that is needed to contain the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
For context, El Paso County is currently at STAGE 1 of the COVID-19 Community Scorecard (source: http://www.epstrong.
“I’d like to thank the County Commissioners Court, Congresswoman Escobar, our State Delegation, and the County Judges from the five largest counties in Texas for their support as we stand united to address this public health emergency,” said County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego.
To view the letter of support from the largest Counties across Texas click here.
To view the County’s Stay Home, Work Safe Order (County Order No. 13) click here. The Order includes the following measures:
Please note, that election activities are essential services and not affected by this Order. Election activities shall be considered an essential function and under no circumstances does this Order affect the voting or campaigning for candidates on the November 3, 2020 ballot. Election activities shall continue to follow Public Health Authority Orders and Guidelines relating to election activities.
El Paso Community leaders call upon El Pasoans to stay home as much as possible, practice social distancing, and if you must leave your home, and please wear a mask to protect yourself and others.
The County of El Paso Community Services Department has funds available to assist County families impacted financially by COVID-19. The funds available are for rent, mortgage, purchase of groceries and medicines and other forms of cash assistance.
If you live outside the City limits of El Paso and are in need of assistance please contact our County General Assistance Office at
915-546-8150 or apply online at www.epcounty.com/famcom
For rent assistance inside the City of El Paso, you can go to www.eprenthelp.org for assistance information.