Monday, 26 October 2020 22:10

El Paso Officials Ask Residents to Stay Home for Two Weeks as COVID-19 Hospitalizations Surge

Written by Cassandra Pollock and Julián Aguilar, The Texas Tribune


As El Paso continues to grapple with a surge of coronavirus cases, county authorities on Oct. 25 implemented a curfew and city health officials asked residents to stay home for the next two weeks in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the area have spiked from 259 to 786 in less than three weeks---a 300% increase, according to Angela Mora, the director of the El Paso Public Health Department. And over the past 14 days, El Paso County has seen nearly 10,000 cases, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.


The stay-at-home request from city officials---and the announcement of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. county curfew---came nine days ahead of Election Day and as El Paso follows a statewide trend of record turnout during early voting. Officials, though, stressed the announcement did not mean residents should not vote if they have not already.


"It’s important for the public to understand that voting is safe and our county elective department has taken steps to ensure the safety and health of El Paso voters," El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said during an Oct. 25 virtual news conference. "Please continue to exercise your right to vote."


In addition to the presidential race, El Paso voters are deciding whether to send back to city hall Mayor Dee Margo, a former Republican state representative who, in addition to the pandemic, has overseen the city’s reaction and response to the migrant border crisis and the 2019 Walmart shooting. An alleged white supremacist has been charged in the murder of 23 people there.


Margo faces a challenge from his predecessor, Oscar Leeser, and two native El Pasoans considered representative of the more progressive faction of city politics, attorney Veronica Carbajal and former city planner Carlos Gallinar. Two other candidates are also in the race.


Samaniego said El Paso being "at a crisis stage" is what prompted the latest order. Residents are encouraged to stay home except for essential services. The curfew won't be imposed on residents traveling for work or essential business, though enforcement will be "a vital component."


Any peace officer can enforce the latest order, the county judge said; residents can be fined $250 for not wearing a face covering while in public or $500 for any other violations of the order.

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