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Texas border county enters new COVID-19 lockdown as it sees disproportionate spike in cases

Not enforceable, however

US Border Patrol vehicles are seen next to a section of border fence near the US-Mexico border on June 12, 2019, in Hidalgo, Texas. (Photo by LOREN ELLIOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

Hidalgo County, a border county in Texas, will enter into a new COVID-19 lockdown Wednesday as it is seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, The Hill reported.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez issued an order stating "all individuals currently living within Hidalgo County, Texas are ORDERED to SHELTER-AT-HOME in their residence."

The order requires people 17-years-old and younger to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when participating in an "essential activity," and people 18 or older are subject to a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Essential activities include those related to the health and safety of household members or family members, to obtain necessary supplies, or to perform work to provide essential services or supplies.

"It is highly encouraged and recommended that all commercial businesses operating within Hidalgo County, except essential covered businesses should cease all activities at facilities that may not be provided by curbside, drive-through, or take-out services," the order states.

The order does state, notably, that "no law enforcement or other official may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this Order, provided however that law enforcement may enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner."

The governor's office told the Texas Tribune that the shelter-in-place order is not enforceable.

"This order has no enforcement mechanism, which makes it simply a recommendation for those to stay home if they can, which Gov. [Greg] Abbott supports," spokesman John Wittman said. "However, this order does not force businesses to shut down in the Rio Grande Valley."

Counties on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas have accounted for a significant portion of the recent increase in cases and hospitalizations.

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows that border counties (including Hidalgo, Brewster, Cameron, El Paso, Hudspeth, Kinney, Maverick, Presidio, Starr, Terrell, Val Verde, Webb, and Zapata) have seen a sharper increase in cases and deaths per capita dating back to mid-June.

Some of these cases are reportedly coming from Mexico, where the health care system is not well equipped to handle the COVID-19 outbreak. From KVEO-TV:

"One of the factors is the border, we in McAllen Medical are receiving many patients from Mexico, they are coming in because their resources over there are also limited so they are coming in to our area seeking medical attention and by law we have to provide it," said Dr. Lopez, "The patients that cross the border say 'we don't have hospital space over there, the oxygen is gone, we don't have medications so we cross the border', that's the situation in the border."

Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Health Authority of Hidalgo County says Mexican nationals are coming due to the lack of medical resources in Mexico.

"Contacts I have from my friends that are in Matamoros and Reynosa paint quite a grim story- that story shows hospitals packaged to the gills, there aren't any beds, people can't come in, I had one day someone send me a list of 45 people in a particular hospital in Reynosa and 45 people out of 45 beds diagnosed with a typical pneumonia, and I called him and he said we don't have tests so we're assuming they're COVID," said Dr. Ivan Melendez, M.D., Hidalgo County Health Authority.

The state of Texas is already under a mask mandate issued by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, but Abbott is on the record saying there won't be a need for the statewide lockdowns that were implemented in the spring as long as people wear masks and comply with social distancing policies.

"People are panicking, thinking I'm about to shut down Texas again," Abbott said last week. "The answer is no. That is not the goal. I've been abundantly clear."

Abbott had warned of a potential lockdown the previous week, if cases and hospitalizations continued to increase.

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