EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego intends to impose further restrictions if the alarming rate of coronavirus spread continues in the community, he said at a news conference Thursday evening.
His warning came as El Paso County shattered a pandemic record earlier Thursday with 1,161 new Covid-19 cases reported, as well as reaching an all-time high 9,406 active infections.
El Paso Sheriff's Commander Ryan Urrutia said deputies were being called upon and would step up enforcement of existing health orders. He said citations issued for face mask violations carry fines of up to $250 and as much as $500 for house gatherings.
Urrutia and Samaniego also emphasized that law enforcement would be ensuring that restaurants and bars are closed by 9 p.m. as was ordered last week.
Samaniego said he was also immediately ordering the temporary two-week shutdown of all county facilities, including parks and the Ascarate golf course. He also called on all residents to limit travel.
At a separate briefing earlier in the day, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo also urged residents to "stay home" over the next two weeks except for essential activities. Margo warned that local hospitals had hit their capacity.
Health officials appearing alongside the judge indicated new beds were being added at hospitals across the Borderland: 60 at Las Palmas Del Sol, 80 at Hospitals of Providence and 160 at University Medical Center.
The judge said he had sent a formal request to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott seeking additional help, most notably utilizing the old William Beaumont Army hospital to provide additional space to treat Covid-19 patients. Already, the governor has said 460 medical personnel and equipment are being sent to El Paso hospitals to help in treating patients.
Health experts have warned that the current surge in infections and hospitalizations will likely lead to more deaths over the next few weeks. Officials noted county morgue capacity is currently around 30%.