EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and Dr. Hector Ocaranza of the Health Authority announced a stay-at-home order for El Pasoans in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
That order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and directs everyone in El Paso City and County to stay at their homes except for essential activities or to go to work for essential businesses and government agencies. All non-essential businesses must close.
"It is a necessary step we need to take to protect the community," Ocaranza explained at a news conference. "We cannot afford to overwhelm our health services." El Paso had 12 confirmed cases as of Tuesday night, not including four additional cases reported at Fort Bliss.
Violators of the stay-at-home order may face misdemeanor charges with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to a 180-day jail sentence. Non-compliance with the order can be reported by calling 3-1-1, officials said.
However, "this is not martial law, this is not checkpoint charlie," Margo noted. Exceptions to the order include traveling to grocery stores, restaurants for take-out, pharmacies and banks and financial institutions.
Ocaranza added that hiking and outdoor activities with correct social distancing would still be permitted.
Margo said he hoped the unprecedented order, which is in effect until further notice, would only be needed for up to a month. He added that he and the other leaders didn't "take this decision lightly."
You can read the entire order below...
Margo also indicated that the mayor of Ciudad Juarez had implemented similar restrictions as El Paso in the Chihuahuan border city.
Meantime, the El Paso Department of Public Health announced a new hotline to field virus questions: (915) 212-6843 or (915) 21-COVID.
The hotline will take calls from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
The city said the new system would allow the 2-1-1 call center to now focus on referrals to services for those impacted by business closures and unemployment.
“This new hotline will be focused on answering questions about the disease itself and critical information regarding the COVID-19 impact to the members of our community,” said Ruth Castillo, the health department preparedness manager.
The hotline is being staffed locally and call takers will have up-to-date information for El Paso, Castillo explained, adding that callers will be able to speak with someone in either English or Spanish.