El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego issued the curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Sunday night for the next two weeks to help curb the rising rates.
The county — which includes the city of El Paso and sits in the southwest border of Texas above Juarez, Mexico — has seen a 160% increase in positivity rate since October 1 and a 300% increase in hospitalizations, the judge said.
“We’ve had significant spikes to the point that our hospital capacity is really tapped. We’re probably at the end of our rope there,” Mayor Dee Margo told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Newsroom Sunday night. “It’s not good here at all.”
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) resources will arrive in Texas this week, including two 35-person Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and a Trauma Critical Car Team, according to a statement from Governor Greg Abbott’s office.
Curfew imposed to slow spread
“The curfew is enough to limit the economic consequences on local businesses by allowing the stores to stay open. We carefully thought about the economic impact if we were to impose a full stay at home order like we did at the beginning of this process,” Samaniego explained.
“We know the impact it would have for you not to be able to go to work. So we’re going to do everything possible to continue moving towards the balancing of the economy and making sure that we adhere to public health and everything that is required for us to continue our battle against this very insidious virus,” he added.
Those who don’t comply with orders could face a fine of $250 for not wearing a mask and $500 for not following the order, Samaniego said.
Mayor Margo said that while there hasn’t been one cause identified for the recent surge, many cases have been attributed to community spread and people letting their guard down.
“We did an analysis for two weeks on 2,404 cases from October 6 through October 20 and what we found is that 37% of our positives were from visiting large big-box stores, 22.5% were restaurants, and 19% were travel to Mexico,” Margo explained, adding that 10% were attributed to parties and reunions, 7.5% were due to gyms and only 4% were due to large gatherings.
The mayor urged people to stay at home as much as possible, only have one person go to the store to get essentials, and avoid gatherings, especially as holidays come around.
“Our message is don’t let down your guard. Wear your face coverings. Maintain your distancing. Avoid large gatherings. Avoid the family gatherings,” Margo said.
More hospital and morgue space needed
As of Saturday night, all hospitals and ICUs in the area had reached 100% capacity, Samaniego said.
On Saturday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that auxiliary medical units were deployed to the convention center to provide onsite surge capacity for local hospitals. “The alternate care site and auxiliary medical units will reduce the strain on hospitals in El Paso as we contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region,” Abbott in a statement
On Saturday, the governor said he had requested the use of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center for non-Covid patients in El Paso.
Abbott told Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, he wants to use the medical center on Fort Bliss to house non-Covid patients “to free up beds in El Paso-area hospitals for Covid patients,” the release said.
Samaniego said Sunday that a decision has not been made yet regarding the request for the use of the Army medical center.
Agreements are also being worked out for additional morgue space in the area, Samaniego said.
CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian, Melissa Alonso, Raja Razek and Brad Parks contributed to this report.