El Paso City council votes on ordinances to combat coronavirus; includes shut down of bars

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso City Council took a major step to help the community prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A city ordinance passed unanimously on Tuesday calls for the following for 30 days, unless another council action:

  • Closure of bars, lounges, taverns and private clubs.
  • All City boards and commission meetings are suspended unless required by state law.
  • Stores are banned from price gouging.
  • No utility disconnections during the time period.
  • No evictions during the time period.
  • No more than 50 people at public or private gatherings, with exceptions for offices, stores, hospitals and places of transit.
  • Restrictions on restaurants including the number of people at a time and space between tables, disinfecting every hour, no more than parties of 6 at a table and screening of employees and food-handlers.
  • Urging businesses of giving two weeks of paid sick leave.

The emergency ordinance was passed after council voted unanimously to extend the emergency declaration to 30 days beginning March 17, 2020.

“These orders have been thought, put everything into perspective, but the most important thing is to put the public health and well being in our community first,” Dr. Hector Ocaranza, the El Paso City/County Health Authority said.

City staff said if businesses don’t comply with the emergency ordinance, they could be charged with a misdemeanor and a fine up to $500.

Health officials with the City said taking these actions are drastic, but necessary to keep the community safe.

“The most important thing is to put a space in between us,” Ocaranza said, “Social distancing has been proven to be effective in stopping the spread of the viruses and alleviate the sharp curve that we can see if we don’t do that.”

“We see that those who isolate have more success in limiting the number of cases. That is the goal. Public safety and keeping the cases limited for our community,” D’Agostino added.

Although the emergency ordinance will be implemented for the next 30 days, city officials said that could change.

“It’s constantly evolving. If it gets better, if it becomes under control, it might last the full 30 days. It could be extended even longer,” D’Agostino said.

City staff will also be looking into a “stabilization plan” which aims to find funding that would help relieve businesses who may struggle during the course of the emergency ordinance.

“It will get worse before it gets better, and hopefully it doesn’t take that long to start seeing that we’re getting better. The actions that we take now will help us in the long run,” Ocaranza shared.

Council is expected to get an update on the stabilization plan in two weeks.

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