EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said El Paso will be going into a curfew in the days before and after Christmas and New Year’s Day to stem a new COVID-19 spike.
The curfew on non-essential activities will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26 and again from Dec. 30 to Jan 4.
“I have the authority to do that from start to finish but want to give our community a sense of confidence in doing it only around the holidays,” Samaniego said on Wednesday.
He said enforcement would be targeted at “bad actors” who’ve been circumventing past curfews.
“We’ve learned very clearly from opening the economy that we didn’t do it properly. Some of the restaurants that went from bar to restaurant didn’t adhere to the protocols. The bad actors […] community members and some of the businesses have created an issue for all of us. We cannot afford that anymore. It puts us in a difficult dilemma,” Samaniego said. “We’re not out of the woods and that’s the strongest message that we can give people here. We really have to focus on what we have done before… wearing masks and all.”
COVID-19 cases in El Paso have gone down significantly in the past few weeks, but the county judge said they’re still too many. The county reported 380 new cases on Wednesday, compared to more than 1,000 back in early November. However, Samaniego said in the initial weeks of the pandemic the county was only reporting 15 to 20 cases a day.
El Paso has recorded 1,248 coronavirus-related fatalities since the pandemic began and health officials are investigating another 564 suspicious deaths. A total of 295 bodies are still in storage, not including those at mortuaries.
Samaniego said county officials would focus on enforcing business occupancy compliance and employees of establishments wearing masks, social distancing and doing frequent handwashing.
“We’re not going to close them down, they’re going to be closing themselves down by not following protocols,” he said.
People who fail to wear masks in public face fines of $250. Businesses that don’t observe protocols can be fined $500.
He added that the entire health care community is experiencing a sense of joy after the arrival of the first Pfizer made vaccines. But he said it will take time for the community at large to get vaccinated and that inoculations are only part of the solution to the pandemic.
“We’ve gone through an extremely difficult time. They have been some dark times for all of us and we’re beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “What I saw was a sense of relief, of being protected, of the idea of not going home not knowing if they’ll pass the virus to one of their loved ones.”