Largest South Texas county, cities issue strict rules as coronavirus fears spread

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Gatherings limited to 10 people in McAllen and Laredo

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Leaders of two of the largest cities in South Texas, McAllen and Laredo, and the largest county of Hidalgo, issued strict regulations to limit social gatherings and outings in light of fears of coronavirus spreading within the region.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling speaks with Border Report in August (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling on Thursday afternoon ordered that groups must be limited to 10 people and no dine-in restaurant customers are permitted. Gas stations must sanitize all pumps and equipment after each person’s use. In addition, plastic ware must be used in food preparation and no straws. Movie theaters and churches must practice social distancing and have people stay at least 6 feet apart.

No cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in McAllen, although city officials on Thursday said that a person from Mexico who has tested positive for coronavirus traveled through the McAllen International Airport on Saturday.

“It is necessary to take additional steps to prepare for, respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the emergency order read. The orders take effect at 5 p.m. today.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez late Thursday issues similar orders, also, restricting dining in restaurants and groups over 10.

About 150 miles northwest of McAllen, the City of Laredo on Wednesday night unanimously approved a two-week mandatory “lockdown” ordering the community to quarantine at home. But on Thursday, Laredo officials walked back some of the restrictions, saying people can leave their homes for restaurant take-out food, to buy groceries and for health needs and doctor’s appointments, but not for social gatherings.

The Laredo rule also requires employees to remain 6 feet apart from each other at work, and offices must have no more than 10 people in a room, Laredo Fire Chief Steve Landin, who is in charge of emergency briefings, told Border Report.

Laredo has one confirmed case of COVID-19, Landin said.

“We are trying to get the community to stay home. We’re trying to get them to stay home if they don’t need to, only leave their home to get their essentials,” Landin said via phone. “The reason behind this is to keep people at home to prevent the spread of the virus. It’s important for us to get the message out to the public.”

Landin said Laredoans also are unnecessarily hoarding groceries and other essential items from store shelves. He said he hopes the restrictions will ease bulk buying and allow stores to restock.

“People are over-buying. They’re creating an issue on top of the issue. There’s no food shortage,” Landin said. “Instead of buying what they need for their home what they would normally consume, like an 18-pack of eggs, they’re buying six dozen, then all of a sudden the person behind them now has nothing.”

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