Nonessential business forced to close in El Paso amid coronavirus surge
A 'store closed' sign at the California Surplus Mart, a store selling camping equipment and survival gear on July 16, 2020 in Los Angeles, California, USA. © Frederic J Brown, AFP

EL PASO — El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Thursday ordered a two-week shutdown of nonessential businesses in this border area to help curb the record-breaking rise of COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed hospitals.

The move comes after Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide executive order allowing some nonessential businesses to reopen to 75% capacity.

For several days, El Paso has seen daily case counts that exceed 1,000 new infections, forcing the judge to install a curfew for residents from 10 pm to 5 am. Local hospitals announced earlier this week they were asking some patients with illnesses other than COVID-19 to be airlifted to other medical centers to free up bed space.

Thursday’s move however is more aggressive and necessary to save lives, the judge said during a virtual press conference.

“The hard truth is that the people that are dying are in El Paso. They are not in Austin, and I have the responsibility to do everything I can,” he said.

The order does not effect poll workers or voters who have not yet cast ballots during early voting in Texas.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state.

Explore the next 10 years with us.