A judge in Texas, ordered all non-essential services shut down in El Paso County this week in an effort to contain the coronavirus, but the police department said it won't enforce the order.
"Based upon the advice and recommendations of medical professionals and hospital administrators, effective at midnight tonight, I am ordering a shutdown of all non-essential services for a two-week period," El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said in a virtual news conference Thursday.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to El Paso Mayor Dee Margo on Thursday night, explaining that Samaniego does not have the authority to order a shutdown. Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order on reopening the economy, GA-32, “explicitly preempts all contradictory local orders,” he explained.
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The El Paso Police Department quoted the attorney general's letter, which stated that the shutdown order "is unlawful and unenforceable because it conflicts with Executive Order GA-32. For these reasons, we have advised El Paso County Judge Samaniego to immediately rescind or revise his order to make it consistent with GA-32 or face likely further legal action."
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El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said in a statement that he hasn't talked to Samaniego about his order.
"The Judge did not consult me and refuses to return my call, so I am seeking clarification from the Attorney General on the new County order, which does not supersede the Governor’s orders," Margo said in a statement. "We must strike a balance of keeping our neighbors safe while not destroying people’s abilities to feed their families."
Samaniego said his order is necessary because of surging coronavirus cases in El Paso County.
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"Since the inception of this pandemic, El Paso County has never seen this level of infections through our community," he said at Thursday's news conference. "Our hospitals are at capacity, our medical professionals are overwhelmed, and if we don't respond we will see unprecedented levels of deaths."
There are currently 14,359 active coronavirus cases in the County. The coronavirus hospitality rate is at 44%, a 365.2% increase from the beginning of the month.