EL PASO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A Texas district judge on Friday upheld an order from El Paso County’s top elected official shutting down businesses while the region fights an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.
The decision from Judge Bill Moody of El Paso’s 34th District Court came as federal military medical teams deployed to the border region at the request of the state.
The county’s top elected official, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, ordered a two-week shutdown of nonessential activities late last week.
In making his decision, Moody pointed out that during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early part of the 20th century, city and county elected officials had authority to respond as they “thought was necessary to protect the health and financial interests of their individual communities.”
Chris Hilton, an attorney with the Texas attorney general’s office, said the state would appeal. Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that Samaniego’s order is illegal because it goes against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order to reopen businesses.
Meanwhile, three Air Force medical teams were expected to arrive in El Paso by the weekend, according to Seth Christensen, chief of media and communications for the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
El Paso recorded 1,300 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total active cases to 23,702.
Eighteen new coronavirus deaths were also reported.
The El Paso-area’s spike in coronavirus infections has formed a significant part of the upward trend in COVID-19 cases statewide, even though the metro area of more than 800,000 is a fraction of the state’s population of nearly 30 million.
Statewide, health officials reported 7,221 new coronavirus cases and 136 new COVID-19 deaths Friday, bringing the number of Texas cases for the pandemic to 942,539 and its death toll to 18,589.
An estimated 119,238 cases are active, with 6,070 cases requiring hospitalization, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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