Local governmental bodies reacted to the coronavirus pandemic Friday afternoon; Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez refrained from declaring a state of emergency, in contrast to the city of Pharr, which declared a local state of disaster and public health emergency.
In a statement, Cortez said the county is remaining vigilant in regard to the pandemic.
“As it stands at this moment, I do not intend to declare any local health emergency because Hidalgo County has not seen a single case in which a person has been confirmed positive for COVID-19,” he wrote. “We have been working for months to prepare for any local outbreak, particularly now that we know the fast-moving nature of COVID-19 and the danger it can pose in particular for our elderly residents.”
Cortez wrote that he would declare an emergency if and when a case is detected in the county.
“The moment we learn of any local instance of someone with COVID-19 in Hidalgo County, I intend to immediately declare a local health emergency and will suspend any mass gatherings in the county,” the judge wrote.
Once the declaration is made, Cortez wrote, it will initiate an emergency operation center to respond to any outbreak, which will pave the way for resources to mitigate the impact of the virus.
“Until that declaration is made, I urge residents of and visitors to Hidalgo County to exercise discretion when considering whether to attend any mass gathering. I would also advise people to consider the three guidelines provided by state health experts and the governor on Thursday as a basis for deciding whether to attend any mass gathering,” he wrote. “This includes re-considering whether to attend any event in which more than 1,000 people are expected; taking into account the crowd density of any indoor or outdoor event; and deciding whether the mass gathering is essential or whether it is being held for leisure or entertainment.”
Cortez said he is confident in the county’s ability to contend with an outbreak.
Other institutions have already made declarations of disaster in response to the pandemic.
Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D, has declared a local state of disaster and public health emergency in relation to COVID-19 (coronavirus) for the city of Pharr, according to a news release on Friday.
The declaration comes after President Donald J. Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott made similar declarations earlier today.
According to the new release, the declaration was made pursuant to the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 and the Texas Government Code Section 418.108(a), which designates the mayor as Emergency Management Director for the city and allows him to authorize the use of all available resources to assist in the city’s response to the public health emergency.
“City officials have determined that extraordinary and immediate measures must be taken to respond quickly, prevent and alleviate the suffering of people exposed to and those infected with the virus, as well as those that could potentially be impacted by COVID-19,” the release reads. “City officials have been taking measures to mitigate the virus, including increasing community awareness providing information and methods for personal health and safety via social media and the City’s website. City leaders ensure the public that the City’s Continuity of Operations (COOP) and Continuity of Government (COG) plans are actively reviewed and updated to ensure that critical government services remain uninterrupted during this crisis.”
Pharr is also taking measures to assist residents by announcing it would not be shutting off water for non-payment during the duration of this crisis.
City officials are encouraging all residents to follow health and safety precautionary measures, and heed the advice of authorities to stay safe during this disaster.