Bars, restaurants closed in Hidalgo County; gatherings limited to 10

Eddie Olivarez the Health and Human Services director, and Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez address the media Monday, March 16, 2020, during a news conference where they issued a seven-day disaster declaration beginning Tuesday morning as the county braces for the "inevitable" positive COVID-19 case. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com )

EDINBURG- Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez ordered the closing of bars and restaurants, and prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people Thursday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order went into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday and is similar to action taken by the state and the city of McAllen.

According to a release from the county, the order applies to bars, lounges, clubs and restaurants, although restaurants can continue operating for delivery, drive-thru and take-out meals. It does not mandate shelter in place.

“I realize these are extraordinary measures, but I continue to rely on the expertise of the Center for Disease Control, so these measures are a reflection of their evolving advisories,” Cortez wrote in the release.

So far the order is set to stay in effect until March 24, but the release says Cortez has already indicated that he intends to ask the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to extend the order at least another seven days when it expires.

“This is a critical two-week period in which all empirical evidence suggests we can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding unnecessary contact,” Cortez said.

There are still no confirmed positive COVID-19 tests for anyone in Hidalgo County, according to the  statement.