The shelter-in-place recommendation announced by Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. last week is now mandatory, lasting for 14 days beginning Wednesday.

Treviño said at a Monday press conference that the more stringent step is important to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the county, which as of press time had six confirmed cases of the potentially deadly virus. The county continues to identify other people the infected individuals had contact with, determine signs of COVID-19 symptoms, and secure testing when warranted, he said.

Treviño called for an end to social media attacks on county residents who have presented themselves for testing.

“One of the benefits of social media is to get the information out,” he said. “Unfortunately one of the detriments of social media is oftentimes that information can either be misinformation.”

The mandatory shelter-in-place carries penalties for violators (up to $1,000 in fines or up to 180 days in jail) but also contains a number of exemptions under the headings “essential personal activities,” which include grocery shopping, doctor visits, picking up carry-out food from restaurants and caring for family members in other households. Other exemptions are listed under essential business, travel, infrastructure and health care operations.

Treviño said he knows some people will find fault with the order, but that he feels it’s vital to doing everything possible to blunt the impact of COVID-19 on the county and safeguard the health and safety of residents. He noted that on March 16 there were 4,300 confirmed cases in the United States and Monday there were more than 41,000 — a nearly tenfold increase. Everyone needs to do their part to stop the virus, which means sheltering at home, social distancing, staying at home or working from home and frequent hand-washing, among other precautions contained in the provisions of the county’s recent orders, Treviño said.

“I would rather be criticized for getting ahead of this too early than for getting behind this,” he said.

Read the order: