Cities throughout Hidalgo County began implementing more stringent requirements for those out in public as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to grow.
On Sunday, the cities of Mission and Elsa announced orders requiring the use of masks for people traveling outside their own dwelling.
Mission’s order was effective immediately while the order for the city of Elsa is effective 5 a.m. Monday.
The cities of Palmview and Edinburg also issued their own mask-use mandates on Friday.
Palmview’s order went into effect that day, while Edinburg’s goes into effect concurrently with Elsa’s at 5 a.m. Monday.
In issuing their order, the city of Mission cited information by the Centers for Disease Control that the virus can spread among people interacting in close proximity and even among those who lack symptoms.
“In light of this evidence, Mission Mayor Dr. Armando O’Cana has mandated that all citizens of Mission comply with the CDC recommendation and wear cloth coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain or interactions with fellow citizens is likely,” the city stated in a news release.
City officials said medical-grade masks are not required and noted the CDC recommended that people wear cloth or fabric face coverings, such as scarfs or handkerchiefs.
“The CDC recommends constructing your own cloth mask, so as to help ensure that doctors and nurses can obtain access to medical-grade surgical masks,” the city added.
The new requirements come as counties throughout the Rio Grande Valley reported more confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Sunday.
Hidalgo County reported 13 new cases, bringing their total to 99, Cameron County reported 10 more for a total of 87 and Starr County reported one more case for a total of seven cases.
Willacy County currently has five cases and, on Saturday, reported the first fatality linked to the virus.
The man, in his 60s, died Saturday in a hospital, though, Willacy County officials did not provide further details.
The total number of cases throughout the Valley stood at 198 as of Sunday night.
In Hidalgo County, the 13 individuals include two Mercedes residents, a 29-year old woman and a 69-year-old man, two Mission women, 76 and 33 years old, 19-year-old man from La Joya, a 50-year-old man from Donna, a 47-year-old man from Alamo, a 28-year-old man from San Juan, a 33-year old man from Hidalgo, and two men from McAllen, 60 and 66 years old.
The residence of a 28-year-old woman was not disclosed.
“As investigators dig deeper in all the known infections, they are beginning to discern patterns suggesting how the spread of the disease is unfolding in Hidalgo County,” Eddie Olivarez, the chief administrator of Hidalgo County’s Health and Human Services Department, stated in a news release Sunday. “Health officials now believe they are seeing 13 different clusters of infection that emanated from people who contracted the virus earlier but have since spread it to others.”
Of the 99 confirmed cases in Hidalgo County, 49 are related in some way as part of a cluster.
“This ‘community spread’ is a precursor to a quicker rate of infection in Hidalgo County,” Olivarez said.
In Cameron County, one case is of a 43-year-old man from Harlingen who traveled.
The other nine cases are Brownsville residents.
Cameron County health officials noted that of the 87 cases there, 11 have been cleared.
Meanwhile, the new case in Starr County is of a Rio Grande City resident who traveled to Louisiana for work, according to Starr County Judge Eloy Vera.
The man, 28 years-old, has been in isolation since March 31.
While their number of positive cases remain low there compared to Hidalgo and Cameron, Starr County has been quick to implement restrictions about traveling in public.
In addition to their stay-at-home order, any individual who travels to Starr County from outside the Rio Grande Valley or Zapata County is mandated to quarantine for 14 days.
On Friday, the county also issued an order requiring the use of masks when out in public which went into effect Sunday morning.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez said officials are looking into implementing a similar order countywide.