Willacy County loosens some COVID-19 restrictions

RAYMONDVILLE — Like many counties across the country, Willacy County is loosening its restrictions on orders aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

County Judge Aurelio Guerra has issued an order allowing residents to shop at reopened retail businesses while lifting the ban on elective surgeries.

The order also reopens the Raymondville Municipal Golf Course, mandating it operate under restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the order signed Friday afternoon also requires residents to “isolate” if any household members have contracted the COVID-19 virus.

“ If someone in a household has tested positive for coronavirus, the household is ordered to isolate at home,” the order based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines states. “Members of the household cannot go to work or attend any other outside function.”

Shelter-in-place extended

Last week, Guerra issued an order extending the shelter-in-place mandate from April 30 to May 4, requiring residents without justifiable excuses to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.

On Monday, Raymondville Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said officials extended the order to match Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 4 extension.

“ The governor’s orders are going to supersede everybody’s so we’re just going along with them,” Gonzales said.

Violators face fines of as much as $1,000 per incident and up to 180 days in jail.

Travel restrictions loosened

Meanwhile, county leaders “have been tasked with framing specific plans to determine the safest course of action to reopen businesses in Willacy County,” Guerra’s order states.

The new order allows residents to travel to retail businesses reopened Friday under Abbott’s “retail-to-go” plan aimed at beginning to lift the economic shutdown stemming from orders restricting group gatherings.

Under the order, motorists are restricted to one adult passenger.

The order also lifts the ban on elective surgeries, while also allowing travel to medical offices for medical and dental services.

“ Medical and dental practices in Willacy County may begin to perform elective procedures,” the order states.

Dr. Mario Sanchez, the county’s medical director, said he’s confident medical protective personal equipment will protect patients and staff from the virus.

“ There are some elective surgeries that need to be done — some people are sick,” Sanchez said. “The doctors and nurses will be well-protected, and they’ll protect the patient.”

Golf course reopens

The new order also allows Raymondville’s golf course to reopen after about a month-long shutdown.

“ It feels good. It feels good to be out and about for a change,” owner Lupe Serna said. “Everybody’s just excited — grateful they opened it up so they can get a little exercise.”

Under the order, the golf course is required to assure golfers remain six feet apart to comply with social distancing guidelines.

“ It’s uncharted territory,” Serna said of the restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. “We’re just trying to do the right thing. We’re trying to keep it as safe as possible. Right now, everybody’s cooperating. We’ll do what we’ve got to do to get through this pandemic.”

The order requires the golf course to limit each one of its 24 golf carts to one player while restricting teams to four players.

To comply with the order, players are banned from touching the flag to avoid contacting the virus, Serna said.

“ They can’t touch the flag because everybody can come in contact with it,” he said.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com