EDINBURG — Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez signed an order Thursday limiting mass gatherings in the county to 10 people or less and implementing a curfew in response to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases.

The order goes into effect immediately and will remain effective until modified, a news release from the county said.

The new curfew is set from 10 p.m.  to  6 a.m. for minors and from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for residents who are 18 and older.

“Our rise in numbers have been concerning, and action has to be taken to do our best in slowing this virus,” Cortez wrote in the release. “It appears that despite the rise in infections, that residents have not taken proper precautions in protecting their friends and family from this disease.”

The order also includes the directive that county businesses mandate the use of facial coverings by all employees and customers, and highly recommends that any person over the age of 3 in Hidalgo County wear a facial covering. 

The recommendation does not apply to several categories of people including those engaging in outside physical activity, people their own residence or vehicle, and people who are eating or drinking.

The order states: “No civil or criminal penalty may be imposed against a person for failure to wear a face covering.”

The order also does not require residents to shelter-at-home, but it does strongly encourage them to.

“I am asking that you all stand united in safeguarding each other and think of the domino effect of this virus,” Cortez wrote. “You are all part of the solution.”