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Texas County Goes Back Into 'Shutdown' Due To Coronavirus Case Surge

EL PASO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - El Paso County officials have ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential activities after the Texas area's medical resources were overwhelmed by the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced the measure during a virtual news conference Thursday, Oct. 29.

Among the non-essential services ordered to be closed, effective at midnight Thursday, are tattoo, hair and nail salons, as well as gyms and in-person dining.

He also appealed to residents to avoid all non-essential activities.

Grocery and drug stores, funeral homes, health care services and government activities were among the activities deemed essential.

Samaniego said all election-related activities, including campaigns and voting, also were deemed essential activities.

"Our hospitals are at capacity, our medical professionals are overwhelmed, and if we don't respond we will see unprecedented levels of death," said Samaniego, the county's top elected official.

Samaniego assured that county officials "have done everything possible" to avoid shutting down the county's economy.

"We need to build capacity for hospitals, build capacity, to shore up contact tracing and identify hot spots," he said.

Samaniego said conversations with Gov. Greg Abbott for support "were not fruitful." Had that support been forthcoming several weeks ago, this shutdown might not have been needed, Samaniego said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted that Samaniego "has no authority to shut down businesses in El Paso County."

The tweet also asserted that the order "is a direct violation" of Abbott's executive order opening businesses. "My office is quickly exploring all legal actions," Paxton concluded.

El Paso officials reported two new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total deaths to 585, and 1,128 new positive tests on Thursday, bringing the total active cases there to more than 14,000.

El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, with a combined metropolitan population of 3 million people, represent a hotspot in the deadly comeback of the virus across the entire U.S. Health officials blaming the spike on family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household and younger people going out to shop or conduct business.

Statewide, the active cases of coronavirus and the hospitalizations with the COVID-19 it causes continue to mount.

On Thursday, 6,430 new coronavirus cases were reported statewide. Those and the addition of 396 previously unreported cases raised the number of confirmed cases for the pandemic to 886,820. Of those, an estimated 98,775 cases were active Thursday, the most since Aug. 28.

The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher though because many people haven't been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

COVID-19 hospitalizations numbered 5,587 Thursday, 63 fewer than Wednesday when the most hospitalizations since Aug. 20 were reported. The 119 newly reported COVID-19 fatalities raised the Texas death toll to 17,819 since the pandemic first struck at the start of March.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)



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