Commissioners Court addresses coronavirus concerns

The Cameron County Commissioner’s Court held a meeting on Tuesday where officials discussed potential precautionary measures the county is taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus in addition to the regular agenda.

The period of public comment just before the regular session was used to communicate public concerns and the response the county has planned. County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. began the session with a prayer before opening the floor up for comment from public officials.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Gus Ruiz made note that residents should be mindful not to hoard supplies and stock up on items that vulnerable community members may need. “Let’s take care of each other,” he said.

Ruiz explained that he’s heard stories from friends and family members having to travel as far as McAllen to buy basic supplies, such as baby wipes.

A South Padre Island city council member thanked the commission for Monday’s precautions, which included the closure of all county parks until further notice.

Treviño explained that the county also had to close boat ramps, which he said the council understood will impact fishermen. The Judge said the commission decided that the risk of large crowds of people showing up to open docks was not in the best interests of county residents.

The commission also addressed the shutdown of businesses. Treviño stated that the “last thing an elected official wants to do is shut down businesses” but explained that the commission and county officials will continue to weigh their options as the situation unfolds.

Treviño said that the county was reviewing the extent of its authority to do so if necessary, but stated that currently only the Governor has the ability to order businesses to close.

Concerns were raised regarding Cameron County’s roughly 30 percent poverty rate and whether the county can afford to shut down as was mandated on Monday in the bay area of California. The commission expressed that they were considering all concerns.

A representative of the office of the Tax Assessor Collector told the commission that the office would be advising officers not to ticket or fine those who are unable to come in to handle things like vehicle registration renewals for the next 60 days.

The office will still be operating and will notify residents regarding what services are available online and via drive-up windows, according to the official.

Judge Gloria Rincones of the 445 th state District Court reiterated an announcement made Monday by District Clerk Elvira S. Ortiz that all juries had been cancelled for the next two weeks. Additionally, the judge stated that courts were taking precautionary measures to limit exposure to the virus.

Rincones said of her court that only emergency hearings would be held via video. These hearings will include proceedings involving children or the loss of property, for example. No attorneys will appear in person, according to the representative, who said that staff were using the time to sanitize the inside of offices and courtrooms.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com