By Diana Eva Maldonado and ALANA HERNANDEZ, Staff Writers
Cameron County officials say a couple who vacationed on South Padre Island for the winter have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
According to a news release from Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr., during their Island stay the couple traveled to Idaho for a wedding in late February and early March. It was then they were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
The couple came back to the Island for several days before returning home to Michigan around March 11 where they live and were recently diagnosed.
“We are in the process of gathering information to include contacts that may have possibly been exposed to ensure that we contain it,” said Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo. “Fortunately, based on the information we have received thus far, the two individuals took proactive measures and home-isolated themselves after their return trip from Idaho until they left South Padre Island.”
The county public health department says it is working with Island officials, property managers and management to make sure the property where the couple stayed is adequately disinfected.
During their vacation they lived in a building without an elevator, which health officials say decreased the risk of infecting others.
“This is why I have consistently been telling the public, school administrators, the medical community and the political leadership for the last two weeks, that we need to all unite and be proactive to undertake any and all necessary drastic measures and make the decisions that will help address the very serious situation,” Trevino said. “I understand that these decisions are potentially devastating to trade and commerce, but unless they are made we won’t be able to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.”
Trevino said the county has set up a COVID-19 hotline for residents to call should they have any questions about the virus. The number is (956) 247-3650.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day Wednesday, South Padre Island officials announced they are further enforcing precautionary measures.
Island city officials are enforcing mandatory restrictions and recommendations as a result of an emergency management order that was approved during a special emergency city council meeting held Wednesday morning.
The list of mandated rules went into effect Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Some of the rules include indefinitely suspending all food truck permits, limiting gatherings on the beach to 10 people or less, closing self-service drink dispensers in all businesses and closing all dance floors in bars and restaurants.
To view the entire list of mandatory restrictions, visit https://tinyurl.com/sv8wndn.
City officials said they hope these measures will be the difference between a two to four week emergency situation and a 12 to 16 week emergency situation.
“To our citizens, business owners and visitors, the COVID-19 global pandemic is real and we as a city must take all appropriate actions to prevent the spread of this virus,” Mayor Patrick McNulty said during the meeting. “It is the responsibility of every American to aid in the prevention and the spread of this virus.”
In accordance with the City of SPI’s Code of Ordinances, violations of this order is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of $500 or less.
During the meeting, McNulty also said in the end it will be impossible to know if city officials over-reacted or did too much, but it would be quite apparent if they under-reacted or did too little.
“These times are tough on our community,” he said. “It’s important to stick together and take care of our neighbors. We will be stronger in the end together.”
• Gatherings on the beach will be limited to 10 persons or less.
• Restaurants and bars will limit their seating by 50 percent of their current configuration, with a maximum of 50 patrons per dining room.
• Restaurants and bars will have a minimum distance of 8-feet between tables.
• Restaurants and bars must close by 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Last call is 9:45 p.m.
• Restaurants will be allowed to designate a parking space for curbside delivery. Curbside, to go and drive thru food service is strongly encouraged and recommended.
• All dance floors, in bars and restaurants are closed. Live music of more than two persons and all DJ entertainment are not allowed.
• All food truck permits will be suspended indefinitely.
• Any restaurants that have buffet style service, must have a server at each station, there will be no self-service buffets.
• Hotels are required to completely sanitize all touch surfaces before check in for each individual rooms.
• All VRM are required to completely sanitize all touch areas within the unit and sanitize all glassware, plates, serving ware, silverware and cooking utensils.
• Disposable glassware must be used in place of reusable glassware at 5 p.m. on March 19, 2020.
• Self service drink dispensers are closed in all businesses.
• Straws of any type are not allowed.
• Condiments for beverages are not allowed.
• Table/top/self -service condiment stations are not allowed.
• Movie theaters and churches will limit audiences to less than 50 people and will institute social distancing of a minimum space of six feet apart.
• Gas stations must sanitize the self-service portions of the equipment at a minimum every hour, preferably after each service. Sanitizer must be available at the pumps.
• The Island Metro must restrict the available ridership by 50 percent of the available seats and will institute social distancing between riders. The Island Metro will sanitize the bus before the start of any route.
• All beach/community port-a-potties will be closed until two times a day cleaning and hand sanitizers are available.
• There will be no congregation or gatherings of more than 50 persons public or private.