Judge clarifies restrictions; Trevino expresses concern over graduation ceremonies

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevi–o Jr., second from left, holds a press conference Wednesday, May 6, 2020, with updates on all the precaustions being taken on COVID-19 in Cameron County. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said at a May 6 press conference that he’s received many calls and messages from county residents concerned about beaches and parks being reopened even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.

They’re open again nonetheless, at least for now. The prohibition on county beach access had already been lifted, with restrictions, before Gov. Greg Abbott last week ordered that all state beaches be reopened. Trevino provided clarification on the state’s orders regarding reopened beaches and parks — and weddings, funerals and memorials, and what to expect when barbershops and beauty salons are allowed to reopen starting Friday.

The current rule for parks, beaches and rivers is the same as that governing state parks since Abbott ordered most of those to start reopening on April 20, except that masks or facial coverings are now optional rather than mandatory, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that say everyone should be covering their faces when they leave their residences.

Otherwise, groups should be limited to five people and a distance of at least six feet should be maintained between separate parties at rivers, beaches and parks, according to the governor’s order.

Weddings, funerals and memorial services are being treated like in-person church services in that occupancy is limited to 25 percent of total listed occupancy indoors, though the restriction does not apply to outdoor venues. In all cases, however, tables must be spaced at least six feet apart, with no more than six individuals per table, Trevino said.

Barbershops, hair salons, cosmetology studios, nail salons and tanning businesses that choose to reopen Friday must maintain work stations at least six feet apart. Trevino said clients are encouraged to wait outside or in their cars to ensure social distancing. He also strongly recommends that everyone wear a mask or facial coverings.

The next phase of the governor’s plan for reopening will include gyms, exercise facilities and classes. Beginning May 18, they may begin operating at 25 percent of total listed capacity. Lockers rooms and shower facilities will remain closed, though restrooms may be open. Also beginning May 18, offices may reopen with five individuals or 25 percent of the total office workforce, whichever is greater, as long as all workers maintain social distancing. Manufacturing facilities formerly “non-essential” under previous orders may also reopen starting Friday, though at no more than 25 percent occupancy, Trevino said.

Also, on May 5, Abbott announced that the ban on in-person graduation ceremonies will be lifted as of June 1 — with restrictions to ensure social distancing. Trevino said every school district in the county had been planning for “virtual or hybrid ceremonies,” but that after the governor’s announcement Brownsville Independent School District said that it would move ahead with in-person ceremonies. Trevino admitted this worries him, and said he would speak with superintendents about their plans to make sure they follow the governor’s and CDC’s guidelines to minimize the risk to students and families.

“I understand the desire for normalcy and celebrating high school graduation,” he said. “But I would caution all of the superintendents and the school districts to be mindful of the fact that the (COVID-19) numbers continue to remain steady. Putting hundreds of thousands of people together, even with social distancing is going to create a major concern on our part.”