Order issued delays in person school instruction in Cameron County

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. speaks about the responsibility those not taking COVID-19 seriously play in the increase of cases in the community Monday during a press conference at the Cameron County Commissioner’s Court. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Cameron County’s public and private schools will not be allowed to hold in-person classes until after Sept. 8, according to a joint emergency health control order issued Tuesday by county Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. and county Health Authority Dr. James Castillo.

Extracurricular sports and activities shall not take place until the school systems re-open for on campus instruction.

The order notes Texas ranks third in the nation in cases of COVID-19, with 258,658 cases as of July 13 and an increase of 63,419 cases in the preceding seven days. Out of the state’s 254 counties, Cameron County has the 12th most positive cases with 3,854, according to the order, which reads that “all area hospitals have surpassed their capacity to care for COVID-19 patients and are unable to tolerate any further increase in hospitalizations.”

Trevino said the order is in the interest of protecting life amid the worsening COVID-19 crisis, was made with the advice and consent of the county Commissioners Court, and is supported by the mayors of each municipality and school district superintendents throughout the county.

The order may be extended if necessary due to “substantial community spread” of the virus in the time leading up to Sept. 8. In the meantime, administrators, teachers and staff will be permitted to conduct virtual/remote learning and provide curbside meals from school campuses while following federal, state and local guidelines to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Extracurricular sports and activities will not be allowed to take place until schools reopen for on-campus instruction, according to the order, which stipulates that “school systems shall develop a plan for reopening on-campus, face-to-face instruction and activities at least two weeks prior to Sept. 8, 2020.”

All children with special healthcare needs who are considered “medically fragile” by a licensed physician will not be allowed to return to school for in-person instruction until the 2021-2022 school year, according to the order.

The county order was announced on Tuesday, the same day Gov. Greg Abbott announced that school districts statewide would be given more flexibility in keeping their campuses closed for in-person instruction while COVID-19 cases continue to spike.