Willacy County closes its South Padre Island section

A view of the Laguna Madre from the city of Port Mansfield. By Diana Eva Maldonado, The Brownsville Herald

RAYMONDVILLE — Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra on Friday ordered the closure of the county’s section of South Padre Island to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The order effective today closes county beach accesses No. 5 and 6 “until further notice,” setting fines of up to $1,000 for violations.

“The transmission of COVID-19 has not dissipated but remains a significant threat to the health and safety of the Willacy County community and rates of infection are increasing at an alarming exponential rate throughout the state of Texas and the number of people ending up in the hospital, ICU or on ventilators is also dramatically rising despite efforts by local authorities to control the spread,” the order states.

While closing the area to residents, the order allows government agencies and nonprofit environmental and wildlife protection groups such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sea Turtle Inc. to conduct official business along beach accesses No. 5 and 6.

On June 30, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. ordered the closure of his county’s section of South Padre Island beaches.

Guerra’s order becomes the second mandate he’s issued this week.

On Tuesday, Guerra’s ordered the county’s on-campus classes, sports programs and extracurricular programs delayed until at least Sept. 21.

Instead, the school year, which starts Aug. 24, will open with on-line instruction.

This week, the Harlingen school district also announced the delay of on-campus classroom instruction.

In his orders, Guerra cited “surging” increases in the county’s number of COVID-19 cases, which have climbed to about 542 since late May, when the total case count stood at 14 in this rural county of about 22,000 residents.