Edinburg mandates nose, mouth coverings in amended stay-at-home order

EDINBURG — On Friday afternoon, city council members here approved tightening the city’s stay-at-home order for all Edinburg residents. The amended restrictions — which include requiring residents to use face coverings — will go into effect Monday.

After a unanimous vote, city officials held a brief question and answer session with the public, who submitted questions online and via phone.

The order — the fifth order handed down by the city amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic — will go into effect on the morning of April 6 and will require people to stay home at all times, with the exception of essential activities and work.

Nose and mouth coverings will also be required for anyone 3 years of age or older entering any building other than their residence; however, city officials emphasized they are not requiring medical masks — any piece of fabric, t-shirts, bandanas or scarves is sufficient, officials said.

“Doctors believe COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes,” Mayor Richard Molina said in a news release Friday. “But there is also medical information suggesting aerosolized droplets can be produced just by talking or even breathing. Edinburg, do not take this lightly. This is a public health emergency.”

City officials also restated their endeavor to certify city businesses as “work safe,” with more than 1,600 certificates approved through Thursday.

One day prior, the city estimated it had issued more than 1,200 “work safe” certificates by way of its “Work Safe Compliance Teams,” according to a news release.

“We’re taking every precaution to protect our residents and keep our community healthy,” Molina said in the release. “Submitting the plan and getting approval was the first step. Now, we are making sure businesses are following through with those measures.”

The Work Safe Plan requires, among other things, businesses to provide hand sanitation at all entrances for customers.  It also includes practices such as ensuring customers and employees stay at least six feet away from each other. Businesses not in compliance could be forced to shut their doors, the release Thursday stated.

The Compliance Team is also enforcing the city’s order mandating residents stay home unless performing an essential function. Edinburg is also doubling the number of police officers on patrol, and is establishing a park patrol to enforce compliance at municipal parks, the release states.

Parks will remain open, but all play equipment and facilities are closed. Residents may continue exercising.

All restaurant dining rooms remain closed, but residents may continue to use drive-thru and curbside meal delivery.

Anyone found in violation of the Stay Home, Work Safe order could face a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

The mayor reiterated the revised measures are temporary and that no one needs to go out to buy masks; people can use scarfs, handkerchiefs. He said the numbers of people who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to continue to rise.

On Thursday, four people were booked into the county jail on charges related to disobeying stay at home orders throughout Hidalgo County.

“If we want to get back to living our lives like we’re used to, we have to act now and we have to work together,” Molina said. “Follow the mandates of the order, protect yourselves and your families and do your part in protecting our community. The new requirements will be enforced.”