AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas district judge on Friday upheld an order from El Paso County’s top elected official shutting down businesses while the region fights an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases.
The decision from Judge Bill Moody of El Paso’s 34th District Court came as federal military medical teams deployed to the border region at the request of the state.
The county’s top elected official, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, ordered a two-week shutdown of nonessential activities late last week.
In making his decision, Moody pointed out that during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early part of the 20th century, city and county elected officials had authority to respond as they “thought was necessary to protect the health and financial interests of their individual communities.”
Chris Hilton, an attorney with the Texas attorney general’s office, said the state would appeal. Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that Samaniego’s order is illegal because it goes against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order to reopen businesses.
Meanwhile, three Air Force medical teams were expected to arrive in El Paso by the weekend, according to Seth Christensen, chief of media and communications for the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
El Paso joins a list of 10 other cities, including Houston, San Antonio and multiple communities in the Rio Grande Valley region, to receive aid from the Department of Defense at the request of Texas officials, Christensen said.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows diagnosed with the coronavirus
— Books? Hairdressers? Europeans split on lockdown essentials
— In India, polluted air spells trouble for virus patients
— China’s October exports accelerate, boosted by US demand
— Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/virus-outbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
CHICAGO — Faced with 20,000 new cases of coronavirus illness in the last two days, a stay-at-home order is possible if the spread is not slowed, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday just before his office announced that he was self-isolating after he had been exposed to the virus.
With a record 10,374 new infections reported Friday, and the 10,000-death mark passed this week, Pritzker was asked if he would order people to stay in their homes as was required by Illinois and many other states during the spring onslaught of COVID-19.
“We’re in a bad situation (but) I’m not looking at the broader mitigation of stay-at-home … as in something I would do in the coming days or a week. But I can’t guarantee you what it looks like two weeks from now or three weeks,” he said. “I just don’t know.”
About an hour after his daily COVID-19 briefing, Pritzker’s office announced that the governor was self-isolating after learning that an infected person attended a meeting with Pritzker last Monday. He is awaiting test results.
It is the third time during the pandemic that Pritzker has been exposed to the virus — twice previously it was the result of a staff member getting sick.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he and his staff tested negative for the coronavirus after a staffer in the Capitol building tested positive Friday morning. The attorney general’s office later said the employee believed to have the virus tested negative on Friday evening.
Justice said he was tested for the virus minutes before a noon news conference Friday, where he announced a record high of new cases. The state reported 540 confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours.
The employee who initially tested positive Friday morning works for the attorney general, said Curtis Johnson, a spokesman for Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
But after testing staff and the individual again Friday evening, “all of our tests came back negative,” Johnson later told the AP.
“The office is taking appropriate precautions that include testing to ensure the safety of not only its employees, but all of those in the Capitol building and the surrounding community,” Johnson had said Friday afternoon after the positive test.
The governor’s office declined to say exactly how many people were tested and whether anyone will consider quarantining.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky reported 2,302 new COVID-19 cases and 10 more virus-related deaths Friday, as the coronavirus continued to surge throughout the state. Over 1,000 people remain hospitalized with the virus.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear also urged Kentucky’s 80 counties classified as “red zone” counties to follow the state’s emergency recommendations. In last week’s report, 68 Kentucky counties were on the red-zone list, due to the high prevalence of cases.
“I know we’ve been in this fight for so long that it’s easy to get numb to the scary headlines and high case numbers,” Beshear said. ”That’s normal. It’s human nature. But you have to understand this is the most dangerous COVID-19 has ever been in the commonwealth and it is leading to more of our fellow Kentuckians becoming sick, being hospitalized and dying.”
Kentucky set a high Thursday with 2,318 new cases.
The state’s test positivity rate Friday reached 6.77%, the highest it has been since June.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials in Anchorage plan to boost enforcement of an expanded mask mandate and restrict indoor gathering sizes in a bid to curb coronavirus cases.
The updated mask mandate, which takes effect Monday, requires masks to be worn, with some exceptions, in indoor public settings or communal areas and outdoors when distancing from non-household members is not possible.
Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson says the revision, in part, will get rid of loopholes in the order that has been in effect. She says the municipality plans to bolster its enforcement efforts in response to concerns from the business community.
TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas added a record-setting 5,418 new coronavirus cases over two days as hospitals warned that staffing was being seriously strained.
The increases in confirmed and probable cases reported Friday brought the state’s total to 97,633, a 5.9% increase from Wednesday.
Data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows that state averaged 1,779 new cases a day for the seven days ending Friday. The state also added 79 COVID-19 fatalities to bring the total to 1,166. Deaths have more than doubled since mid-September.
State health department head and Dr. Lee Norman said cases “are just skyrocketing” because people are spending more time indoors and attending public events and family gatherings without being diligent about wearing masks or social distancing.
He said he’s worried that cases will spike again from family Thanksgiving get-togethers. And Norman said many local officials “haven’t done anything” to check the surge.