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County Judge: Full curfew, business rollback needed if Thanksgiving spike comes to El Paso

FILE - El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego{ }tours the Synergy Med Clean Cube. (Courtesy: Barracuda PR)
FILE - El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego tours the Synergy Med Clean Cube. (Courtesy: Barracuda PR)
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The Thanksgiving weekend saw one of the largest gatherings in El Paso since the pandemic began.

The scene at Red Sands over the holiday was just one of the concerns for the county judge, who’s now preparing for what he says could be El Paso’s worst post-holiday COVID-19 spike yet.

“It’s obviously very disappointing,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said. “This is not the El Paso I know, I’ll be very honest.”

On Friday, hundreds of people gathered in Red Sands for the annual Turkey Trail and Toy Run off-roading event.

The gathering came after the event’s organizer, Max Tire auto shop, tried to cancel the event until next year, but hundreds of El Pasoans turned out in the desert anyway.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said COVID-19 fatigue could be to blame.

“It’s very disappointing because a lot of people were saying the numbers were down today, and we didn’t have a death today,” Judge Samaniego said. “And people drop their guard.”

On Sunday, El Paso reported zero COVID-19 deaths for the first time since October 19, and new cases have been trending downward for the past week.

But the county judge said hospitals were still over capacity, and an upcoming spike from Thanksgiving could be a perfect storm for El Paso.

“There’s always a calm before the storm, and this is the calm before the storm,” Judge Samaniego said. “There’s just too many people out there with COVID, and there’s too many people coming in. It’s the first time we have a lot of home gatherings because of travel.”

Judge Samaniego said this week’s gatherings also showed the county’s current partial curfew hasn’t been strong enough.

“If it had been stricter, if I had been able to do that Stay at Home order, Red Sands wouldn’t have taken place,” Judge Samaniego said.

The county judge said if El Paso does see a Thanksgiving spike, he planned to ask permission from Texas Governor Greg Abbott for a full curfew for the Borderland, and to move business capacity down from 50% to 25%.

“I’m going to have to wait for the numbers to see what’s happening,” Judge Samaniego said. “And see if I have support from the numbers, and then I would not ask for a partial, I’d ask for a full curfew.”

The county judge said he could know as soon as Thursday whether a stronger curfew would be needed.

For the latest updates on COVID-19 in our area and around the world, head to our coronavirus section.

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