EL PASO, Texas – The top elected official for El Paso County, Texas, said he is unhappy with a state appeals court ruling overturning his order closing nonessential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but he won't appeal it.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said in a news release late Friday that to say he was disappointed by the ruling "would be a huge understatement. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it would be fruitful to continue to pursue litigation options, but I wholeheartedly intend to use my legal authority to do everything possible to save as many lives as I can.”
Earlier Friday, the Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso ruled against the order closing nonessential businesses including gyms and salons, sending the case back to a district judge who had upheld it with instructions to halt the shutdown.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to overturn the order Samaniego issued in October, despite a surge that has overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes in the border city of El Paso. Like many states, Texas has been struggling to control the coronavirus, and on Wednesday it became the nation's first state to pass the 1 million mark in confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Samaniego said he would work with business leaders and health officials to develop ways to protect public health and the economy. A previous order limiting nonessential businesses to 50% capacity, closing bars and dine-in restaurant services at 9 p.m. limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people and a mask mandate remain in place, he said.
The county health department on Saturday reported 1,512 new COVID-19 cases, a 7-day average of 1,437 new cases per day and a total of 72,238 cases since the pandemic began. There were 15 additional deaths for a total of 756 and 1,091 people hospitalized with the virus.
Additionally, the state health department on Saturday reported totals of 1,014,160 virus cases and 19,740 deaths, increases of 8.989 cases and 150 additional deaths. There were 7,151 people hospitalized due to the virus, 68 more than Friday, according to the department.
The true number of infections is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.