McALLEN, TEXAS (Border Report) — All of the parks have been closed in the largest city in South Texas, during this Easter weekend as authorities plead with families not to congregate in masses in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Typically families in South Texas celebrate this Christian holiday by barbecuing in parks and cracking cascarones — Easter eggs filled with colorful confetti — over children’s heads.
However, City of McAllen authorities weren’t taking any chances this year and in order to discourage park-goers they have removed picnic tables and park benches, as well as swings, closed park parking lots, placed metal barricades around playground sets, and shut off the water in fountains and closed restrooms at all area parks.
“We recognize that our McAllen parks are a favorite location for area families to host their Easter celebrations,” McAllen City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said. “However, the risk of mass gatherings and not maintaining proper social distancing at these picnic events was too great a chance to keep our parks open during this weekend.”
The risk of mass gatherings and not maintaining proper social distancing at these picnic events was too great a chance to keep our parks open during this weekend.”McAllen City Manager Roel ‘Roy’ Rodriguez
Rodriguez promised the parks would reopen on Monday. However, the picnic benches will not be put back until the coronavirus pandemic is over, he said.
All parks in Hidalgo County will remain closed until the virus has subsided, according to emergency orders signed by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez.
In a video released Friday, Cortez pleaded with residents “for one time, for one year try not to gather in large groups” this one Easter year. “This is something that is not in the best interest,” Cortez said. “Please. I ask you. I beg you: Pay attention to this and we’re going to get out of this problem very, very soon.”
As of Friday, Hidalgo County has had 146 coronavirus cases, including one death.
Cameron County, on the Gulf Coast, has had 147 cases and on Thursday evening reported two more deaths — of a 91- and 93-year-old women from a Harlingen nursing home. The county also reported an additional 27 cases, many from the nursing home, including that of a 100-year-old patient.
Starting Monday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño has ordered all residents must cover their mouths and noses while in public, and no children under age 14 are allowed in grocery stores or at gas stations “to protect the lives of all during this pandemic,” he said in a statement issued Thursday.
South Texas officials have been frustrated by families that continue to grocery shop and go on outings together, despite mandatory shelter-in-place orders. As a response, most South Texas counties now forbid children from entering stores.
Laredo officials allow children to enter markets and necessary retail facilities “only when childcare is not available” to the parent. Webb County, about three hours west of McAllen, have had six deaths from COVID-19 and a staggering 166 cases in a city of just 250,000 people.
Elsewhere, El Paso officials in West Texas also have closed parks and in nearby Clint, Texas police officers are expected to stand guard to ensure that families do not try to enter this holiday weekend.
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