At midnight on Wednesday, the city of Laredo will become the first city in Texas to go into mandatory lockdown. Late on Tuesday, the city council unanimously approved the two-week lockdown, following contentious debate.
For the next two weeks, citizens will be required to remain quarantined in their homes, only able to leave to work or purchase groceries, food, medicine, or home improvement materials.
The city also mandates that all employers provide health measures, such as hand sanitizer, for employees. Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants, and public utilities will not be disconnected.
Prior to the city meeting, Mayor Pete Saenz signed an order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people. Dr. Hector Gonzalez, the city’s health department director, opposed a mandatory lockdown. Several council members shared this sentiment, expressing concerns that a lockdown was a step too far, due to its effects on businesses and people’s ability to feed their families. The quarantine was only approved unanimously after it was decided that citizens would be permitted to go to work.
Laredo’s first positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed on Monday night. Identified as a 40-year-old elementary teacher, the patient had no history of travel to infected areas, leading city health officials to suspect community spread.
Councilman Marte Martinez, a medical doctor, supported the quarantine order, citing his fear that the positive COVID-19 case was locally transmitted. He expressed his fear that the city’s “patient zero” remains at large. “There’s no overreacting right now. There’s only underreacting.”
Additional news from the city meeting revealed that Nuevo Laredo, across the border in Mexico, has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, and several local places are working to get private labs approved for testing.