El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced on Tuesday that nonessential businesses will be closed and residents ordered to shelter in place to slow the spread of coronavirus. (El Paso Matters photo)

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo pledged unspecified additional steps Sunday night as public health officials confirmed community spread of COVID-19.

“Now that community spread is confirmed, I strongly urge everyone to adhere to the Stay Home order we implemented last week. I will be working with Dr. (Hector) Ocaranza and the county judge, to revise the order with stricter measures,” Margo said without elaboration in a news release.

The release said the new restrictions would be announced in 24 to 48 hours.

The current “Stay Home, Work Safe” order prohibits gathering of more than five people and has closed businesses not considered essential. Schools are closed indefinitely.

The order has allowed people to go to parks and be outside.

El Paso public health officials said the number of positive COVID-19 cases reached 40 on Sunday, up from 35 a day earlier. Officials said 32 of the cases involved people under age 50; 26 are women. They have not released information on how many have been hospitalized.

Community spread means that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been shown to be spreading within El Paso, rather than being brought into the community by people who traveled elsewhere and returned with the illness.

Ocaranza, the city-county health authority during the coronavirus crisis, has been saying for days that they expected community spread to begin.

“We must all understand that if we want to stop this virus each person must help health-care workers and first responders by doing their civic duty and complying with these health orders. I will continue to repeat myself — as there is no cure for this virus at this time —we must all do our part by strictly practicing social distancing, stay at home as ordered and follow the CDC guidelines,” Ocaranza said.

Fort Bliss has reported an additional six positive tests, while Ciudad Juárez has reported four. Seventeen positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in Doña Ana County, which includes Las Cruces.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.

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