Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens

Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. discusses his second amended declaration of local disaster.

Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. is asking non-essential local businesses to close their doors for at least the next two weeks.

Owens said he is aware of a number of local businesses not considered essential, that continue to operate in spite of his declaration of public health emergency, which directs those businesses to shut down.

“There are a lot of businesses that are non-essential, and those businesses, starting today Tuesday), will be visited. They will be visited and given a copy of the order, and if they can argue that they’re essential, we’ll go from there.

“But there are businesses right now that are open that, from what we are looking at, they are non-essential,” Owens said.

The county judge said the federal government has made the determination as to which businesses are considered essential and which are not.
“It’s actually not a list. They tell you if you perform certain duties. It’s actually a federal government, not a state or county list,” Owens said.

Owens said the specifications as to which businesses are essential was included in his first declaration of disaster for public health emergency as well as in the second amended declaration, which he signed Monday.

Both of those documents are on file and available for viewing and downloading at

“There’s healthcare, there’s auto and bicycle repair, but it doesn’t say a dealership specifically, but every one of the dealerships can be open because they all have service and they all do repairs,” the county judge said.

Owens said, though, he would prefer the dealerships “do nothing but online sales and phone calls.”

Owens said he simply wants business owners to use “a little common sense.”

“AT&T, for example, I would say that in the space that they have there, not to have more than three customers in there at a time, because you do have a lot of employees, and even though the employees ‘don’t count’ toward the number that can be inside a business, that social distancing, you still can’t get it done,” Owens said.

The county judge said he is being driven by a sense of urgency.

“I don’t want us to become a Laredo. I don’t want to become San Antonio. This is one of the things that, if we can deal with it now, maybe we can have somewhat of a normal summer, but what we’re implementing right now and going to enforce, hopefully will get us just as close to normal as possible come the summer,” Owens said.

He said he believes the social and business strictures will remain in place until at least the middle of May.

“People tend to get a little more scared or panicky when we get another case, and we had a week there where we didn’t have anything, so I think we’ve been sort of lulled into a false sense of security. We know there are more people who are going to test positive, and we just need to limit those case, and the only way you limit them is by limiting exposure,” Owens said.

The county judge said he planned to visit with Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez to develop a plan to enforce the declarations currently in place.

He noted the new amended order is in place until 11:59 p.m. on April 20.

“We will come up with a list of businesses that we believe are non-essential, and we will try to work with these individual businesses to make sure that they comply with the declaration,” the judge said.

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