COVID-19 Watch

Popular South Texas beach destination extends emergency orders as COVID-19 rages

South Texas beach destination adds emergency orders as COVID-19 rages

South Padre Island beach
South Padre Island has issued new measures to combat COVID-19. Photo by Daniel Cavazos

As South Texas struggles to contain the COVID-19 virus, a popular San Antonio vacation destination is extending its emergency orders through Labor Day and beyond. 

On August 5, South Padre Island issued an emergency management order — the city's second — now banning all canopies, pop-up tents, and umbrellas larger than eight feet. The new order from Mayor Patrick McNulty effectively bans structures where groups bigger than two can congregate.

The order remains in effect until September 16, well past the summer holiday.

Moving forward, all umbrellas must have a diameter of eight feet or less, and all "shade structures" must have a single pole. SPI beachgoers may also only have two chairs under each umbrella and all groups must will separated by a minimum of 15 feet from outside edge/tip of the structure. (So, basically, all umbrellas must be at least 15 feet apart.)

All other setups, whether shaded or not, must also be at least 15 feet away from the structure.

Local vendors must also adhere to the updated order, and space their single-pole structures at least 15 feet from each other. Vendors may also only place chairs and umbrellas in the "front row." The "second row" of chairs and shade structures can only be set up after being rented, and only if they can be spaced according to the updated rules. 

Fines of up to $500 can be issued for violating the mayoral order.

"Our hope is that by imposing these measures quickly and firmly, we will help bring this national emergency to an end quickly and help revitalize the economy we all enjoy as soon as possible," reads the mayor's order.

South Texas has been one of the country's hottest spots for COVID-19 in recent weeks, with over 37,000 cases of the novel coronavirus confirmed across the Rio Grande Valley's four counties as of August 6, with Cameron County, home to SPI, being hit particularly hard. Cameron and nearby Hidalgo are in the top eight U.S. counties with most confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Texas Public Radio.

To date, Cameron County has 15,865 confirmed cases, with 5,710 of those occurring in the last seven days, according to data from the New York Times