Closures of Hotels, Motels, RV parks and Short-Term Rentals in Presidio, Brewster, and Jeff Davis Counties Went Into Effect This Week

By Marfa Public Radio Staff

As the coronavirus spreads across the state, municipalities across West Texas have mandated the closure of hotels, motels, short-term rentals, and RV parks in an effort to curb the spread of the disease in the region.  

Brewster County Commissioners Court held an emergency meeting on Friday, March 20 where they adopted measures to close hotels, motels, short-term rentals, RV parks, and campgrounds. (Facebook Livestream)

Here’s a list of region-wide orders and timelines:

  • Presidio County’s order is effective Monday, March 23 until at least Tuesday, April 7
    • Hotels, motels, RV Parks and short-term rentals will close to the public.
  • The City of Marfa’s order is effective Monday, March 23 until at least March 30th
    • Hotels, motels and short-term rentals will close to the public
  • The City of Alpine’s order went into effect Sunday, March 22 until at least April 6.
    • “All hotels, motels and short term rentals and short term rental activities and businesses are hereby ordered to cease operations as of 12:00 noon on March 22, 2020 until 12:00 noon on April 6, 2020. Hotels, motels, and short-term rentals can be utilized ONLY for customers that are active military, law enforcement, national reserve, permanent residents residing in hotels and motels, “emergency services personnel to support City, County, State, SRSU, school district operations and healthcare professionals” during this time period.”
  • Brewster County’s order is effective from Monday, March 23 until at least Thursday, April 2:
    • “On Monday, March 23, 2020, by 12:00 pm, this declaration hereby mandates hotels/motels and short-term rentals to close and vacate their guests through Thursday, April 2, 2020. Only Exception being if guests have established rental unit as primary place of residence.”
    • “On Monday, March 23, 2020 by 12:00 pm this declaration hereby mandates RV Parks/Campgrounds to close and vacate their guests through Thursday, April 2, 2020. Only Exception being if guests have established rental unit as primary place of residence.”
    • Brewster County Commissioners on Monday clarified exemptions to their declaration. County Judge Eleazar Cano says the closure won’t apply to people who’ve lived in RV parks or short term rentals longer than 14 days. Exemptions also apply to employee housing and to people considered a part of “critical infrastructure.”
  • Jeff Davis County’s order is in effect from Monday, March 23 until at least Monday, April 6:
    • “All hotels, motels, short-term rentals, including RV rentals and campgrounds are ordered to cease operations as of 4:00 p.m. March 23, 2020 until April 6, 2020. Any existing guests will need to vacate by 12:00 p.m. March 24, 2020. Any such rental properties may only be utilized for customers that are active military, law enforcement, National Guard, Texas National Guard, park hosts and seasonal employees or volunteers at Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis National Historic Site, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center or Texas Nature Conservancy Davis Mountains Preserve, permanent or current residents residing over 30 days in hotels, motels or RV parks or emergency services personnel or healthcare professionals assisting Jeff Davis County or Federal or State Government, or the Fort Davis or Valentine Independent School Districts, individuals under quarantine or any other individuals specifically sent to assist with limiting the spread of COVID-19. Waivers may be requested for essential reasons and good cause, not convenience, by contacting the County Judge.”

At a Brewster County Commissioner’s Court Emergency Meeting late last week when the decision to close hotels, motels, short-term rentals, RV parks, and campgrounds in the county was adopted,  Dr. Ekta Escovar of Big Bend Regional Medical Center, said the economy should not take priority over the health and safety of the community. 

“I understand that  this is something that is unprecedented. There is no rule book for how we play this,” Dr. Escovar said. “But being alarmist now is going to save lives. And by saving every life in this community, that is how we proved we did enough.” 

During the open comment period, residents came forth and expressed concern over the temporary closure of hotels and the long-term impacts of that decision. Carol Peterson, the General Manager of the Gage Hotel in Marathon, cited that plummeting occupancy could force the hotel to close and be difficult to re-open because the workforce might leave for good. 

“I think we should consider limiting occupancy to keep people from coming here, but at the same time not closing us down and forcing us to write off our entire staff,” Peterson said. “We will not get them back quickly, if at all…This could turn into a catastrophe beyond measure. We may very well need hotel rooms for various things… It is not a good response to close hotels.”

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