A judge in El Paso, Texas, a city dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases, is the latest to face backlash for tightening social restrictions to deal with the pandemic.

In defiance of orders issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Thursday ordered all nonessential businesses to close for two weeks.

In a response posted on Twitter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the judge had no authority to impose a lockdown.

“This is a direct violation of @GovAbbott ’s executive order. My office is quickly exploring all legal actions,” the tweet read.

Abbott, a Republican, has issued a series of executive orders designed to keep businesses open. An order issued Oct. 7 mandates that businesses operate at no more than 75% of their total capacity, though exemptions are in place for houses of worship and child-care service facilities, among others.

“I feel we stand in strong, sound, legal ground to do what I need to do at this point in time,” Samaniego said Thursday, according to the Washington Post.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Texas is No. 2 in the nation, behind California, in terms of total positive cases of COVID-19 with 879,994 cases as of Oct. 29. Florida is No. 3 with 780,220, and Illinois is No. 4 with 393,808.

In terms of counties, El Paso is No. 4 in the state with 45,039 positive cases reported this year.

Samaniego is not the only public official to face internal backlash over restrictive orders. A narrow opinion from Republican justices on the Michigan Supreme Court found in early October that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, overstepped her authority by issuing orders meant to control the spread of the virus in the state.

Whitmer's efforts to lock the state down through executive action in part motivated a plot to kidnap her and take down the Michigan government. The alleged ring leader, Adam Fox, was quoted as saying Whitmer was a “tyrant” with “no checks and balances.”

Meanwhile, a surge in new cases of COVID-19 in Iowa, a key battleground state, could be a factor because state polling places are closing down, possibly impacting about 30% of Iowa voters.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican and ally of US President Donald Trump, issues an executive order requiring face coverings in public spaces as the state marks record numbers of new infections.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and two other members of the Biden administration. Governor Greg Abbott/YouTube