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Home | Breaking News | El Paso-area Coronavirus Archive Stories from March 25th thru 30th
Corona virus | Graphic courtesy CDC

El Paso-area Coronavirus Archive Stories from March 25th thru 30th

This archive page of our El Paso-area Coronavirus Information has releases and information from March 25th thru 30th.

For the most recent health developments on COVID-19, please visit our up-to-the-minute page; for official info, click below.

Center for Disease Control (CDC)   |   World Health Organization    |    City of El Paso Department of Public Health

***ARCHIVE CONTENT FOLLOWS***

*** City/County officials announce new cases of COVID19 (3/30/2020)

Mayor Dee Margo and officials with the Department of Public Health announced 6 new cases of COVID19 in the El Paso area, during a Monday evening news conference.

They added that the five cases of COVID19 – announced on Sunday – were all a result of community spread.  Because of the community spread, both the city and the county would be in close communication, and announcing the new guidelines sometime Tuesday.

Mayor Dee Margo restated the earlier ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ guidelines, but did not immediately implement stricter rules, saying the new guidelines would be announced Tuesday.

County Judge Ricardo Samaniego also addressed the community,  saying that he and all the county officials were working closely with the city to establish the new guidelines.

Mayor Margo urged the community to take care of their mental health, as well as asked all who could to donate blood.

Both the city and the county government have provided the newly established LiftFund $1 million dollars to help area small businesses.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority again reminded residents of the need to remain at home.

“As we now have evidence of community spread these emergency orders which staff are working to finalize are essential now more than ever to help halt the spread of COVID-19. For these measures to be as effective as possible, it is important that residents of all ages answer the call to remain at home unless they need to leave as a necessity,” said Dr. Ocaranza.

“Our public health team and community leaders are doing everything in their power to ensure the community’s health, and everyone must do their part as well to help stop this pandemic.”

Residents are again reminded that if they must run essential errands to do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and children with them. As they make their way in the community, they should also maintain a distance of at least six feet from others. High-risk individuals such as those 65 and older and individuals with compromised immune systems should take additional precautions.

Age Range Number of Cases
Teens 2
20s 9
30s 10
40s 7
50s 9
60s 6
70s 2
80s 1

***

***Rep. Hurd Announces More Than $19 Million in Resources for San Antonio, El Paso, Bexar County to Combat COVID-19 Pandemic (3/30/2020)

U.S. Representative Will Hurd (TX-23) announced the distribution of more than $19 million for the Cities of San Antonio and El Paso and Bexar County to address the COVID-19 public health emergency through various programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today.

“This dangerous virus affects all Americans regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. The more than $19 million in resources will allow our localities to continue combating the outbreak among some of our most vulnerable populations. More time and work is needed before we are out of the woods with this pandemic, but, until then, relief like this will help us through. This funding will allow Bexar County, and the Cities of San Antonio and El Paso to continue response and recovery efforts and be prepared for any additional recovery efforts that will arise.”

In the CARES Act passed last week, HUD received $12.4 billion to help local communities address the COVID-19 outbreak. HUD allocated the funds in grants through the following programs:

  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) – flexible funding to states and local governments for a range of services to address coronavirus impacts at the community level.
  • Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) – grants to state and local governments to limit the spread of the virus among the homeless population and to help reduce increases in homelessness due to financial distress.
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) – grants to helps state and local governments and non-profits address the threat of the virus among low-income people living with HIV/AIDS.

Out of the more than $3 billion in grants awarded nationally, $19.69 million is allocated to the Cities of San Antonio, El Paso and Bexar County:

  • The City of San Antonio received $7.7 million in CDBG grants, $3.9 million in ESG grants and almost $300,000 HOPWA grants.
  • The City of El Paso received $3.7 million in CDBG grants, $1.9 million in ESG grants and over $91,000 in HOPWA grants.
  • Bexar County received $1.4 million in CDBG grants and nearly $700,000 in ESG grants.

***

***Las Palmas Medical Center announces doctor confirmed to have COVID19 (3/30/2020)

Monday afternoon, officials with Las Palmas Medical center announced one of their own had tested positive for the Coronavirus – COVID19. Below is their statement:

A physician who practices at Las Palmas Medical Center has been confirmed as having a positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Upon learning of this physician’s diagnosis, we immediately notified public health authorities and consulted with epidemiology and infection prevention experts. In coordination with the El Paso Department of Public Health, we have been tracing the potential exposure to patients, physicians and staff, based on the timeline of this incident, and in consultation with these experts, we have been assessing risk to each person potentially exposed based on their unique circumstances.

We are in the process of contacting all patients and providers who may require further observation and/or testing based on our risk assessment.

Unfortunately, exposure to healthcare workers is becoming more commonplace at hospitals across the country. We are doing all we can to protect our patients and our healthcare providers on the frontlines of this pandemic.

This exposure was not the result of a breach of protocol in our hospitals, and we will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s best practices for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Oscar Vega, M.D.

Chief medical officer

Las Palmas Medical Center 

***

***City Manager announces EPFD Firefighter tests positive for COVID19, (3/30/2020)

Monday morning, during a City Council virtual question and answer session about local first responders and COVID19 testing, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez revealed that an El Paso Fire Department firefighter had tested positive for Coronavirus.

Gonzales said that the firefighter had been traveling and was showing no symptoms.

No other information was released about the firefighter or if any the other members were in quarantine.

**Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information from the city, no other firefighters were exposed to the virus.

***

***SISD to turn on field lights to #BeTheLight for students, community (3/30/2020)

High schools in the Socorro Independent School District will be shining their football/soccer field lights bright starting March 30 as a sign of hope and solidarity for Team SISD and the greater El Paso community during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

Team SISD high schools will turn on the field lights from 8 to 9 p.m. every weekday night as part of the #BeTheLight movement. Schools across Texas are joining in the stadium lights campaign to give students and communities reassurance, hope and faith amid the uncertainty of our current situation.

The lights in Team SISD also will honor the Class of 2020. The lights are a beacon of unity and strength for the students who looked forward to a spring full of events that would have allowed them to leave their legacy and formulate cherished memories.

“The bright lights at our schools will show our students that they are in our hearts and minds as we navigate these uncharted waters,” said SISD Superintendent Jose Espinoza, Ed.D. “I feel for our seniors and all of our students who are missing out on what should be the best times of their lives in school, sports and so many other activities. I hope they see the lights and know that we care for them deeply, and we will persevere together to overcome these trying times.”

#BeTheLight is also a symbol of hope and determination for the scores of educators and leaders in school districts, government and health authorities, and healthcare and law enforcement employees who are working tirelessly to adjust and maintain critical functions in our society.

“Team SISD is working hard to help students and families get through this time that we never could have imagined,” Espinoza said. “I hope everyone in Team SISD is inspired to #BeTheLight for the people that need them the most right now.”

***

***Paso del Norte Community Foundation announces first grants awarded from El Paso COVID-19 Fund (3/30/2020)

Monday afternoon, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation announced the first grant awards from the El Paso COVID-19 Response Fund:

 $25,000 to El Pasoans Fighting Hunger for food assistance
 $16,500 to purchase cleaning supplies for 10 El Paso-area homeless shelters.
 $5,000 to Project Bravo for their utility assistance.
 $3,000 to the Senior Fund to provide food assistance and cleaning supplies for low-income homebound seniors.

Additional awards will be made in the coming weeks to respond to immediate needs for the homeless and elderly populations. More than $250,000 in needs have been identified as urgent across the community.

Donations of any size are welcome. Visit pdnfoundation.org to donate or for more information.

***

***Annual Neon Desert Music Festival rescheduled for September 2020 (3/30/2020)

Via their social media accounts, officials with the annual Neon Desert Music Festival announced the postponement of the annual event to September 5 & 6 2020.  Below is their statement:

***

***Cornyn: Texas DSHS to Receive $2M Federal Grant for Hospital Preparedness (3/30/2020)

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will receive a $2,077,613 federal grant for its Hospital Preparedness Program, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) announced Monday.

The Hospital Preparedness Program works with Texas’ 22 trauma service areas (TSAs) to develop and implement health care coalitions with the aim of better supporting state and local efforts in emergency preparedness and to integrate the work of the public health and first responder communities.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Response.

“As more and more people are being tested and diagnosed with COVID-19, our hospitals and health care providers need additional support so they can continue to serve patients,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “I’m thankful to the Trump Administration for working to get our health care providers the resources and equipment they need to continue fighting this virus on the front lines.”

***

***40 Cases in EP area, Community Reaches Local Spread, Stricter Orders To Be Implemented (3/29/2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 40 and health officials are confirming evidence of community spread, meaning the source of infection is unknown in some of the positive cases.

As a result, the Health Authority will work with the City and County to prepare stricter orders within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Today, Sunday, March 29, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported five (5) new cases and shared the map below, showing the general location of the cases.

Positive cases in El Paso County include 26 females and 14 males

“As expected, we now have evidence of community spread. We understand that the community is getting increasingly distressed about the growing number of COVID-19 cases. For that reason, I am working with our community leaders to implement stricter orders that we are currently drafting and plan to implement very soon,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority.

“We must all understand that if we want to stop this virus each person must help healthcare 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.”

“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. Ocaranza and the County Judge, to revise the order with stricter measures,” said Mayor Dee Margo.

Age Range

Number of Cases

Teens

2

20s

7

30s

10

40s

6

50s

7

60s

6

70s

1

80s

1

Residents are again reminded that if they must run essential errands to do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and children with them. As they make their way in the community, they should also maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

High-risk individuals such as those 65 and older and individuals with compromised immune systems should take additional precautions.

Covering your cough, avoid touching your face, practicing regular handwashing, and cleaning common areas with disinfectant continue to be stressed. Local public health officials also want the public to become familiar with COVID-19 signs and symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don’t improve they should contact their healthcare provider or seek medical attention.

The 21-COVID hotline is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral, services contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

*** President Donald Trump announces extension of social distancing guidelines to April 30 (3/29/2020)

During a Sunday afternoon Rose Garden news conference, President Donald Trump announced that he’s extending the COVID-19 outbreak guidelines on social distancing until April 30.

Just last week, President Trump said he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.

Coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said the decision to extend the guidelines had not been made lightly.

“We know it’s a huge sacrifice for everyone,” she said, adding that detailed guidance would be released Tuesday, March 31st.

To watch the President’s full news conference, click here.

***

***Governor Abbott updates Texans on battle against COVID19  (3/29/2020)

On Sunday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott provided an update for Texans, regarding the battle against COVID19.  According to the governor, Texas now has 2,552 cases reported statewide, with 34 deaths.

He released the following information from the  Texas Department of State Health Services:

🔹2,552 statewide cases
🔹34 deaths
🔹118 counties reporting cases
🔹25,483 tested

Additionally, the governor announced the expansion of the Executive Order regarding travel into the state from cities and states with larger outbreaks.

The most significant changes deals with travel into Texas from Louisiana, with the expansion of the 14-day mandatory quarantine from New Orleans by air to travel by road into the state from any point in Louisiana.

The governor said this would be enforced by Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers at all points between the two states.  The checkpoints do not impact what the governor called ‘essential travel.’

The incoming air travel 14 day mandatory quarantine was also expanded, adding any flights from Miami, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, as well as the states of California and Washington.  The mandatory quarantine continues to be in effect for air travelers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The governor also signed an executive order banning the release of dangerous felons from any jail or prison anywhere in Texas.

To read the governor’s latest executive orders, and for more information from his office, click here.

***

***Fabens ISD extends closure of district until further notice (3/29/2020)

As we continue to closely monitor all incoming information regarding COVID-19, Fabens ISD has extended its campus closures until further notice.

During our extended school closure, meal distribution will continue for all students and children ages 18 and younger. New hours to pick up breakfast and lunch curbside will be from Monday – Friday from 7:30 – 10 AM at Fabens High School and various bus drop off locations. To view the current schedule and remote sites, please visit fabensisd.net.

Please visit the Fabens ISD IN-Home Learning website for an updated message from Dr. Vijil, Superintendent.

***

*** El Paso Catholic Schools to continue to instruct Courses online until further notice (3/29/2020)

On Sunday, Bishop Mark J. Seitz along with Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Steve Sanchez decided to continue to provide all online classes until further notice with respect to the City of El Paso and the County of El Paso’s shelter in place order.

The El Paso Catholic Schools began all online courses on March 23rd and will continue to offer students of Catholic Schools the best instruction online.

***

***Cornyn: Texas to Receive $237M Federal Grant for COVID-19 Response (3/29/2020)

The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) will receive a $236,756,360.44 federal grant to aid its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) announced today.

The funding comes from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Robert T. Stafford Act, which grants authority for the federal government to assist in local disaster aid efforts.

“I know this is a time of serious uncertainty for both the physical and financial health of our families and our country, but I want to assure my constituents, the 29 million people that I’m privileged to represent in the State of Texas, that the federal government is working to provide the relief we can,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “I commend the Trump Administration for prioritizing the health of Texans as well as local leaders in Texas working to fight this pandemic.”

***

***El Paso identifies five additional COVID-19 cases Saturday afternoon (3/28/2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 35. This afternoon the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported five (5) new confirmed cases.

“As expected the number of COVID cases continues to increase. We are still conducting epidemiological investigations and can’t confirm local spread at this time; however, as I’ve stated before local spread is something we can expect to see very soon,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority. “We need the community to understand the urgent need for each of us to do our part and change our behavior in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We should all be rigorously practicing social distancing, stay at home as ordered and continue to take precautions by washing your hands regularly.”

Officials are also highlighting the importance of social distancing and those who leave home should do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and

Positive cases in El Paso County include 22 females and 13 males:

Age Range Number of Cases
Teens 2
20s 6
30s 10
40s 5
50s 5
60s 5
70s 1
  80s * 1
* Please note there is a correction in the age ranges.

Covering your cough, avoid touching your face, practicing regular handwashing, and cleaning common areas with disinfectant continue to be stressed.

Local public health officials also want the public to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don’t improve they should contact their healthcare provider or seek medical attention if necessary.

The 21-COVID hotline will be operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral, services contact 2-1-1 Texas Call Center that is available 24/7 and select option six for more information.

Stay up-to-date with the latest information by subscribing to both the City and DPH social media platforms, and to visit www.epstrong.org for updates.

***

*** Marathon Petroleum donates 9,600 masks to University Medical Center, El Paso Children’s Hospital  (3/28/2020)

Thanks to a donation from Marathon PetroleumUniversity Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) and El Paso Children’s Hospital (EPCH) now have 9,600 N95 respirator masks.

“This was something our company wanted to do,” said VJ Smith, Government & Public Affairs Manager at Marathon Petroleum in El Paso. “Safety is a top priority for us in the communities where we are privileged to operate. We listened to what our healthcare workers on the front lines said they will need in the coming weeks, and the pandemic plan our company has in place allowed us to be able to make this donation swiftly. We hope this donation will make everyone’s job safer as we all stand together in facing this unprecedented event.”

The donation was made possible through the COVID-19 Compassionate Care Fund, a new program set up by UMC Foundation to support healthcare during this crisis.

To read the complete article and to donate, click here.

***

***Hotspots Now Available for Clint ISD Students  (3/27/2020)

In order to ensure that 100% of our students have internet connectivity, Clint ISD has purchased WIFI hotspots that are now available to issue to our families.

The District WIFI hotspots provide filtered internet access to student Chromebooks and devices. The hotspots comply with the Children’s Internet Protections Act.

The District hotspots will be assigned to Clint ISD families in need of internet access at home. A hotspot request form can be found at www.clintweb.net. Contact Clint ISD Technology Information Services at hotspot@clint.net if you have questions.

Clint ISD has invested $900,000 to purchase the hotspots so students can continue their education from home through the Clint ISD Remote Learning Plan.

Please visit www.clintweb.net or follow us on social media for updates.

***

***City’s Coronavirus total now at 30, 268 residents have been tested (3/27/2020)

During a Friday afternoon news conference, Mayor Dee Margo updated the area, saying there were now 30 cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Mayor Margo added that 268 El Pasoans have been tested for COVID19 via the Drive thru testing sites.

DPH officials say with more testing available the increase in cases does not come as a surprise.

“While we can’t confirm local spread at this time, local spread is something we can expect to see very soon,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority. “People need to change their behavior in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We should all be practicing social distancing and continue to take precautions by washing your hands regularly.”

Positive Cases in El Paso County, 19 female, 11 male:

Age Range

Number of Cases

Teens

2

20s

6

30s

7

40s

4

50s

4

60s

5

70s

2

Officials are also highlighting the importance of social distancing and those who leave home should do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and children with them. As they make their way in the community they should also maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

Covering your cough, avoid touching your face, practicing regular handwashing, and cleaning common areas with disinfectant continue to be stressed.

Local public health officials also want the public to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don’t improve they should call their doctor.

The 21-COVID hotline will be operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral services contact 2-1-1 Texas Call Center that is available 24/7 and select option six for more information.

Stay up-to-date with the latest information by subscribing to both the City and DPH social media platforms, and to visit www.epstrong.org for updates

***

***City Landfill Service Changes due to COVID-19  (3/27/2020)

Beginning Saturday, March 28, 2020, the City of El Paso Environmental Services Department (ESD) will only accept credit card payments for disposal of waste at the Greater El Paso Landfill.

To reduce contact with cash payments and minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, the landfill, at 2600 Darrington, will only be accepting credit and debit card payments until further notice.

City staff have been provided with protective gear, including gloves, will wipe down credit and debit cards with disinfectant to provide additional protection to customers and themselves.

All landfill visitors who do not have credit or debit cards will not be allowed on site.

For more information, please call 915.212.6000.

***

***YISD schools remain closed, online learning begins April 6 (3/27/2020)

Given the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19’s impact on our community, Ysleta Independent School District students and staff will not return to school on Monday, April 6, as previously planned. Instead, Ysleta ISD will launch THEDISTRICT@Home online learning program for students on April 6 with support from teachers and principals, officials said Friday.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Xavier De La Torre said he will continue to monitor recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the El Paso County Health Department before determining a date for students to return to Ysleta ISD campuses.

“Rest assured that Ysleta ISD continues to work tirelessly to assist families in adjusting to these new circumstances, and to transition students from instruction in traditional classrooms to online learning at home in the most seamless and efficient way possible,” Dr. De La Torre said.

To accomplish this effort, Ysleta ISD teachers and instructional specialists have been planning lessons and preparing for students to begin virtual instruction on Monday, April 6.

Teachers are currently making contact with students to familiarize them with the technology to ensure online lessons begin on April 6. Families without Internet access at home will be notified prior to April 6 with details on how to retrieve paper packets with instructional lessons from their child’s campus.

“Although the future is uncertain, we remain hopeful and optimistic,” Dr. De La Torre said. “We look forward to welcoming back our students and staff.”

THEDISTRICT@Home can be accessed at www.yisd.net, which has been transformed into a “one-stop shop” for families. It features extensive information and links on COVID-19, online learning, the newly launched Health Hotline staffed by school nurses, and “Grab & Go” school meals.

Families have responded overwhelmingly to Ysleta ISD’s “Grab & Go” drive-through meal service, which allows them to drive up to select schools from 7:30 to 11 a.m. on weekdays and receive curbside delivery of breakfast and lunch meals for children under 18.

In its first full week, about 110,000 meals were distributed at participating Ysleta ISD sites combined.

Currently, children must be inside the vehicle for drivers to receive meals. However, the state is working to lift this restriction; any updates will be communicated to Ysleta ISD families.

Effective Monday, March 30, the district will add an additional four “Grab & Go” sites, reflected in the list below:

Capistrano Elementary School
Constance Hulbert Elementary School
Desertaire Elementary School
Hacienda Elementary School
Ramona Elementary School
R.E.L. Washington Elementary School
Tierra Del Sol Elementary School
Bel Air Middle School
Eastwood Middle School
Del Valle Middle School
Parkland Middle School
Bel Air High School
Del Valle High School
Eastwood High School
Hanks High School
Parkland High School
Riverside High School
Ysleta High School

***

***Clint ISD Closed Indefinitely Due to Coronavirus Pandemic (3/27/2020)

As we continue to stay abreast of all incoming information regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the health and well-being of our students and staff will always be a top priority for Clint ISD.

As our local, state and federal government response to the Coronavirus pandemic evolves, decisions made by Clint ISD will also continue to be revised to ensure the safety of students and staff.

Clint ISD will remain closed indefinitely in accordance with City of El Paso Department of Public Health guidance.

During the closure, teachers and essential staff will report to work and/or work from home in order to support continued instruction and district operations.

The Clint ISD Remote Learning Plan will continue to provide at home instruction for our students. Teachers and District personnel will be available to support parents and students. Contact information can be found online.

Meals will continue to be available for pick-up for all children ages 1-18 at all schools and various bus drop-off locations Monday through Friday.

Students and staff are asked to remain at home and follow health department guidelines regarding the spread of Coronavirus.

Please visit Clint ISD’s website or follow them on social media for updates.

***

*** CANUTILLO ISD TO REMAIN CLOSED INDEFINITELY  (3/27/2020)

Canutillo ISD will now remain closed indefinitely. However, online learning begins Monday, March 30. Visit our website to download the Remote Learning Toolkit.

***

***UTEP President Wilson release update on emergency assistance, Maymester, Summer and Fall  (3/27/2020)

Thanks to everyone for everything you are doing to keep people healthy and manage the shift to online learning for the remainder of the semester. I appreciate the professionalism and the positive attitudes of everyone in this unprecedented situation.

Making A Difference

Over 1,000 of our low-income students have received emergency assistance through UTEP to get computers or wifi hotspots so that they can finish the semester by distance. Kudos to Student Affairs and Financial Aid for figuring out how to get that done.

Institutional Advancement has raised over $7,300 from generous alumni and donors to help students in need.

Information Resources has tripled the capacity of our Virtual Private Network over the past week and has been working with the technology people in colleges to redirect traffic and keep people operating.

And faculty have been helping each other, rapidly learning new skills and shifting content online in preparation for next week. Thanks to all of you – particularly those who have never done online instruction before and are embracing the challenge.

There will be glitches and frustrations next week, to be sure. Let’s do everything we can to help each other and help our students.

Maymester and Summer

Over the past week, the faculty and leadership team have been evaluating how to adapt for Maymester and summer. Dr. Wiebe will be following up with more information for faculty, and Dr. Edens and his team will be getting information to students.

We’ve decided to move Maymester entirely online. For courses that just can’t transition to online, faculty will try, if possible, to move them later in the summer, either in traditional summer semesters or in a late July two-week session that would likely be more amenable to in-person delivery.

For summer semester, we are going to start enrolling students in online courses only. If the situation changes, we will open face-to-face sections. We will be encouraging faculty who are experienced in online instruction to offer courses this summer and opening more of our online courses to enrollment through Finish@UT.

Again, more information to follow from the Provost and Deans.

Fall

For now, we will continue to plan a normal fall schedule and continue to monitor the situation.

Health

While so many of you are working remotely from home, I wanted to encourage all of you to follow all of the best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We have had three staff members and one student test positive for COVID-19 after traveling. When that happens, we immediately work with them to identify any contacts they may have had at UTEP and where, if at all, they were on campus. Then we let all of you (and the public) know, while protecting their privacy. We think that is the best thing to do for all of us.

UTEP does have a number of students and faculty who returned from abroad who are in self-quarantine.  We check in with them every day and see how they are doing.

This brings up an issue on which we need your help. Normally, you would call in and let your supervisor know that you are staying home because you are sick. Now, I’m asking you to call your supervisor and let them know if you are feeling ill so that the UTEP Office of Environmental Health and Safety can connect with you every day and monitor your symptoms. Otherwise, we won’t know about it and we can’t help you or help protect and monitor others.

Again, thanks for everything you are doing to keep educating our students during a very unusual time.

Regards,

Heather Wilson

President

P.S. Glad the earthquake yesterday was mild. You can’t make this up . . . :@)

***

***NMSU Aggie Cupboard works to meet demand during COVID-19 pandemic (3/27/2020)

In the days and weeks since COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, empty grocery store shelves have become an all-too-common sight.

But New Mexico State University’s on-campus food pantry, Aggie Cupboard, is working to ensure students, staff and faculty facing food insecurity have access to pantry staples during this time of crisis.

Aggie Cupboard, founded in 2012 on a mission to provide free supplementary food assistance to community members attending or working at NMSU and Doña Ana Community College, has experienced a two-fold increase in clientele since concerns over COVID-19 started escalating earlier this month, said Aggie Cupboard Director Meg Long.

During the week of March 15, Aggie Cupboard volunteers distributed approximately 2,483 pounds of nonperishable food items to 191 clients, said Long, who noted that she sees an average of 70 to 80 clients per week during a typical spring semester.

++To read the complete article, click here.

~~To keep up to date with all news from Las Cruces & Southern New Mexico visit our partners at Las Cruces Today

***

*** Texas Attorney General Pax­ton: Local Gov­ern­ments Must Allow the Sale of Firearms (3/27/2020)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued a legal opinion following a request from Representative Dustin Burrows regarding the sales of firearms in Texas municipalities and counties.

The opinion concludes that municipal and county authorities may not use emergency powers to regulate or restrict the sale of firearms.

“State law provides several emergency powers to local governments to control movement within their region during a disaster, which serves our communities well during public health events like the one we’re fighting now. However, local regulation of the sale, possession, and ownership of firearms is specifically prohibited under Texas law,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Under our laws, every Texan retains their right to purchase and possess firearms.” 

Under the Texas Local Government code, municipal governments possess the limited authority to regulate the use of firearms during a disaster; however, that authority does not extend to the regulation of transfer, possession, ownership or sale of firearms.

Read a copy of the opinion.

***

***NM Governor: K-12 school closings must continue to prevent potential spread of COVID-19   (3/27/2020)

New Mexico public education will shift to a learn-at-home model as schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state education and child care officials announced Friday.​

The decision is part of a two-pronged plan to protect New Mexicans from COVID-19 and ensure that children are protected, fed and educated and that families are supported through this crisis.

The governor previously ordered all public schools closed for three weeks, March 16-April 3, but warned at the time that an extension could be needed. It came Friday with a new executive order that extends the closing through the end of the school year. See answers to Frequently Asked Questions here.

New Mexico had 136 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon, including some that are being investigated as community spread, the state Health Department said. School closings are designed to minimize community spread.

“We’re working very hard to contain the virus, and we have to continue to take aggressive steps to mitigate spread and protect New Mexicans of every age all across the state. It is more important than ever that we make sure all New Mexicans are heeding the imperative to stay home,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “Keeping schools closed is one of the most important tools we have to support the social distancing that can help us reduce and mitigate the spread of the virus.”

“Schools will not be required to make up the missed instructional days between March 16 and April 3, but for the remaining weeks of the school year to be waived, districts must develop both technology-based and non-technology-based continuous learning plans,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

“We know that this decision will have tremendous implications for our families, but we must act to keep our communities safe and healthy,” Stewart said. “We also know that we have extraordinary teachers, support staff and school administrators in New Mexico. If the temporary closure period has shown us anything, it’s that our creative educators and school support staff are committed to meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of our students in challenging circumstances.”

High school credits will be awarded based on flexible approaches, including completion of work, demonstration of competency for course completion and expanded equivalency like work experience. The Public Education Department also recommends schools move to pass/no credit rather than grades during this period.

“While it can be difficult to view the current situation with anything beyond anxiety and apprehension, we believe the wide-reaching consequences of this moment present a tremendous opportunity to transform education to serve all students, especially students who have traditionally been furthest from opportunity,” said Deputy Secretary Kara Bobroff.

“The decisions we make today are made with all of our students in mind. During this unprecedented time, we will continue to build into the public education system healing opportunities for students, families, communities and all New Mexicans,” she said.

Public colleges and universities are not included in the closure order, but most have either extended their spring breaks, moved classes online or both.

School-based health centers, educational programming for youth in facilities, and licensed child care facilities (centers and homes) serving workers whose jobs have been deemed essential will continue operating.

The closing plan includes these provisions:

SPECIAL NEEDS
Students with special needs will receive all feasible supports and accommodations that can be delivered while maintaining safe social-distancing. School districts must continue to support the transition of children from early intervention into preschool special education. Schools offering behavioral health services will remain open for that purpose.

HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS
Individual districts will design measures by which seniors can demonstrate eligibility for graduation. Those measures could include testing, completing a series of assignments, achieving a set score on a college entrance exam or demonstrating applied work experience. Schools will be required to identify and support students in danger of not being able to graduate.

High school seniors will have until June 19 to demonstrate eligibility, and those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer; they can also appeal to their local school board or to the secretary. No student will be denied graduation for lack of access to demonstrate competency.

Actual graduation ceremonies will be postponed or held virtually, depending on the prevailing public health order at the time.

Many high school seniors will have completed a college entrance exam already; additionally, many higher education institutions are expected to waive that requirement, and both the ACT and College Board are considering offering those exams in the summer.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT
Advanced placement exams will be offered online and will be limited to material students should have covered up to March. Accommodations will be made for those students who need access to technology to take the tests.

SCHOOL PERSONNEL
School personnel and contractors will remain on call and continue being paid as usual. Districts have already received guidance on activities employees can continue performing during the closure. Bus contractors are encouraged to continue operating bus routes to deliver food and hard-copy lessons. Special education and other service contractors are encouraged to provide virtual services, collaborate with general education teachers and maintain documentation.

SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMS
Every New Mexico school district has a plan to continue providing childhood nutrition during this period. You can see those plans here.

The Public Education Department is also seeking permission to distribute Electronic Benefits Transfer cards that would allow qualifying families to purchase meals with their free breakfast/lunch allotment.

CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
With schools closed, some children may be more vulnerable to abuse and neglect in their homes. In addition, teachers, school administrators and other school staff are often the first to notice changes in behavior and appearance that may indicate abuse or neglect. New Mexicans must fill this void and be extra aware of the safety and well-being of children they know and those in their neighborhoods. Any citizen can report suspected child abuse or neglect by dialing #SAFE from their cell phone or by calling 1-855-333-SAFE from a land-line.

SUPPORTING FAMILIES
The Behavioral Health Division of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department is working with the New Mexico Human Services Department and managed care organizations to help providers and families create digital access to mental health services for children and youth.

COLLABORATING WITH NATIONS, TRIBES AND PUEBLOS
Tribes, pueblos and nations are located in some of the most rural parts of New Mexico and often experience extreme health care provider shortages. The governor and state agencies are collaborating with tribal leaders to support their needs in these times.

These state agencies will continue working with the tribes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Education to support students who attend BIE and tribally run schools: Indian Affairs Department, Public Education Department, Children, Youth and Families Department and Early Childhood Education and Care Department.

~~To keep up to date with all news from Las Cruces & Southern New Mexico visit our partners at Las Cruces Today

***

***Canutillo ISD to close until further notice  (3/27/2020)

The Canutillo Independent School District has extended its campus closures until further notice, in accordance to the City of El Paso’s announcement that a Shelter in Place rule has been enacted.

Students and staff are asked to remain at home and follow health department guidelines regarding the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Canutillo ISD staff tied to critical operational resources and distance learning are considered essential personnel and allowed under the Shelter in Place provision.

Distribution of electronic devices to families has begun. The district is distributing one electronic device per family who does not have either a home computer, laptop or tablet at home.  Parents will be contacted by their campus for distribution details.

The district’s online learning program will begin March 30. Visit our website to learn more about Online Learning and download The Remote Learning Toolkit via this link.

Meal distribution for children will continue during the closure. To view the current schedule, click here.

All other district events are postponed. Graduations will be postponed if health guidelines do not allow us to have them in May.

***

***Curbside iPad distribution underway in EPISD (3/27/2020)

The El Paso Independent School District will begin distributing iPads to families who do not have a computer or device in anticipation of the launch of EPISD@HOME, the District’s distance-learning program during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) related campus closures.

One iPad will be given to any family with students in grades kinder through fifth who do not have either a home computer, laptop or tablet at home. Students must be present at the time of distribution and parents must present the child’s student identification number.

Distribution will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 26; Friday, March 27; and Monday March 30 at every elementary school in the District.

EPISD staff at school locations will maintain social distancing and asks the public to comply with those guidelines as well. The distribution of devices is allowed under the recently enacted City of El Paso Stay Home, Work Safe rule.

Please note that the distribution is for elementary-school students only. Middle- and high-school students have a District-issued MacBook Air.

Given the limited amounts of devices in stock, families will be limited to one iPad. Families who have personal laptops, desktops or tablets are asked not to pick up a District iPad in order to help EPISD meet the demand for those in need.

Each campus will have a limited supply of devices. More distribution dates will be announced when new devices arrive in the District.

***

***El Paso Identifies 4 Additional COVID-19 Cases, total now at 25 (3/26/2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 26. This afternoon the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported four (4) new confirmed cases.

DPH officials say with more testing available the increase in cases does not come as a surprise.

“Drive-thru testing for specific groups will increase our numbers and allow us to have a better understanding of COVID-19 in our community,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority. “It’s important to keep in mind that those who test positive will be ordered to stay home and away from others. We should all be practicing social distancing even if we have not been tested.”

Officials are also highlighting the importance of social distancing and those who leave home should do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and children with them. As they make their way in the community they should also maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

Positive Cases in El Paso County, 17 female, 8 male:

Age Range

Number of Cases

Teens

2

20s

4

30s

7

40s

4

50s

3

60s

4

70s

1

Covering your cough, avoid touching your face, practicing regular handwashing, and cleaning common areas with disinfectant continue to be stressed. Local public health officials also want the public to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don’t improve they should call their doctor.

The 21-COVID hotline will be operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral services contact 2-1-1 Texas Call Center that is available 24/7 and select option six for more information.

Stay up-to-date with the latest information by subscribing to both the City and DPH social media platforms, and to visit www.epstrong.org for updates.

***

***Third UTEP Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19  (3/26/2020)

On Thursday, March 26, a third male employee of The University of Texas at El Paso tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee traveled to the same out-of-town event as the first two employees who tested positive and returned to El Paso on Thursday, March 12.  He is in self-isolation and recovering at home.

The employee had limited access to the Foster Stevens Center on March 13. The facility has been isolated and cleaned regularly with disinfectant. It was also closed and disinfected again March 24.

Campus officials and support services are in contact by phone with the employee on a daily basis.

The following are recommendations to stay safe:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash immediately after use.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

• Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.

For the latest updates on the University’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, click here.

***

***City urges public to avoid playground, workout equipment at city parks (3/26/2020)

To stop the spread of COVID-19 and for the safety of the public, the Parks and Recreation Department urges residents not to use playground equipment or workout stations if they visit City parks during the Stay Home, Work Safe order.

During the announcement of the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo advised that people can go to public parks and open recreation areas but are discouraged from using playground or outdoor exercise equipment.

In addition, the El Paso Public Health Department urges parents to keep children away from playground equipment because the virus can live on surfaces for hours, even days.

All Parks and Recreation facilities remain closed until further notice as a precautionary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parks and trails remain open to the public with some recommendations that include:

  • Maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance from others
  • Choose less populated parks and trails
  • Do not park in a crowded parking lot or use a crowded trail
  • Wash hands before and after each visit

“Fresh air and exercise are an important part of maintaining wellness during this unprecedented period in which we work to contain the outbreak of COVID-19 in our community,” said El Paso Parks and Recreation Department Interim Director Ben Fyffe. “Families are urged to use caution, avoid playgrounds and exercise equipment while still enjoying access to El Paso’s parks.”

Residents are encouraged to stay up-to-date with the latest COVID-19 information by subscribing to both the City of El Paso and DPH social media platforms and visit www.epstrong.org. Information is also available by calling the COVID-19 hotline (915) 212-6843 or (915) 21-COVID.

***

***Tax Office Closes for In-Person Services (3/26/2020)

The El Paso Consolidated Tax Office will be closed to the public for in-person services effective immediately, Thursday, March 26, until further notice, in response to the ongoing public safety concerns related to COVID-19.

While the Tax Office remains closed, taxpayers can still conduct business with the office by mail, phone or online. Taxpayers are encouraged to pay their property taxes through the following methods:

For additional information, please contact the Tax Office at (915) 212-0106, citytaxoffice@elpasotexas.gov or by visiting their website.

For more information about COVID-19, visit www.epstrong.org

***

*** Drive-Thru COVID-19 Specimen Collection Moves into Phase II, Seniors with Symptoms Targeted (3/26/2020)

Thursday morning, the Department of Public Health announced that the drive-thru COVID-19 specimen collection site will collect specimens of seniors 65 years of age or older who have a temperature of 99.6 F or higher.

“We are moving into the second phase of our testing and are now focusing our efforts on members of our community who may belong to high risk groups and could be more seriously affected by the disease,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, El Paso City/County Health Authority.

No doctor laboratory order is needed for seniors to have their specimens collected but they must meet the criteria of having a temperature of 99.6 F or higher.

The testing is free and requires no insurance coverage.

Seniors can make an appointment by calling (915) 494-0982 during operational hours of Monday thru Friday from 7am – 3pm.

Location of the collection specimen drive-thru site will be provided when the appointment is made.

Participants should not take any fever reducing medications prior to their appointment.

***

***Victims of domestic/dating violence, sexual assaults, stalking, and human trafficking can apply for a Protective Order online (3/26/2020)

The El Paso County Attorney’s Office remains fully operational, with most of its employees teleworking to offer a full range of services to the public.

Due to the City/County “Stay Home, Work Safe Order,” the Protective Order Unit has modified its procedures and it is now accepting Applications for Protective Orders electronically.

Members of the public who experience family violence, dating violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or human trafficking don’t have to come to our offices in person, and can now file for a Protective Order electronically by going to their webpage. Once there, users will find instructions and all the necessary forms to begin the application process in both English and Spanish.

The new process includes:

⦁ The applicant completes a Conflict Check Form and the Application for Protective Order found on our webpage;
⦁ Applicants will then e-mail the completed forms and a copy of their picture ID to the County Attorney’s Office Protective Order Unit;
⦁ Upon receipt of the application, the Protective Order Unit will conduct a conflict check. If there is no legal conflict, a member of the Protective Order Unit will contact the Applicant to conduct a telephone interview.
⦁ Applicants can sign electronically any necessary documents using free apps like Adobe Fill & sign.

Anyone that has questions about the new application process can e-mail the County Attorney’s Office Protective Order Unit at ProtectiveOrderApplications@gmail.com.

If an Applicant does not have access to the internet, they can call our office at 915-546-2153 and we can assist them over the phone.

***

***HACEP offices are closed but they are still functioning at 100 percent capacity (3/26/2020)

Although the majority of the employees are currently working from home, the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso is fully operating. The Housing Choice Vouchers annual certifications, issuance of vouchers, registration of new applications on the waiting list and payments to property owners continue.

The Housing Choice Voucher waitlist is currently open and will continue until July 3rd of 2020. All applications are to be made through the website www.hacep.org.

Property management companies are currently completing annual certifications and interim certifications due to the income changes or family compositions by appointment. All emergency work orders are being attended within 24 hours.

The CEO of The Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, Gerald Cichon, expresses the importance of keeping their residents safe through these hard times. “Our goal is to keep assisting the people of El Paso to the best of our capabilities while providing a safe environment for our residents as well as for our employees.”

For any inquiries, please contact us via telephone at (915) 849-3742 or via email at PIO@HACEP.org.

HACEP is currently experiencing an increased volume of calls and emails due to the offices being closed, but staff will be answering all calls and will provide assistance on how to register on the waiting list.

***

***Gov. Abbott signs order, travelers from New York area or New Orleans must self quarantine for 2 weeks (3/26/2020)

On Thursday afternoon Governor Greg Abbott announced a new executive order requiring those who travel back from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the City of New Orleans.

Travelers will be required to stay within their mandated quarantine location for 14 days or the duration of their stay in Texas – whichever is shorter.  Additionally, no one from the general population would be allowed to enter the quarantine area, unless they are a licensed medical professional.

Abbott said the regions had become ‘hot spots’ for the virus and that the steps were necessary to “get out in front of COVID-19.”

The order only applies to airway travel, travelers driving into the state are not subject to the mandatory quarantine.  Officials added that violating the quarantine order would be punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail.

Also during the news conference Abbott shared that over the previous seven days, nearly 16,000 Texas residents had been tested, with almost 1,500 of those testing positive.   He added that of those who tested positive, just over 100 people had been hospitalized, the rest were quarantined in their homes.

As of the time of his news conference, there have been 18 deaths related to the Coronavirus.

To view Governor Abbott’s news conference, click here (courtesy NBC News)

***

***DPS Limits Public Access to Buildings Due to COVID-19, Business Operations Still Remain Open (3/26/2020)

In response to COVID-19, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is limiting public access to department facilities to protect the public and our employees, promote social distancing and do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Despite limited physical access to our buildings, DPS remains open for business and continues to provide essential services to Texans as our employees conduct operations remotely; therefore, the public should experience minimal impact from this temporary change.

The department encourages the public to contact us by phone or email, and utilize our online services when available.

UPDATES TO SERVICES PROVIDED IN LIGHT OF COVID-19 CLOSURES:

Driver License Services: Last week, DPS was directed to extend the expiration date of Texas identification cards (ID), driver licenses (DL), commercial DLs (CDL) and election identification certificates (EIC), as well as close DL offices.

The temporary closure does not impact those seeking an initial CDL. Contact the DL team for CDL appointment information.

With regard to the extension, this means that if your Texas DL/CDL/ID/EIC card expires on or after March 13, 2020, it falls under the period that encompasses the State of Disaster Declaration related to COVID-19 and will remain valid for 60 days after which time DPS issues public notice that the extension period for this disaster declaration has been lifted. Many Texans are eligible to conduct their DL transactions online. We encourage you to check your eligibility today.

For more information about DL services and possible impacts related to COVID-19, click here.

  • Fingerprint Applicant Services of Texas (FAST): While many FAST locations remain open and continue to take appointments, some FAST locations are housed in facilities that have been closed by local authorities. Other than some site closures, the only other change to FAST location services in response to COVID-19 pertains to the location at 108 Denson Drive in Austin; this location previously accepted walk-ins and has transitioned to appointments only to help reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 and meet social distancing requirements.
  • Regulatory ServicesIf an individual is applying for or renewing a License to Carry (LTC) permit or a Private Security License, DPS continues to operate our regulatory services as normal. However, it is important to note that some of the required components for these types of licenses come from the private sector (for example: FAST fingerprinting services, LTC training courses), which are outside of our control. If you have questions regarding these services, contact our Regulatory Services team.

Resources for how to contact the department and the latest information surrounding our COVID-19 response can be found on our website at www.dps.texas.gov.

***

***Canutillo ISD distributes electronic devices to students (3/26/2020)

The Canutillo Independent School District will be distributing electronic devices to families Thursday March 26 and Friday March 27. Parents will be contacted by their campus for distribution details.
The district’s online learning program will begin March 30.
As the district deals with the effects of this pandemic and school closures, it is distributing one electronic device per family who does not have either a home computer, laptop or tablet at home.
“Our online learning curriculum maintains rigor and stimulating lessons to engage students in a home setting,” said Dr. Pedro Galaviz, Canutillo ISD Superintendent of Schools. “We have observed that teachers and parents are now working even closer together to advance learning opportunities for our students. We do not view this approach as a mere stopgap measure, but as an effective vehicle for innovative teaching and learning.”
CISD staff will be at the campuses to help maintain social distancing and asks the public to comply with those guidelines as well. The distribution of devices is allowed under the recently enacted City of El Paso Stay Home, Work Safe rule.

***

***Rapier Family Donates $1 Million To Feed Nearly 6K older adults in Texas, Florida (3/26/2020)

Philanthropists Kym and Dr. George Rapier have donated $1 million to the WellMed Charitable Foundation, which will award grants to local Meals on Wheels programs in Texas, Florida and New Mexico that will feed nearly 6,000 older adults.

A total of 5,849 older adults, many of them homebound seniors, are on a wait list in 14 communities in Texas and Florida for the Meals on Wheels program. The urgent need to serve this population is growing as older adults are asked to stay home as much as possible in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus.

The $1 million from the Rapiers and their non-profit organization Kym’s Angels Fund will allow Meals on Wheels to deliver more than 175,000 healthy, hot meals to this often under-served population for up to six weeks.

Grants to local Meals on Wheels program are being distributed through the non-profit WellMed Charitable Foundation.

Dr. Rapier is founder, chairman and CEO of WellMed Medical Management, Inc., a growing health care company that provides medical care and ancillary health care services to more than 640,000 adults in Texas and Florida. His wife Kym Rapier is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who serves as chief executor of the Rapier Family Foundation and its related funding charities.

The non-profit WellMed Charitable Foundation, which Dr. Rapier co-founded, is the philanthropic partner of WellMed. The Foundation supports caregivers and older adults in the communities that WellMed serves in Texas and Florida.

“I founded WellMed nearly 30 years ago to find a better way to deliver care to older adults,” Dr. Rapier said. “But we quickly realized that truly improving health care goes well beyond the services we provide in the exam room. It involves overcoming barriers that can keep this population from getting well and staying well, such as lack of transportation, education and nutrition.”

“But these grants will run out all too soon. Kym and I want to challenge other corporations, businesses and foundations to step up and support their local Meals on Wheels programs, food banks and other worthy charities that provide much-needed services to the communities where we live, work and play. We all must do our part to keep food on the table and eliminate hunger.”

Food insecurity among older adults is a growing concern, with more and more older adults being forced to choose between buying groceries and paying for essential prescription medication or the utility bill. That wrenching reality means some seniors go days without a meal.

According to Feeding America’s State of Senior Hunger in 2017 report, released in 2019, 5.5 million adults age 60 and older across the United States suffer from food insecurity, representing 7.7 percent of the population. The problem is worse among older adults in Texas (10.5 percent) and Florida (8.4 percent).

Hunger rates among this population spiked by 45 percent since 2001. At the current rate, the 8 million seniors may be considered food insecure by the year 2050.

“As a national association with members serving some 4 million older adults with congregate and home-delivered meals, we salute the generosity of the Rapier family and WellMed. This is the kind of tangible philanthropy we need more of in our nation,” said Bob Blancato, executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Service programs, a leading advocacy non-profit organization for older adults based in Washington D.C.

“A recently release report by the Government Accountability Office noted that more than half of all programs serving home-delivered meals have waiting lists, which can contribute to not only hunger but later malnutrition. Eliminating these waiting lists for up to six weeks will be a lifeline for these older adults, while providing an opportunity for the programs to find additional funding.”

The WellMed Charitable Foundation is making food insecurity among older adults the major focus of its efforts in 2020, with plans to announce more grants to local charities from WellMed employee donations in the coming months.

Here are the Meals on Wheels programs receiving grants:

Texas

  • El Paso (and Las Cruces, N.M.): City of Las Cruces

o   $15,000 – 3,000 meals

  • Austin: Meals on Wheels of Central Texas

o   $70,200 – 14,040 meals

  • Corpus Christi: City of  Corpus Christi Senior Services Division

o   $69,150 – 13,830 meals

  • Dallas: VNA Texas

o   $60,000 – 12,000 meals

  • Fort Worth: Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County

o   $10,000 – 2,000  meals

  • Rio Grande Valley: Amigos del Valle

o   $286,280 – 57,256 meals

  • San Antonio: Meals on Wheels of San Antonio

o   $60,000 – 12,000 meals

***

***Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans & Their Families During COVID-19 (3/26/2020)

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics at Endeavors in El Paso, as well as San Antonio and Killeen, have adapted to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, by continuing to provide support through virtual appointments.

All three clinics are part of Cohen Veterans Network, a national not for profit organization serving veterans and military families via 15 clinics across the country.

Post-9/11 Veterans, including National Guard and Reserves, as well as military family members, can fulfill their mental health care appointments for depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleep problems, etc. via face-to-face video therapy, known as Telehealth. This service is easily accessible through a smartphone, tablet, or computer and will be utilized until further notice.

“We are proud to offer Telehealth to support not only our Veterans but their family members,” said Endeavors President & CEO, Jon Allman, “Telehealth is confidential and highly-effective.”

Clients also have access to case management support and local referrals to help with other stresses like unemployment, finances, housing, and legal issues. Each clinic is developing ways to provide online support groups and community events and will provide updates on social media: @CohenClinicSA, @CohenClinicEP, @CohenClinicKN.

To schedule a Telehealth appointment, please contact the clinics:

El Paso 915-320-1390 or EPclinic@endeavors.org

San Antonio 210-399-4838 or SAclinic@endeavors.org

Killeen 254-213-7847 or KNclinic@endeavors.org

To find out more about Telehealth, click here or call 833-CVN-VETS.

***

***Fort Bliss announces 7 confirmed of Coronavirus cases (3/25/2020)

During a Wednesday night virtual town hall, led by Garrison Commander Col. Stewart James, officials announced that the post now had a total of seven Coronavirus cases.

During his portion of the town hall, Col. Matthew Eichberg the coroanvirus cases included four reservists from New York, as well as two civilian employees, one other person.  Col. Eichberg added they were all in isolation.

Also announced during the streamed town hall was that the post was on a heightened level of security – “HPCON Charlie – short for Health Protection Condition. HPCON Charlie is the second highest alert the post can operate under; the highest, most restrictive level being HPCON Delta.

According to the Department of Defense, HPCON Charlie indicates “substantial risk and sustained community transmission of the COVID-19 disease.”

As part of the new restrictions, both the Underwood Golf Course, as well as the Fort Bliss Rod and Gun Club were closed. Fort Bliss officials also released a graphic, outlining the changes and cancellations.

***

***Health officials confirm city’s coronavirus count now at 21 (3/25/2020)

During a Wednesday afternoon news conference, El Paso Department of Public Health’s Dr. Hector Ocaranza announced that the city now has 21 cases of Coronavirus, up from 12 on Tuesday.

Dr. Ocaranza added that most of the new patients are between 30 and 50 years of age.  The new total does not include the 4 soldiers at Fort Bliss who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials added that approximately 100 COVID-19 tests had been performed by the City’s Department of Public Health since Monday.

Also during the news conference, officials strongly urged El Pasoans to follow the city’s day old ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ order.

“Social distancing continues to be a major concern even in the wake of public health orders for residents to Stay Home, Work Safe. Those who leave home should do so by themselves and avoid bringing children or seniors with them. As they make their way in the community they should also maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.”

Covering your cough, avoid touching your face, practicing regular handwashing, and cleaning common areas with disinfectant continue to be stressed. Local public health officials also want the public to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don’t improve they should call their doctor.

The public is reminded that COVID-19 is not an airborne disease like measles. It is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of people who are nearby or possibly inhaled into the lungs.

Preliminary information about COVID-19 shows that about 80 percent of cases are mild and most people do not need hospitalization. However, older adults and people with underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes are at a greater risk of complications.

DPH officials continue to urge residents to follow prevention measures and stay up-to-date with the latest information by subscribing to both the City and DPH social media platforms, and to visit www.epstrong.org for updates.

Age Range Number of Cases
Teens 2
20s 4
30s 4
40s 4
50s 2
60s 4
70s 1

The 2-1-1 Texas Call Center is available 24/7. Callers can dial 2-1-1 and select option six for more information. Additionally, the COVID-19 hotline will be operational from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

***

***IDEA Public Schools to distribute meals to any students in the area (3/25/2020)

Officials with IDEA Public Schools El Paso announced Wednesday afternoon the expansion of their free meal pick up to all area students.

Everyday, El Paso continues to show their generosity and commitment to families, IDEA Public Schools has stepped up and is meeting the needs of the community.

To help support students during this school closure, curbside meal service will be provided at every IDEA campus to students 18 years old and younger, regardless if they are or are not an IDEA Public Schools student.

Breakfast and lunch are available Mondays-Fridays for pickup from 7:00 am to 10:00 am.

Students 18 years old or younger must be present to receive their meals. 2515 free meals have been served so far in El Paso

Visit IDEA Public Schools 3 Locations at:

IDEA Mesa Hills, 405 Wallenberg Dr, El Paso, TX 79912

IDEA Edgemere, 15101 Edgemere Blvd, El Paso, TX 79938

IDEA Rio Vista, 210 N Rio Vista Rd, Socorro, TX 79927

For more information about IDEA Public Schools, visit them on Facebook and on the web.

***

***Curbside iPad distribution starts in EPISD Thursday (3/25/2020)

The El Paso Independent School District will begin distributing iPads to families who do not have a computer or device in anticipation of the launch of EPISD@HOME, the District’s distance-learning program during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) related campus closures.

One iPad will be given to any family with elementary-school students who does not have either a home computer, laptop or tablet at home. Students must be present at the time of distribution and parents must present the child’s student identification number.

Distribution will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 26; Friday, March 27; and Monday March 30 at every elementary school in the District.

EPISD staff at school locations will maintain social distancing and asks the public to comply with those guidelines as well. The distribution of devices is allowed under the recently enacted City of El Paso Stay Home, Work Safe rule.

Please note that the distribution is for elementary-school students only. Middle- and high-school students have a District-issued MacBook Air.

Given the limited amounts of devices in stock, families will be limited to one iPad. Families who have personal laptops, desktops or tablets are asked not to pick up a District iPad in order to help EPISD meet the demand for those in need.

Each campus will have a limited supply of devices. More distribution dates will be announced when new devices arrive in the District.

***

***Paso del Norte Health Foundation launches COVID-19 Information Hub  (3/25/2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost every facet of daily life. To help answer questions related to those changes, many of which will be long lasting, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation is launching the El Paso COVID-19 Information Hub.

The website at EPcovid19.org.

“While the local health response to the COVID-19 pandemic is being led by the City of El Paso Department of Public Health in partnership with the Office of Emergency Management, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation created the El Paso COVID-19 Information Hub to serve as a community center of local resources which can help you and your family navigate this new normal, including information for parents, veterans, employers, employees and others,” said Tracy J. Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.

Organizations wishing to submit information about resources that they have available should visit EPcovid19.org and click on the “Submit Community Resources” button in the upper right corner.

Additionally, non-profit organizations in the region can share their needs for in-kind donations. Information will be updated on the site once moderators have approved it.

“The Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s vision is to ensure that the people of our region have the knowledge, resources, support and environment to live happy, healthy and productive lives,” Yellen said. “We encourage our community to use this site not only to get information but to share information with others.”

***

***Salvation Army asking for community’s help as demand rises for assistance (3/25/2020)

With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing rapidly in communities throughout the state, The Salvation Army of El Paso has significantly amplified its efforts to diminish the spread of the virus and ensure critical service, especially among the homeless and other vulnerable populations.

Requests for service have risen and a further spike is expected in the next few weeks and months. While services remain in place for the most vulnerable citizens, such as the homeless and others living near the poverty level, many people who have been able to pay their way prior to this outbreak may now face extreme difficulties due to mandated business closings. Countless residents now have no income and are in need of financial assistance.

“We are already seeing the effects and expect that to grow signifantly as this situation plays out,” said Major Florian Estrada of The Salvation Army. “So many people living with extremely tight budgets aren’t able to skip just one paycheck, much less weeks or months without pay. They are turning to us for help.”

The Salvation Army provides service to individuals and families in every zip code in the state and is working diligently to ensure people have access to food, shelter, and desperately needed services like housing and utility assistance.

In El Paso this includes preventive measures to protect our clients, volunteers and staff. Although our space is currently limited, our Family Shelter remains open and rooms are available for families, single women and men.

Our Social Services caseworkers are working diligently and continuing to provide services to our community from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Our pantry is distributing food boxes Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and our soup kitchen is distributing to go dinners at 6:00 pm daily.

The extra need is daunting, particularly due to the nature of the virus, which has caused the postponement or cancellation of numerous Salvation Army fundraising events, many that had been scheduled for the spring.

“There is a concern that the effect of this unprecedented event could be felt for years,” Estrada said. “We want to be here to provide basic needs to those we already serve and to have plenty for the new generation of need caused by this virus.”

Public support is essential, maybe moreso now than anytime in recent history.

“If those able are willing to help those who are in need, our state and nation will likely rise out of this devastating situation more quickly with fewer residual effects on the men, women and children suffering right now,” Estrada said. “The Salvation Army is committed to serving those who need our help, and we are thankful for generous public support that allows us to do so. We don’t want to turn anyone in need away, and the only way we can accomplish this is through generous public support.”

Donations also will help ensure the safety of those who depend on Salvation Army programs and services, along with the safety of staff and volunteers. The organization is working with health officials at the local, state, and federal levels.

In El Paso, The Salvation Army is working in close partnership with FEMA, CDC, DHW, and HHS.

To contribute to The Salvation Army’s efforts in your community, click here.

***

***EPWater temporarily suspends sandbag distribution (3/25/2020)

In the interest of social distancing and limiting in-person interactions due to international concern about Coronavirus (COVID-19), El Paso Water is temporarily suspending sandbag distribution until further notice.

The sandbag distribution site at 4801 Fred Wilson is closed, and the opening of satellite distribution sites are on hold until further notice.

“We are doing everything in our power to protect the health of both our employees and customers,” said EPWater President and CEO John Balliew.

***

***YISD launches new Health Hotline to answer COVID-19 questions (3/25/2020)

To help support our community in these unprecedented times and ease anxiety among families, the Ysleta Independent School District launched its new Health Hotline Wednesday to answer questions regarding COVID-19, in cooperation with the city health department.

Ysleta ISD administration has worked with the City of El Paso Department of Public Health since Monday to establish the new hotline, which connects callers with one of 61 Ysleta ISD nurses working from home who have been trained to provide information about the Coronavirus Disease in both English and Spanish.

The Ysleta ISD Health Hotline number is 915-434-1092, and it will be available for calls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

All Ysleta ISD parents and community members are encouraged to call the hotline with any questions they may have regarding COVID-19, which has prompted all El Paso-area school districts to temporarily shutter their campuses.

District officials say they’re hopeful this new hotline will not only assist in easing parent and community anxiety regarding the Coronavirus Disease, but provide much-needed support to city and county health officials in disseminating up-to-date information on the disease.

The Ysleta ISD Health Hotline launches just one day after the city health department announced its new Coronavirus Hotline, which can be accessed by calling 915-21-COVID – or 915-212-6843 – from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

This city hotline allows the 2-1-1 Texas call center to instead focus on referrals to services for those impacted by business closures and unemployment, officials said.

In addition to announcing the new city hotline Tuesday, the city and county of El Paso issued a “Stay Home, Work Safe” Order that directs the public to remain at their residence except to obtain essential services, or engage in essential activities/work for essential business/government services.

***

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