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Tuesday , March 31 2020
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Home | Tag Archives: Corona Virus

Tag Archives: Corona Virus

Gov. Abbott announces modified Executive Order, extends social distancing thru 4/30; EPISD: New rule allows for parent pick up of meals; Sun Metro updates social distancing rules for buses; Walmart issues new guidelines for employees; No new City/County social gathering guidelines yet

Area government offices, school districts, and other organizations continue to rapidly release information on their Coronavirus (COVID-19) preparations and guidelines.

This story will be updated as new information arrives.

City Resources & FAQ  |   Direct link to ALL city closures  |  Department of Health Information site

***Governor Abbott announces modification of Executive Order, extends social distancing guidelines thru April 30  (3/31/2020)

On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott addressed the state, releasing the new numbers of those Texans tested for COVID-19 and those found to be positive for Coronavirus; as well as extending the social distancing guidelines through at April 30, with schools remaining closed statewide through May 4th, unless otherwise extended.

Over 42,000 tests had been administered statewide, with 3,266 Texans testing positive.  The death toll for the virus now stands at 41 victims.

Noting that those found positive for COVID-19, the governor shared that they were infected before any social distancing guidelines were in place.

Governor Abbott also announce a modification to his original Executive Order, with respect to social distancing norms and those essential businesses and essential service protocols associated with the order.

The order extens

“The goal is to limit personal interactions, while still having freedom to go to grocery store and do tasks associated with the essential services,” Abbott said.

The governor referenced everyday activities – going to the store, bank, getting gas, shopping at hardware stores and hunting and fishing – as essential activities, so long as those involved were following the social distancing guidelines set out by officials.  Abbott also reminded the public that essential activities included physical activity, saying exercise was crucial during this time.

The Governor also mentioned the importance of religious activities in the everyday lives of Texas, as part of those essential activities, adding that the religious activities – either remotely administered or in person – had to follow the previously mentioned social distancing rules.

Abbott again reminded residents of the list of essential services, and said that the activities surrounding those services would continue.

“Texans continue to rise to this occasion…and we will get through this,” Abbott added.

To view the Governor’s complete news conference, click here.

***

***New rules allow parents to pick up meals for children starting Wednesday (3/31/2020)

Parents picking up free breakfast and lunch for children at any of the 50 distribution sites in the El Paso Independent School District will no longer need to bring their children to receive the meals.

New federal and state rules starting Wednesday will allow EPISD to distribute meals to parents during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) related closures without their children present if they follow one of two procedures.

Parents starting today can bring their children to a distribution site to be officially counted by EPISD Food and Nutrition staff. Once counted, a parent will be issued a card noting how many children live in that household, and that card can be presented every day from then on to receive meals.

A second option for parents is to bring one of five documents to show proof that a child lives in that household. The parent will then be issued a card noting the number of children in the home, which can be presented every day from then on to receive meals.

Parents need to present one of the following documents to participate in this option:

• An official school enrollment document (letter or email)
• Student report cards
• School attendance records from a school district parent portal
• Birth certificate for children not enrolled in school
• Student ID cards

The cards issued will be site-specific and will be valid only at the school that issued them. Parents are asked to use the meal distribution service only at one location.

EPISD offers free take-home breakfast and lunch for children ages 1-18, regardless of their enrollment status with the District. Meals are distributed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday through the school closures at 50 sites throughout the District.

Service is curbside and EPISD staff practice social distancing in accordance to the health guidelines outlined by the City of El Paso’s Public Health Department.

EPISD MEAL DISTRIBUTION SITES

***

***Sun Metro provides update on Social Distancing due to COVID-19 (3/31/2020)

Effective immediately, Sun Metro will take extra steps to safeguard its passengers and employees by implementing the new ‘Seat Closed’ rule.

Upon boarding from the rear doors, passengers will notice ‘Seat Closed’ signs on every other seat to make it easier for them to follow the more aggressive social distancing protocol of one seated passenger per row.

Highly utilized routes will have stand-by buses available to assist with transporting passengers. As a reminder, Sun Metro is waiving fares during this health crisis to limit exposure amongst passengers and drivers alike and passengers should ride only for essential activities such as to get medications, healthcare, groceries or get to work if they are an essential worker.

Sun Metro also encourages passengers to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines:

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow

For more information about Sun Metro, visit sunmetro.net or call (915) 212-3333. Like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @SunMetro.

For more information about the City of El Paso’s COVID-19 containment efforts, visit www.epstrong.org

***

***Walmart announces additional steps for the health and safety of Associates (3/31/2020)

As our company and country continue to deal with the spread of COVID-19, we remain focused on the health and safety of our associates.

We continue to follow and communicate the CDC’s recommended guidance on behaviors like washing hands, social distancing and the cleaning of surfaces. And we have made significant operational changes in our stores, clubs, DCs and FCs this month – such as closing overnight for cleaning, starting to install sneeze guards at checkout and pharmacies, using wipes and sprayers for carts, putting in signing for social distancing and implementing a COVID-19 emergency leave policy.

Today we’re sharing additional steps we’re taking to promote a safe and healthy workplace.

Temperature Checks

As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, we’ve decided to begin taking the temperatures of our associates as they report to work in stores, clubs and facilities, as well as asking them some basic health screening questions. We are in the process of sending infrared thermometers to all locations, which could take up to three weeks.

Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary. The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.

Many associates have already been taking their own temperatures at home, and we’re asking them to continue that practice as we start doing it on-site. And we’ll continue to ask associates to look out for other symptoms of the virus (coughing, feeling achy, difficulty breathing) and never come to work when they don’t feel well.

Our COVID-19 emergency leave policy allows associates to stay home if they have any COVID-19 related symptoms, concerns, illness or are quarantined – knowing that their jobs will be protected.

Masks and Gloves

Today we are also sharing more guidance with our associates regarding masks and gloves.

While the CDC and other health officials do not recommend masks or gloves for healthy people who don’t ordinarily use them for their jobs, we will make them available — as supplies permit — for associates who want to wear them.

The masks will arrive in 1-2 weeks. They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators – which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them, while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.

6-20-100 Guidance

This week we are also sharing a new framework with associates regarding healthy behaviors at work. We’re asking them to remember three numbers: 6, 20 and 100.

6 feet is the amount of space people should keep from others, when possible, to maintain social distancing.

20 seconds is the amount of time people should take to wash their hands with soap and water.

And 100 is the temperature that someone should stay home with.

We will continue to consult with health officials and experts inside and outside Walmart as this situation evolves. We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being.

John Furner, President & CEO, Walmart U.S. and Kath McLay, President & CEO, Sam’s Club

***

*** City/County officials announce (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, 30-40 fellow firefighters in quarantine (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; however he had been in contact with ’30 to 40′ other firemen, who were now in quarantine.

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

***

***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.

***

***Five additional cases of Coronavirus found in El Paso  (3/24/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported a total of 12 positive cases within the County of El Paso.

As the number of tests conducted by private laboratories increase, the City of El Paso will only report out El Paso County positive cases. This number will not include Fort Bliss cases.

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.

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) COVID-19 hotline (915) 212-6843 or (915) 21-COVID is available for questions.  The 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.

2-1-1 Texas Call Center will focus on referrals to services for those impacted by business closures and unemployment.

***

***City offers drive thru COVID-19 Sample Collection to residents with Doctor’s Orders (3/24/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH), the Border Regional Advisory Council (BorderRAC), and other public health partners are collecting specimens to test for COVID-19.

Samples are being collected for first responders, healthcare workers, and patients with a doctor’s order. Only those members of the community who have met the testing criteria and obtained a doctor’s order for testing will be allowed entrance. The ordering doctor will schedule an appointment for the drive-thru collection site for the patient.

Local doctors and clinics that cannot collect specimens for testing have already begun to use this system.

“We are implementing a system so people who do not need emergency room care can be sampled and tested while not overwhelming the healthcare system,” said Wanda Helgesen, BorderRAC Executive Director.

To read the entire story, CLICK HERE.

***

***Two UTEP Employees Test Positive for COVID-19 (3/24/2020)

On Tuesday, March 24, two male employees of The University of Texas at El Paso tested positive for COVID-19. The employees traveled to an out-of-town event and returned to El Paso on Thursday, March 12.

Both employees are in self isolation and recovering at home.

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

One of the employees had limited access into the Foster Stevens Basketball Center and the Larry K. Durham Sports Center on March 13. Both facilities have been isolated and have been cleaned regularly with disinfectant.

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, please visit UTEP’s coronavirus page.

***

*** YISD expands hours of drive-through meal service (3/24/2020)

In order to better serve our community during the weeks of school closure, the Ysleta Independent School District has expanded the hours of its drive-through meal service at 14 select campuses, where parents/guardians may pull up to the schools to receive meals for all eligible children under 18 who are present inside the vehicle.

Effective Wednesday, March 25, both breakfast and lunch meals for children will be distributed curbside to children inside vehicles that arrive between the expanded hours of 7:30 to 11 a.m. on weekdays at the following 14 campuses:

Capistrano Elementary School
Constance Hulbert Elementary School
Desertaire Elementary School
R.E.L. Washington Elementary School
Bel Air 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

In these first two days of the drive-through meal service, Ysleta ISD employees provided more than 13,000 breakfast and lunch meals at all 14 sites.

During the weeks of school closure, Ysleta ISD remains committed to assisting its families in accordance with city and county health officials and directives, and will continue to monitor all developments regarding COVID-19 as it relates to the Ysleta ISD community.

***

*** EPISD meal distribution continues through Stay Home, Work Safe rule (3/24/2020)

Meal preparation and distribution will continue thru the mandatory ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ period here in El Paso.

“Families are allowed to leave their home to pick up meals and then head back home to eat them,” EPISD officials shared. “Meals are passed out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with our employees are practicing social distancing to make sure they’re as safe as possible.”

***

***EPISD to pay subs, temps during school closures (3/24/2020)

The El Paso Independent School District approved new guidelines that will allow payments to be made to substitute teachers and temporary employees during the COVID-19 related school closures.

Trustees on Tuesday approved a resolution drafted by the administration that will give substitutes and temporary employees who have worked with the District since at least Jan. 1, 2020 some compensation.

“We are happy to be able to provide this peace of mind for our subs and temporary employees during these uncertain times,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera. “As one of the largest employers in the city, this move will have a positive impact on the financial
wellbeing of El Pasoans as they brace themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added. “We hope this bring some comfort and relief.”

EPISD policies already allowed the compensation of its salaried and hourly employees under emergency guidelines. However, payment to non-permanent employees like substitutes and temps required Board approval and administrative review.

Under the plan, substitutes and temps will receive twice-a-month compensation that average their earnings from EPISD in January and February in 15-day increments.

This payment option will be in place only during the time the District is closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

***

*** City, County officials announce mandatory ‘Stay Home -Work Safe’ order for area, goes into effect at 11:59P Tuesday EVENING

In an ongoing effort to suppress the spread of COVID-19, the City and the County of El Paso have issued a “Stay Home, Work Safe” Order for the area that will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, and be in effect until further notice.

El Paso City Mayor Dee Margo, El Paso County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego and Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza announced Tuesday morning the details of the new joint City-County order.

The order, the most stringent measures local officials have taken so far to address the worldwide public health crisis, is directing the public to remain at their residence except to obtain essential services or engage in essential activities and work for essential business and government services.

“We must protect the health and safety of this community. We cannot wait until it is too late, so we must continue working to stay ahead of the wave of cases and help flatten the curve by suppression of this virus,” said El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. “It is very important that residents and businesses cooperate to make this effort as successful as possible to keep our community healthy.”

“We are committed to keeping this community safe and healthy. While the effort is aggressive, there is no question that it will be effective in limiting COVID-19 exposure to the public,” said County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego. “We all must realize that our actions and inactions could have a lasting effect on the entire the community, this order will help ensure positive outcomes for the health of El Paso.”

The order applies to everyone in El Paso County to work safe and stay home with the exceptions of essential businesses and activities; to include but not limited to emergency personnel, healthcare personnel, groceries, financial, critical trades, postal services, food delivery or pick-up, home-based care, childcare, and those performing essential government functions.

The order will continue until further notice and those who are found violating it could face a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or be jailed for up to 180 days. To report non-compliance, please email COVIDCompliance@elpasotexas.gov.

For more information, visit www.EPStrong.orgRead the complete order belowStay Home, Work Safe Order

***

***  UTEP issues letter regarding remote work for Student Employees (3/24/2020)

Miner Student Employees & Supervisors,

Due to ongoing developments with COVID-19 and changes in UTEP campus operations, a number of you likely have questions about how student workers will be affected, especially those who depend on university paychecks to cover their college expenses.

The health and well-being of our Miner community and the academic progress of our students are our top concerns, and we recognize that financial stability is an important element of student success.

As UTEP transitions to a remote workforce, we want to provide our student workers as much flexibility as possible to continue working. To that end, both student employees and supervisors should follow these guidelines:

  • Supervisors should enable student employees for remote work, exercising their full ability to flexibly identify activities, tasks and mechanisms for that work. We have provided some useful resources to help supervisors consider and develop various alternatives that are suitable for work assignments during the remote working period.
  • When working remotely, the student must have a Temporary Remote Work Agreement Form on file with their supervisor. This form can be found on the UTEP Temporary Remote Work Policy webpage.
  • To cover any gaps regarding their remote work options, student employees are empowered to work on their professional development. The Office of Human Resources has compiled a list of Online Professional Development Resources that can be accessed anytime from anywhere.

For students who have not yet done so, please contact your supervisor regarding your work assignment, completing your Temporary Remote Work Agreement, and with any questions you may have.  Thank you for your patience during this unprecedented time.

Best,

Mark McGurk
Vice President for Business Affairs

***

*** Planning and Inspections Notice City Departments Take Precautions Amid Coronavirus Concerns (3/24/2020)

In light of the “Stay Home, Work Safe” Order the Planning and Inspections Department, is taking a series of measures to protect employees and customers.

The department is temporarily limiting in-person interactions with customers to minimize the spread of the highly contagious disease.  Effective immediately the One-Stop Shop will temporarily close to walk-in customers.

Staff will continue to be available to receive and return calls, make appointments, and respond to emails. All contractor registrations expiring between now and April 30, 2020 will be automatically extended without penalty, provided bond and general liability documentation or up-to-date or are submitted via email.

Planning and Inspections will be accepting and processing applications and other development related documents by email and/or regular mail or electronic submittal. Meetings will be conducted via conference calls and/or webex/skype.

Customers are encouraged to visit the website to pay online or submit plans, or to learn how to use these online services. Customers may also use the Build El Paso Inspection App, available for iOS or Android users, or IVR to schedule inspections by calling (915)-313-6100.

***

*** Environmental Services Department COVID-19 Related Service Changes (3/24/2020)

Effective immediately, the City of El Paso Environmental Services Department (ESD) will only pickup household waste placed inside gray bins on collection days.

Previously for a small fee the department allowed customers to dispose of extra household trash by bagging the extra waste and placing the bagged waste on the curb next to their gray bins on their collection day.

To protect ESD drivers and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, the department is no longer allowing drivers to exit their vehicles to collect the extra, bagged trash placed on the curb.

CUSTOMERS SHOULD AVOID PLACING EXTRA BAGGED TRASH ON THE CURB. ONLY TRASH PLACED INSIDE A GRAY TRASH BIN WILL BE COLLECTED.

ESD reminds customers that all trash placed inside gray trash bins should bagged to prevent the waste from falling out of the bin.

For more information, please go online.

***

***TTUHSC El Paso Student with COVID-19 Self-Isolating  (3/24/2020)

We’ve been informed that a Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso student has contracted coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) while traveling in California. The student has been self-isolating in El Paso and has not been on the TTUHSC El Paso campus or in any affiliated clinics since their return to El Paso.

TTUHSC El Paso leadership is in direct communication with the student to help them through this challenging time. Our top priority remains focused on the safety and security of our campus community.

We encourage everyone to engage in proper sanitary practices such as frequently washing their hands, and cleaning surfaces in which they come into frequent contact. We also encourage everyone to practice smart social-distancing practices, such as maintaining a six-foot distance between individuals and avoiding large gatherings.

The El Paso Department of Public Health is also communicating with our student and the people they were in contact with.

For more information about TTUHSC El Paso’s response to COVID-19, click here.

***

***City Offers New Hotline to Field COVID-19 Questions (3/24/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is now offering information about COVID-19 via (915) 212-6843 or (915) 21-COVID.

The hotline will be operational effective immediately 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.

This new system will allow the 2-1-1 Texas call center to focus on referrals to services for those impacted by business closures and unemployment.

“This new hotline will be focused on answering questions about the disease itself and critical information regarding the COVID-19 impact to the members of our community,” said Ruth Castillo, DPH Preparedness Manager.

Local call takers will be up-to-date with information tailored to the El Paso Region. Callers will have the option to speak to someone in either English or Spanish and a language line is also available to translate more than 240 languages via this new number.

For more information, visit www.EPStrong.org.

***

***El Paso County Sheriff’s Office issues new guidelines regarding contact with citizens (3/24/2020)

In accordance with the Stay Home, Work Safe order by County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office will implement the following changes to limit Sheriff’s Office personnel/Citizen contact.

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

Online Reporting

Calls for service received that are not “in progress” and do not require a Deputy to be on scene, will be referred to complete their reports online. Reports can be filed Online.

Fingerprinting

Members of the public who require fingerprints are asked to adhere to these hours and plan accordingly. Walk-ins for this purpose are no longer permitted.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (noon).
Location: 3850 Justice Dr., El Paso, TX 79938.

Office of Evidence and Property/ Abandoned Motor Vehicle Section

The Sheriff’s Office is requesting citizens to contact the Office via telephone when asking to retrieve any personal property currently in Sheriff’s Office possession. This would specifically be any property or vehicle that has been stored by the Sheriff’s Office for either evidence or safekeeping.

Members of the public are encouraged to contact the following numbers to make an appointment to retrieve their property and/or vehicle. Walk-ins for this purpose will not be permitted at this time.

Public Affairs – 3850 Justice Dr. El Paso, Texas 79938 – www.EPCSO.org 

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Evidence and Property Section

The public should call 915-538-2283 to schedule an appointment.
The hours of retrieval are: Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Location: 3850 Justice Dr., El Paso, TX 79938.

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Abandoned Motor Vehicle Section

The public should call 915-538-2007 to schedule an appointment.
The hours of retrieval are: Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Location: 12501 Montana Ave. Unit F., El Paso, TX 79938.

***

***2020 Spaceport America Cup Cancelled  (3/24/2020)

Spaceport America and the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) have made the difficult decision to cancel the fourth annual Spaceport America Cup that was scheduled for June 16 – 20, 2020 at Spaceport America.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for canceling large events in order to keep the students, spectators and sponsors safe and healthy. The event was set to engage over 1,700 college students from 17 countries on a week- long rocket design and launch competition.

“Having groups of students working together to build their team’s rocket is contrary to the COVID-19 protocol released by the CDC, and the State of New Mexico’s proactive leadership on this issue,” explained Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America. “As much as we looked forward to having 154 universities participate, it is not the appropriate course of action at this time.”

“We are aware that this is incredibly disappointing news for the students, the universities, the communities of Sierra and Doña Ana Counties and our sponsors,” Hicks added. “It is important that the students respect and abide by their state and country guidelines for the health and safety of all.”

Last year, the 2019 Spaceport America Cup had 124 teams, 1,500 students, and representatives from 14 countries. The University of Washington took first place in the Spaceport America Cup, and the University of New Mexico won the inaugural Spaceport America Chile Cup.

Information on the 2021 Spaceport America Cup and possible actions with the 2020 Cup will be available at via this link.

***

***TTUHSC El Paso talks breaking the chain of infection: Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 (3/24/2020)

The main ways the public can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are at the personal level, said Armando Meza, M.D., chief of infectious diseases and associate academic dean of graduate medical education at the TTUHSC El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

This includes hand washing, social distancing, self-quarantines and preparing your home for possible COVID-19 exposure.

One of the simplest ways people can help prevent the virus’ spread is by thoroughly washing their hands.

“If you’re going to wash your hands with soap and water, you can use regular soap and tap water,” Dr. Meza said. “You want to spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands and covering all the surfaces as much as possible. When you dry your hands, use a dry towel or paper towel, making sure that all surfaces are dry before you touch any object. It is important that once you have shut off the faucet, or anything on the sink, that you don’t touch those surfaces again, as they may be contaminated.”

Another way people can reduce the possibility of infection is through social distancing.

“Social distancing is the action government health departments take in asking the public to avoid exposure to an infectious agent,” Dr. Meza said. “That includes limiting activities that are not essential to our lives. We may be invited or given the opportunity to go places with a large gathering of people. If we avoid that, it would be very helpful.”

Self-quarantine measures will become necessary if a person has been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19. Self-quarantine is the voluntary isolation, usually at home, of a person after potential exposure to an infectious agent. An example is staying home after returning from a trip to a high-risk country classified as a Travel Warning Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“Two weeks is currently the recommended time to self-quarantine,” Dr. Meza said. “To stay in quarantine, essentials such as water, food and personal-care items should be available during this time period. In your home, stay away from any family members that may be at high risk for severe infection, such as the elderly or anyone with lung or heart disease.”

Dr. Meza emphasizes that preparedness on a personal level is key.

“Most importantly, stay educated on this condition by regularly reviewing reliable information found on the CDC website,” Dr. Meza said. “Avoid overstocking of supplies, since this will create a shortage crisis in the community. You should also keep your home clean, especially your kitchen and bathroom. Use of commercially available antimicrobial towels and sprays is appropriate.”

For more information on COVID-19, answers to frequently asked questions and helpful resources, visit TTUHSC El Paso’s COVID-19 website.

***

***Capstone Production’s Heritage Gold TV  series on El Paso history now available free, online. (3/24/2020)

Capstone Productions has announced that the Heritage Gold TV series has been released to the public for free viewing via the El Paso History TV YouTube page , providing a valuable educational and entertaining resource for children and adults during the coronavirus emergency.

“El Paso history is free on our YouTube channel, with more than 120 TV programs and segments about El Paso history,” said Jackson Polk, producer of the history segments. “We worked for two decades to produce our very popular DVDs about El Paso history that were sold in stores. Now is the time to make them available for home schooling and general viewing at no cost to the public.”

The free release of the TV documentaries will provide a fun, entertaining and educational way for El Pasoans to learn about their hometown’s rich history and cultural heritage, topics that are not generally taught in public schools. Most adults do not know about El Paso history, and this will be a time to join their children in learning about the amazing history of El Paso over the centuries.

PODCASTS FREE ONLINE

There is more history to access for free from the archives of “The El Paso History Radio Show” online at www.EPHistory.com .  The radio shows airs live each Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon on KTSM AM 690. The archived podcasts are free for listening, with a wide range of topics covering history in the El Paso area.

VIDEO PLAYLIST

Click here  for the video playlists.  Titles include “Legends of El Paso’s Mountains,” “El Paso’s Hueco Tanks,” “Gunfights of the Old West,” “Mexican Revolution Sites in El Paso,” for a dozen Heritage Gold titles online. There are also 16 “El Paso History TV” segments that were broadcast in El Paso.  More documentary programs will be announced every few days in the next six weeks.

RADIO SHOW PODCASTS

Go to www.EPHistory.com for the radio show archives.

***

***City: Coronavirus cases now at 10 (3/23/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported its seventh positive case for the County of El Paso. This latest case involves a woman in her 50s who has domestic travel history. She is currently self-isolating and recovering at home.

Three additional individuals were tested elsewhere, but reside in El Paso. The individuals are currently self-isolating and recovering at home bringing the total of El Paso residents with COVID-19 to ten people.

The Public Health Laboratory, which conducts tests for the region, has tested approximately 123 specimen as of Sunday, March 22.

The laboratory reported one positive test for a person residing in New Mexico, and has advised the New Mexico Department of Health. Fort Bliss conducts and declares its own tests for COVID-19.

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.

Additionally the 2-1-1 Texas Call Center is available 24/7. Callers can dial 2-1-1 and select option six for more information.

***

***UTEP offers Computer Technology Financial Support (3/23/2020)

As you are already aware, beginning Monday, March 30, 2020, all courses for the spring semester will move to remote online delivery. We understand that this transition to online learning may be a burden for some students who do not have access to a computer at home. The following two programs may help.

  • If you are a student who received financial aid for either the fall 2019 or spring 2020 semester(s) and do not currently own a computer, there may be grant assistance to help you purchase a computer, internet hotspot, or tablet so that you can access your classes and course materials. Please email a request for this grant support to: studentfinancialaid@utep.edu. Be sure to include your full name, UTEP ID#, and a reliable phone number. We will contact you regarding your eligibility for grant assistance.
  • If you are not currently receiving financial aid, but still need assistance to purchase a computer, the Paydirt Emergency Loan Program is available to assist students. The maximum loan amount is $500. You can apply for this loan by emailinggchairez@utep.edu to request your personalized online application link.

All of us at UTEP remain committed to ensuring that every student finishes the semester without disrupting their educational progress. If you have any questions, please call the Office of Student Financial Aid at 915-747-5204.

***

***Workforce Solutions Borderplex Closes All Centers – Virtual Services Continue (3/23/2020)

In response to concerns of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Workforce Solutions Borderplex (WSB) announces that all job centers will be closing effective Tuesday, March 24th.

All centers will be closed to the public and resource rooms will no longer be available for internet, printing and computer access.

WSB is still eager to assist with case management and job assistance, but all support will be handled virtually.  For more information, please call 915-887-2600 or visit the WSB resource website for continuous updates online.

Jobseekers should register at Work in Texas by creating a profile and then searching and applying for jobs at www.WorkInTexas.com.

WSB offers a Workforce Guidance Video and Frequently Asked Questions download to assist those with questions. Click here to view the video or here to read the FAQ

***

***Local restaurateurs opens fund to assist food and beverage workers (3/23/2020)

Local food and beverage workers are among the first to be hurt by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But help is coming thanks to a group of local restaurateurs.

“Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are inherently social places, so guidance from health authorities to limit exposure to crowds and to practice social distancing hit us all hard,” said Maggie Asfahani, who owns Salt + Honey Bakery Café in Five Points.

“We were already hurting, but the executive order that restaurants close their dining rooms forced many restaurants, including mine, to temporarily close and lay off the employees who are the backbone of our business.”

Asfahani is leading a group of local service industry volunteers who have established the El Paso Food and Beverage Workers Fund within the Paso del Norte Community Foundation.

The fund will provide direct relief to food and beverage workers who have been laid off or are working significantly reduced hours due to a temporary closure as a result of the pandemic.

To read the entire story, click here.  To donate, visit this website.

***

*** City of Socorro closes lobbies to the public (3/23/2020)

The City of Socorro in cooperation with Governor Abbott & County Judge Ricardo Samaniego to combat the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will be closing all City Lobbies & Offices to the public beginning Wednesday, March 25, 2020, until further notice.

The Public may receive assistance Monday through Friday 8 AM – 5 PM through:

The Socorro Municipal Court has suspended all courts until further notice, and all citations may be paid:

• Credit/Debit: Over the phone at (915) 872-8574
• Money Orders (include your contact information with Name, Phone

Number Address, and Citation Number) mailed to:

Municipal Courts
860 N. Rio Vista
Socorro, TX 79927

PLEASE CONTINUE TO REPORT EMERGENCIES BY CALLING 9-1-1 During this time all essential City services will continue to be provided.

Lastly, the City would like to remind everyone to stay safe by following the guidelines set in place by our health authorities. https://www.dshs.texas.gov
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html

***

***NM Gov issues statewide ‘stay-at-home’ order to start Tuesday, March 24th at 8a (3/23/2020)

Monday afternoon, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she issued an order that suspends operations of all businesses and non-profits that are deemed “non-essential.”  Below is the full order:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday announced additional restrictions to disrupt the spread of the COVID-19 virus in New Mexico and instructed New Mexicans to remain in their homes or places of residence except for outings absolutely necessary for health, safety and welfare.

The order — to be issued by Secretary of Health Kathy Kunkel and effective 8 a.m. Tuesday, March 24 — closes all non-essential businesses, requiring 100 percent of the state’s non-essential workforce to work from home. As in other states that have enacted similar measures, there are exceptions pertaining to essential services for the preservation of health, safety and well-being.

“The only way for us to stop the spread of this virus is for New Mexicans to stop interacting with each other,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “New Mexicans must be crystal-clear on this point: Right now, every time you leave your house, you are putting yourself, your family and your community at risk. Only by distancing from one another, by remaining home except for essential or emergency travel, can we limit the spread of this virus to the point that it does not overwhelm New Mexico.

“This clearly exempts people who are part of the essential functions that must continue: The individuals providing meals for kids at our schools; the individuals working at health care facilities, child care facilities, public safety entities and many more. Those individuals are helping keep us operating — in a new and limited way. They deserve our profound gratitude.

“As we wait for the federal government to get states the help we need in expanding capacity and testing materials and financial assistance, staying home is the one action all of us, individually and as a group, can control,” the governor added. “Please stay home. Help protect New Mexico.”

Intended to aggressively limit person-to-person contact in the state, the amended emergency public health order closes all non-essential businesses except for remote work.

The order advises that New Mexicans “must stay at home and undertake only those outings absolutely necessary for their health, safety or welfare” and further restricts “mass gatherings” of five or more individuals in outdoor spaces.

“Does this order mean you cannot walk your dog? No. Does it mean you can’t go for a jog? No. But you should not do those things in a group — and you should be home as soon as possible,” the governor said. “This social isolation strategy will only work if we all undertake it to the greatest extent we can. That boils down to one thing: Stay home.”

Businesses deemed essential that may remain open are:

  • Health care operations including hospitals, walk-in-care health facilities, emergency veterinary and livestock services, pharmacies, medical wholesale and distribution, home health care workers or aides for the elderly, emergency dental facilities, nursing homes, residential health care facilities, research facilities, congregate care facilities, intermediate care facilities for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, supportive living homes, home health care providers, and medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers;
  • Homeless shelters, food banks, and other services providing care to indigent or needy populations;
  • Childcare facilities necessary to provide services to those workers employed by essential businesses and essential non-profit entities;
  • Grocery stores, all food and beverage stores, supermarkets, food banks, farmers’ markets and vendors who sell food, convenience stores, and other businesses that generate the majority of their revenue from the sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet food, feed, and other animal supply stores, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products;
  • Farms, ranches, and other food cultivation, processing, or packaging operations;
  • All facilities used by law enforcement personnel, first responders, firefighters, emergency management personnel, dispatch operators, and court personnel.
  • Infrastructure operations including, but not limited to, public works construction; commercial and residential facility construction and maintenance; airport operations; public transportation; airlines; taxis; private transportation providers; water, sewer, trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal; gas; electrical; oil drilling; oil refining; natural resources extraction or mining operations; nuclear material research and enrichment; those attendant to the repair and construction of roads and highways; solid waste collection and removal; processing and disposal; data and internet providers; data centers; and telecommunications systems;
  • Manufacturing operations involved in food processing, manufacturing agents, chemicals, fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, household paper products, telecommunications, microelectronics/semi-conductor, primary metals manufacturers, machinery manufacturers, electrical equipment, appliance, and component manufacturers, and transportation equipment manufacturers;
  • Services necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences or essential businesses including security services, custodial services, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades;
  • Media services including television, radio, and newspaper operations;
  • Gas stations, automobile repair facilities, and retailers who generate the majority of their revenue from the sale of automobile repair products;
  • Hardware stores;
  • Laundromats and dry cleaner services;
  • Utilities, including their contractors and suppliers, engaged in power generation, fuel supply and transmission, water and wastewater supply;
  • Funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries;
  • Banks, credit unions, insurance providers, payroll services, brokerage services, and investment management firms;
  • Real estate services including brokers, title companies, and related services.
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Laboratories and defense and national security-related operations supporting the United States government or a contractor to the United States government;
  • Restaurants, but only for delivery or carry out and local breweries or distilleries but only for carry out;
  • Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, but only where necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities; and
  • Logistics and businesses that store, ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences or retailers.

The order is in effect until April 10.  To view the news conference, click here.

***

***Sun Metro updates routes, boarding procedures (3/23/2020)

Effective Wednesday, March 25, 2020 Sun Metro will implement service modifications in response to COVID-19. The service modifications will remain in effect until further notice.

Service adjustments are as follows:

Fixed route service will operate on a Sunday schedule Monday through Saturday  with the addition of the following:

o   Routes 19, 43, 71, 73 will run on a Saturday schedule, Monday through Saturday.

o   Brio service (Mesa, Dyer, Alameda) will run on a Saturday schedule, Monday through Saturday.

o   Routes 3 and 42 will keep peak service hours, Monday through Friday.

o   Sunday service along with routes 83 and 84 will remain unchanged.

  • Fixed route service on Sundays will operate on a Sunday schedule with no additions.
  • Streetcar service is suspended until further notice.

In line with the practice of social distancing, the following changes have also been implemented:

o   All passengers will board and exit buses through the rear doors. Boarding exceptions will be made for riders who have accessibility needs and require the use of the drop-down ramps located at the front doors.

o   All passengers are encouraged to leave two empty seats between themselves and others.

In order to accommodate rear entry and exit only (excluding exceptions noted above), Sun Metro is waiving all bus fares on Fixed Route, BRIO and LIFT services until further notice.

For more information about Sun Metro, visit sunmetro.net or call (915) 212-3333. Like their page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @SunMetro.

***

***Curbside Meal Distribution at Senior Centers to Continue for Qualifying Senior Residents (3/23/2020)

As part of a joint meal distribution initiative by the Parks and Recreation Department and El Paso County, curbside distribution of meals will continue every Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to noon, at all City Senior Centers for seniors enrolled in the El Paso County Senior Noontime Meal Program.

The County meal program is preparing and providing five pre-packaged meals consisting of pre-packed shelf and pre-cooked frozen meals.

The meals are only available to adults 60 years-of-age and older who are currently enrolled and active in the El Paso County Senior Noontime Meal program.

Volunteers and employees with the Parks and Recreation Department are helping the El Paso County team distribute the curbside meals. The curbside pickup offers a quick, drive through option to keep seniors and volunteers safely separated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All City Senior Centers remain closed until further notice.

The El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) continues 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 or call dial 2-1-1 and select option six for more information.

***

*** The El Paso Community Foundation and the Cardwell Foundation have made a grant to the USO El Paso to support soldiers in mandatory quarantine.

The $60,000 grant — from the Cardwell Foundation and the Julie and Jim Cardwell Fund in the El Paso Community Foundation — will help USO El Paso support troops being placed in  mandatory quarantine upon returning from Europe, some from high-risk areas.

The gift will pay for toiletries and hygiene products, such as soap and shaving cream, snacks and other needs for the returning troops.

To read entire story, click here.

***

*** Visitor Policy Update from EPCH, THOP, LPDSH and UMC  (3/23/2020)

Joint Statement Regarding No-Visitor Policy from El Paso Children’s Hospital, The Hospitals of Providence, Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare and University Medical Center of El Paso

In an effort to protect patients, physicians, staff and the community as COVID-19 continues to spread within our community, The Hospitals of Providence, Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare and University Medical Center of El Paso will implement a no-visitor policy in all hospitals, beginning Monday, March 23. Our priority is to reduce the transmission risk within our sites of care.

Exceptions for The Hospitals of Providence, Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare and University Medical Center of El Paso will be made for laboring and post-partum patients; patients with disabilities or impairments or who are elderly; patients in the neonatal ICU (NICU) and pediatric units; patients requiring surgery or other emergency or trauma-related medical procedures; and patients requiring end-of-life care. One caregiver 18 years or older may accompany these patient populations; the visitor must pass our previously established health-screening criteria upon entrance into the facility. No visitors will be allowed to wait in the lobby or waiting rooms.

El Paso Children’s Hospital and Providence Children’s Hospital are limited to one parent/legal guardian at a time. Rotation of a patient’s essential parent/legal guardian should be limited to minimize any potential risk. Again, everyone must pass previously established health-screening criteria before entering the facility. No additional visitors will be allowed to wait in the lobby or waiting rooms. Anyone entering the facility will be asked if they have symptoms of illness and exposure risks upon arrival. Those who have non-severe symptoms such as a fever or cough will be asked to not enter to stop the spread of illness and to seek care from their physician.

While we understand the importance of having the support of loved ones during a hospital visit or stay, we must prioritize the health and safety of our patients and caregivers during this unprecedented pandemic. We encourage support persons to use alternate methods of communication to stay in contact with loved ones, such as phone calls, video chats or texting.

We will continue to modify our response protocols as the needs within our community evolve.

Everyone should continue taking the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Practice social distancing

If you are concerned that you’ve been exposed or have a general question about COVID-19, contact the El Paso County Health Department by calling 211 and choosing option 6.

***

***UTEP President Heather Wilson release letter to college staff (3/23/2020)

Colleagues,

While I hope all of you took some time to recharge over the weekend, I’m sure many of you monitored the continued news about COVID-19.

There are over 200 counties in Texas that have no cases of COVID-19 and the Governor has not ordered a statewide shelter-in-place order. Dallas is in a very different situation, with a major international air travel hub and more than a third of all of the cases in Texas. Every community and University is different and the state is supporting local decision making based on the circumstances in each community.

Having talked to local officials on Sunday, there is no evidence of community spread in El Paso, and the public seems to be acting responsibly with respect to congregation and social distancing. The few currently identified cases were people who contracted the disease elsewhere and traveled here or reside in the same household with those who did. At the same time, we all know that there is skepticism because of delays in testing and receiving results from testing which justify continued measures to keep people at home if they don’t have to leave home.

Early prevention efforts are important, and the decisions to prohibit large gatherings, close bars, and encourage working remotely to the maximum extent possible are prudent.

We’ve canceled face-to-face classes this week to give faculty the time to shift to distance delivery of their courses. Even small class sections will be shifted to online format. For labs and performance courses, faculty are identifying creative ways that students might gain and demonstrate competencies without being together on campus.

Whether it is a work day or not, every employee should be observing social distancing guidance, washing your hands regularly, avoiding social situations with more than 10 people and avoiding crowds.

While faculty are used to working from home and can do so quite easily, it is not always so easy for staff. In some cases, our staff who are paid hourly are in jobs that might be almost impossible to shift to remote work. That is why I want us to make prudent decisions on a case-by-case basis and give supervisors and employees flexibility.

We continue to monitor the situation in El Paso County and take actions every day that make sense to protect the health of students, faculty and staff and help reduce any impact on our healthcare system.

While we monitor the situation constantly, UTEP will continue to exercise the following guidance:

Remote Work: Vice Presidents in consultation with direct reports should actively identify maximum ways employees can work remotely in your areas – with priority for vulnerable populations – while continuing the mission. As many employees as possible should be working from home. Some disruption or confusion is likely and offices that are open will have fewer employees. If student employees can work remotely, they should be allowed to do so.

Length of Day: Offices are authorized to lengthen opening hours in circumstances where the work must be done on campus in order to reduce social interaction while allowing all employees to get their jobs done at staggered times.

Consolidation: For offices that provide face-to-face service, supervisors will assess whether that service can be provided while observing social distancing guidance. Supervisors may consolidate offices or go completely online or distance enabled even if there is a disruption in service with the approval of their Vice President. Not all offices on campus need to have their doors open this week. The request form to work remotely is here.

Public health guidelines: All offices and employees will follow best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including social distancing, handwashing, and staying at home when sick. Employees should also stay at home if a household member is sick.

It’s an anxious time. Keep helping each other. There are resources for you, as an employee, as well here.

Finally, I wanted to thank all of you for taking the situation we face seriously and taking appropriate actions to keep yourself, your colleagues and our students safe and healthy.

Heather Wilson

President

***

***Fort Bliss releases official statement on three New York City Army Reserve members with COVID-19 (3/23/2020)

On March 22, William Beaumont Army Medical Center personnel confirmed an Army Reserve soldier assigned to the 77th Human Resources Company out of New York City tested positive for COVID-19.  The soldier was in close contact with two of the soldiers from the same unit who were confirmed COVID-19 positive by William Beaumont Army Medical Center personnel.

As a precautionary measure, the remainder of the Army Reserve unit was placed into quarantine on March 20 to prevent further potential spread of the virus.  All four soldiers who were confirmed COVID-19 positive are in isolation at Fort Bliss.

Fort Bliss leadership continues to work with installation and local community medical health professionals as part of the response efforts in the local area to ensure the health and safety of all.

***

***Vitalant: Canceled blood drives, Coronavirus fears severely impact blood supply (3/23/2020)

Coronavirus responses have severely impacted the U.S. blood supply as Vitalant and other blood centers across the country are struggling to maintain stable inventories and avoid a critical blood shortage.

With school closures and workers at home, 25% of Vitalant’s blood collections anticipated in March have disappeared—almost overnight. And that number continues to grow.

Through the end of June, Vitalant—the nation’s second largest blood collector—has had over 1,400 blood drives canceled, resulting in nearly 41,000 uncollected blood donations.

Many state and local governments have barred people from leaving their homes, except for essential functions. FEMA has specifically identified blood donation as an “essential and integral component of the emergency support function” as ongoing guidance from government entities recommend that people avoid gatherings and practice social distancing, and, in some states, “shelter in place”. But blood drives are not gatherings: they are blood donation operations that are key to our public health and safety.

To read the entire story, click here.

***

*** Governor Greg Abbott addressed Texans Sunday Afternoon, announcing new numbers, as well as actions by the state to combat the virus. (3/22/2020)

Governor Abbott addressed the state, updating the numbers of positive cases within the state, as well as the number of deaths and those who have been tested.

As of Sunday, six deaths have been reported in Texas; with almost 8700 Texans having been tested for COVID-19

Texas Department of State Health Service officials released a statement updating the number of people statewide that tested positive for the virus to 334 – up from 304 on Saturday.

Abbott also announced new action to increase the number of available nurses to help during the crisis, allowing retired or inactive nurses to reactivate their licenses.

For the issues of supplies, the governor announced additional adding staff that would be tasked to to find global sources of personal protection equipment, as well other supplies needed to combat the spread of the virus.

The governor also issued two Executive Orders, one postpone all “not medically necessary” surgeries at hospitals and the second suspending hospital regulations to increase capacity,  allowing hospitals treat more than one patient in a room.

Additionally, the recently-activated Texas National Guard would be deployed this week for use in testing locations, and helping in setting up healthcare facilities where needed.

As for a possible ‘Shelter in Place’ order for the entire state, the governor said that the effectiveness of his first Executive Orders from last week would be evaluated before any change would take place.  He pointed out that the ‘vast majority’ of the 254 counties in Texas did not have any cases of Coronavirus.

“The public knows that cases of COVID-19 are increasing in places like Dallas, in Houston, in Austin, and several other urban areas,” Gov. Abbott added. “…what may be right for places like the large urban areas may not be right at this particular point in time for the more than 200 counties, that have zero cases of COVID-19.”

He added that local officials have the authority to implement stricter standards if they choose to do so.

Click here to view the Governor’s full statement.

***

*** Clint ISD Prepared for Remote Learning Beginning March 24 (3/22/2020)

Clint ISD schools and buildings remain closed through April 3 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. However, we are committed to continue to provide the quality education our parents and community has come to expect from Clint ISD.

Four years ago, Clint ISD invested in the 1:1 Device Initiative to provide every student with an iPad, Chromebook or laptop. This has allowed Clint ISD to create a robust remote learning plan for every student in Pre-K through 12th grade so learning can continue for students during the current district closure.  In addition, Clint ISD has purchased 5,000 hotspots to assist our families with Internet access.

On Monday, March 23, Clint ISD teachers and schools will begin contacting students and parents to determine technology needs and provide support as students prepare to learn from home. On Tuesday, March 24, students will begin the Clint ISD Remote Learning Plan through Friday, April 3.

Parents may access their child’s daily learning schedule and assignments, as well as information on free lunches, technology needs, and contact information on our District website, www.clintweb.net, and on school websites.

If parents need assistance, they can contact their child’s teacher or district personnel for assistance and support between 8 am to 3 pm.

***

*** NM Department of Health announces 2 more cases in Dona Ana County; Statewide total now at 65  (3/22/2020)

SANTA FE – New Mexico state health officials on Sunday announced eight additional positive tests for COVID-19.  Per the state Department of Health, the most recent cases are:

Two new cases in Doña Ana County:

  • ​A female in her 50s.
  • A female in her 20s.

Two new cases in Bernalillo County:

  • A female in her 60s.
  • A male in his 30s.

One  new case in McKinley County:

  • ​A male 9 years old.

One new case in San Juan County:

  • ​A male in his 50s.

Two new cases in Santa Fe County:

  • ​A male in his 30s.
  • A male in his 40s.

Including the above newly reported cases, New Mexico has now had a total of 65 positive tests for COVID-19:

  • Bernalillo County: 34
  • Doña Ana County: 4
  • Lea County: 1
  • McKinley County: 2
  • Sandoval County: 7
  • San Juan County: 1
  • San Miguel County: 1
  • Santa Fe County: 10
  • ​​Socorro County: 2
  • Taos County: 3

The Department of Health has detected community spread. The agency reports that given the infectious nature of the virus it is likely other residents are infected but yet to be tested or confirmed positive. To that end, additional restrictions enacted by order of the secretary of health Thursday are intended to aggressively minimize person-to-person contact and ensure spread is mitigated by social distancing and isolation. Certain businesses are mandated closed; others have been instructed to limit operations. New Mexicans are strongly urged to limit travel to only what is necessary for health, safety and welfare.

The New Mexico Department of Health has active investigations into the positive patients, which includes contact-tracing and swabs of symptomatic individuals who have had contact with the positive cases.

State officials have vigorously encouraged all New Mexicans to practice social distancing procedures: stay home, particularly if you are sick.

Every New Mexican must work together to stem the spread of COVID-19.

New Mexicans who report symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately (1-855-600-3453).

People without those symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19. This is allergy season, and allergy symptoms such as sneezing or itchy eyes, nose or throat do not indicate a need for testing. While the state is gratified that COVID-19 testing is increasingly available, we need to prioritize testing for persons with symptoms of COVID-19 infection – fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

New Mexicans who have non-health-related questions or concerns can also call 833-551-0518 or visit newmexico.gov, which is being updated and finalized as a one-stop source for information.

The state Department of Health will update its dedicated COVID-19 webpage with additional tests as the state lab provides results.

***

***Two additional soldiers at Fort Bliss test positive for Coronavirus; total stands at 3 on post (3/21/2020)

On March 20, William Beaumont Army Medical Center personnel had confirmed an Army Reserve Soldier assigned to the 77th Human Resources Company out of New York City, tested positive for COVID-19.

As a precautionary measure, the remainder of the Army Reserve unit was placed into quarantine to prevent further potential spread of the virus.

Today, two of the original Soldier’s roommates from the same unit have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. All three Soldiers are in isolation at Fort Bliss.

Fort Bliss leadership continues to work with installation and local community medical health professionals as part of the response efforts in the local area to ensure the health and safety of all.

***

***El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Community Services Section, Precinct 6 Constables, Operation H.O.P.E pass out food  (3/21/2020)

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Community Services Section and Constables from Precinct 6 assisted Operation H.O.P.E during their emergency food giveaway at the El Paso County Coliseum.

The drive-thru event allowed for deputies, constables, and volunteers to distribute the food baskets while families remained inside their vehicles.

Operation H.O.P.E. in partnership with the Rock Center, Mayor Oscar Leeser, Sheriff Wiles and the Sheriff’s Office distributed 750 food baskets to help the El Paso community during these difficult times.

To view the full album from the giveaway, click on this link.

***

***Workforce Solutions Borderplex announces immediate job opportunities (3/21/2020)

 Workforce Solutions Borderplex (WSB) is eager to share a variety of job opportunities available in the Borderplex area.  Jobseekers should register at Work in Texas by creating a profile and then searching and applying for jobs at www.WorkInTexas.com.

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is looking to fill at least 10 Temporary Customer Service Rep II positions at the West Texas Tele Center at 1359 Lomaland Drive.  These positions are critical to assist Texans with their unemployment claims.

Over 500 positions are available with several different businesses listed below.

  • Albertsons
  • Alorica
  • Dona Ana County Detention Center
  • Lowe’s (cashiers, delivery drivers, sales positions and overnight supervisors)
  • RoofToppers El Paso
  • Sky Transportation
  • Spartan Construction
  • U.S. Census
  • Valley Super Market
  • Vista Supermarkets
  • Walmart

For more information, jobseekers can call 915-887-2600.  Businesses looking to hire can call 915-887-2332.  Additional resources for those affected by the COVID-19 crisis can be found at the Borderplex jobs website.

***

***El Pasoans Fighting Hunger to open ‘Mega Pantries’ staring Monday, March 23 (3/21/2020)

Officials with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank (EPFH) announced new distribution sites around the city, as the organization is experiencing a unique demand for emergency food boxes from individuals and families in need of assistance.

“To meet the evolving needs due to the spread of COVID-19 – coronavirus –  EPFH has teamed up with local partner agencies to set-up Mega Pantry distribution sites throughout El Paso starting Monday, March 23, 2020.”

The distribution schedule will be Monday through Friday from 10AM-2PM at the following locations:

Northeast – Katie’s Pantry – 4801 Sun Valley

Central – Kelly Center for Hunger Relief – 915 N. Florence

Lower Valley – Camino de Vida – 7822 San Jose Rd.

Socorro/Clint/San Elizario – El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank – 9541 Plaza Circle

Starting Tuesday, March 24, 2020

West – Abundant Living Faith Center West – 7100 N. Desert Blvd.

~~To read the complete story, click here~~

***

***Bishop Seitz, priests climb Cristo Rey in prayer for quick end to Coronavirus pandemic (3/21/2020)

On Saturday, Bishop Mark Seitz, along with a small cohort of priests from around the Diocese of El Paso climbed up Mt. Cristo Rey in prayer for the El Paso community for a quick end to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

6 priests and one Seminarian along with Bishop Mark Seitz, climbed to the summit of Mt. Cristo Rey on Saturday morning.  Photos below courtesy Diocese of El Paso/Facebook

***

*** Streetcar Service suspended to Protect Public from Evolving COVID-19 (3/21/2020)

Effective Sunday, March 22, 2020 the El Paso Streetcar will suspend all operations in response to COVID-19.  The service modifications will remain in effect until further notice.

As a reminder, Sun Metro will be waiving all bus fares starting Sunday, March 22, 2020. Fixed Route, BRIO and LIFT services will offer free rides until further notice; Other recently announced service adjustments include:

  • In line with the practice of social distancing, the following changes will be implemented:

o   All passengers will board and exit buses through the rear doors. Boarding exceptions will be made for riders who have accessibility needs and require the use of the drop-down ramps located at the front doors.

o   All passengers are encouraged to leave two empty seats between themselves and others.

o   Effective Monday March 30, 2020 the Fixed Route, Brio and the LIFT will run on a Saturday schedule Monday through Saturday. Sunday routes will continue to operate on a Sunday schedule.

For more information about Sun Metro, visit sunmetro.net or call (915) 212-3333. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/sunmetro or follow us on Twitter @SunMetro.

***

*** 2nd Case of Coronavirus found in Dona Ana County, Statewide count now at 57 (3/21/2020)

SANTA FE – New Mexico state health officials on Saturday announced fourteen additional positive tests for COVID-19, including the 2nd case in Dona Ana County.
Per the state Department of Health, the most recent cases are:
9 new cases in Bernalillo County:
  • A female in her 70s
  • A female in her 60s
  • Two males in their 40s
  • Two males in their 30s
  • A female in her 30s
  • A female in her 20s
  • A male infant
1 new case in Doña Ana County:
  • ​A female in her 20s
1 new case in Lea County:
  • ​A male in his 70s
1 new case in Sandoval County:
  • ​A female in her 40s
1 new case in Santa Fe County:
  • ​A male in his 50s
1 new case in Taos County:
  • ​A female in her 50s
Including the above newly reported cases, New Mexico has now had a total of 57 positive tests for COVID-19:
  • Bernalillo County: 32
  • Doña Ana County: 2
  • Lea County: 1
  • McKinley County: 1
  • Sandoval County: 7
  • San Miguel County: 1
  • Santa Fe County: 8
  • ​​Socorro County: 2
  • Taos County: 3
The Department of Health has detected community spread. The agency reports that given the infectious nature of the virus it is likely other residents are infected but yet to be tested or confirmed positive. To that end, additional restrictions enacted by order of the secretary of health Thursday are intended to aggressively minimize person-to-person contact and ensure spread is mitigated by social distancing and isolation. Certain businesses are mandated closed; others have been instructed to limit operations. New Mexicans are strongly urged to limit travel to only what is necessary for health, safety and welfare.
The New Mexico Department of Health has active investigations into the positive patients, which includes contact-tracing and swabs of symptomatic individuals who have had contact with the positive cases.
State officials have vigorously encouraged all New Mexicans to practice social distancing procedures: stay home, particularly if you are sick.
Every New Mexican must work together to stem the spread of COVID-19.
New Mexicans who report symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately (1-855-600-3453).
People without those symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19. This is allergy season, and allergy symptoms such as sneezing or itchy eyes, nose or throat do not indicate a need for testing. While the state is gratified that COVID-19 testing is increasingly available, we need to prioritize testing for persons with symptoms of COVID-19 infection – fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
New Mexicans who have non-health-related questions or concerns can also call 833-551-0518 or visit newmexico.gov, which is being updated and finalized as a one-stop source for information.
The state Department of Health will update its dedicated COVID-19 webpage with additional tests as the state lab provides results.

***

***Sun Metro Notice of COVID-19 Service Changes; Free Rides, Schedule Modifications Programmed (3/21/2020)

In response to COVID-19, Sun Metro will be waiving all bus fares starting Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fixed Route, BRIO and LIFT services will offer free rides until further notice; Streetcar will continue to waive fees as well. Other service adjustments include:

 In line with the practice of social distancing, the following changes will be implemented:

o   All passengers will board and exit buses through the rear doors. Boarding exceptions will be made for riders who have accessibility needs and require the use of the drop-down ramps located at the front doors.

o   All passengers are encouraged to leave two empty seats between themselves and others.

Effective Monday March 30, the following service changes will be implemented:

o   Fixed Route, Brio and the LIFT will run on a Saturday schedule Monday through Saturday. Sunday routes will continue to operate on a Sunday schedule.

o   The El Paso Streetcar will operate on a Sunday schedule the entire week.

For more information about Sun Metro, visit sunmetro.net or call (915) 212-3333. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/sunmetro or follow us on Twitter @SunMetro.

***

***Police Implement Modifications in Response to COVID-19 Threat (3/20/2020)

In an effort to address on-going concerns surrounding the presence of COVID-19 in the El Paso Police area, the El Paso Police Department is implementing modifications to our response protocols.

Dispatchers will now ask health and travel related questions to individuals requesting Police response. Dispatchers may provide callers with specific instructions regarding their interactions with Police, to include maintaining a social distance of at least six feet from officers.

Citizens are strongly encouraged to utilize on-line and telephone reporting options to file Police reports when Police response is not paramount.

The El Paso Police Department will continue to provide the same high quality service that has exemplified our department for decades.

We ask for the public’s patience and cooperation in our effort to maintain the safety of both citizens and officers in this trying time.

Police Non-Emergency: 915-832-4400
Telephone Reporting: 915-832-4436
On-line Reporting via this link

***

***First case of Coronavirus found at Fort Bliss (3/20/2020)

Friday night, officials with William Beaumont Army Medical Center confirmed that a soldier at Fort Bliss has tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to WBAMC officials, the soldier is assigned to the 77th Human Resources Company, part of an Army Reserve unit from New York City, at the post for training.

The soldier is now in isolation at the post.

This is the first confirmed case of the virus at Fort Bliss, along with six other cases confirmed in the El Paso area.

***

***New Restrictions for Cross-border Travel at El Paso Ports of Entry (3/20/2020)

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo is supporting a decision by the federal government to limit travel along land ports of entry connecting the United States and Mexico to “essential travel.”

“We are one region dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, it is imperative that as a region we restrict unnecessary travel and personal contact,” Margo said. “At this time I believe the Federal limitations applied to our bridges will still allow for commerce and essential business to be conducted.”

Homeland Security plans to restrict travel into the United States through land ports along the U.S-Mexico border to “essential travel.” The restrictions will begin at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 20, 2020 and will remain in place until April 20, 2020.

“Essential travel” includes (but is not limited to):

  • U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States
  • Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States)
  • Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions
  • Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in furtherance of such work)
  • Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to COVID-19 or other emergencies)
  • Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Mexico)
  • Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S.
  • Armed Forces, returning to the United States
  • Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations

The following travel does not fall within the definition of “essential travel” for purposes of this Notification:

  • Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events).

The City of El Paso manages southbound lanes at the Paso Del Norte, Stanton and Ysleta/Zaragoza ports of entry. The southbound lanes will continue to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

South bound lanes at the ports of entry managed by the City of El Paso remain open to travelers crossing into Juárez, Mexico. Travelers are encouraged to limit their travel into Mexcio to “essential travel,” and to stay vigilant of travel notifications issued by Mexico.

***

***1st Armored Division HQ, Fort Bliss release statement regarding on-going battle with Coronavirus  (3/20/2020)

The @USArmy along with the Division has taken steps to protect the health of our Soldiers, Families and Civilians. We are committed to the health protection of the Force as we address the challenge of COVID19 together.

***

***City Issues Amended Emergency Directive to Reduce Spread of COVID-19 (3/20/2020)

On Friday the City of El Paso amended the City’s emergency directive in accordance with guidelines issued by the state and federal government, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The following order will go into effective at 11:59 p.m. tonight, March 20, and will remain in effect until April 3, 2020:

  • Order No. 1: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
  • Order No. 2: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms or massage parlors; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this executive order.
  • Order No. 3: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
  • Order No. 4: In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall temporarily close.

The directive does not prohibit the public from visiting a variety of places, including grocery stores, gas stations, parks and banks, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

For offices and workplaces that remain open, employees should practice good hygiene and, where feasible, work from home in order to achieve optimum social distancing.

For more information visit www.epstrong.org or www.EPHealth.com and click on the COVID-19 page.

***

***EPCC will close all facilities starting at midnight, Friday March 20th (3/20/2020)

As per Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order intended to further contain the spread of COVID-19 across Texas, El Paso Community College (EPCC) will close its facilities beginning midnight March 20th through midnight April 3rd.

College Administrators will be on duty via distance technology. There will also be limited essential staff on-site to ensure critical college operations continue. These are in the process of being determined. Employees should not report for duty unless they are contacted by their supervisor. Employees who are able may perform their duties via technology from home after consulting with their supervisor.

As previously announced, all courses will be taught online via Blackboard beginning March 30th. Students enrolled in labs, practicums or similar courses should contact their instructor for additional guidance and instructions. EPCC is committed to ensuring students can continue learning and finish the spring semester.

EPCC has a substantial public interest in and is committed to protecting the health and safety of our students, employees and the community. We will continue to follow guidance as directed by government and health authorities.

EPCC will continue to provide updates online, via EPCC email, social media and Tejano Alert.

***

***Municipal Court to Close for In-Person Services  (3/20/2020)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for the safety of the public and City of El Paso employees, the El Paso Municipal Court will be closed to the public for in-person services starting Monday, March 23, until further notice.

All court hearings, sessions and jury duty at all bond office locations will be suspended during this time. The court will reschedule and notify residents who have scheduled trials, hearings or jury appearances by mail with a new time and date.

In addition, Municipal Court activities such as Juvenile Case Management Classes, Youth Delinquency Prevention Classes, and Teen Court will be suspended.

While Municipal Court facilities remain closed, residents can still conduct business with the court online or by phone. Residents are encouraged to resolve their citation(s) through the following methods:

·        Online payments: www.citepayusa.com

·        Phone payments: (915) 212-0232

·        Online chat with a court clerk: www.elpasotexas.gov/municipal-courts

·        Email: defendants@elpasotexas.gov

Additional information including questions or concerns is available by calling the El Paso Municipal Court at (915) 212-0215 or visiting the city’s website.

***

***Fabens ISD releases update on district closure, Pickup meal service starts March 23rd (3/20/2020)

As the local situation and government response to COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve, we are monitoring all information and making adjustments to our educational plans.

Until further notice, only essential staff will report to work on Monday, March 23, through April 3, 2020.

Supervisors will notify staff who are deemed essential staff. This is in order to complete critical functions such as payroll, food services, security, etc., so we can be able to continue serving our students, employees, and community during this difficult time.

During the weeks of school closure, Fabens ISD is committed to serving breakfast and lunch to all students and children 18 years old and younger.

Beginning March 23rd through April 3rd, excluding Saturday and Sunday, meals can be picked up curbside at the Fabens High School cafeteria from 7:30 – 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM.

Please continue to check the Fabens ISD website for updates.

***

***El Paso Comic Con (EPCON) postpones annual event until October (3/20/2020)

Friday afternoon, officials with the annual El Paso Comic Con announced the postponement of the event until October 2-4th. Below is their statement:

The producers of El Paso Comic Con continue to closely monitor the latest developments regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to the growing awareness and concerns, we have decided it is in the public’s interest to move El Paso Comic Con to October 2-4, 2020 at the El Paso Convention Center.

More information about the event to come.Your tickets will be honored on the new dates. We’ll see you in October!

***

***El Paso Chihuahuas to stream virtual game(s) against Leigh High Valley IronPigs (3/20/2020)

For those residents who are missing baseball the @epchihuahuas have the cure, as they started a virtual 3 game series versus the Lehigh Valley IronPigs yesterday.   The ‘Dawgs dropped the first game at Lehigh Valley 9-2, and look to bounce back tonight.

Check out the virtual Chihuahuas as they take on @IronPigs on @Twitch at 5:05p Watch LIVE via this link.

***

***William Beaumont Army Medical Center to begin COVID-19 screening at Main Hospital Gates (3/20/2020)

Friday afternoon, officials with William Beaumont Army Medical Center released the following information via their social media pages:

***

***The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park Delays Opening (3/20/2020)

The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park announced that the hotel opening has been delayed.  A statement has been provided below.

“The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park stands in solidarity with our country’s current stance on social distancing and the preventative measures needed to stop the spread of COVID-19. At this time, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone our reopening to a date later this spring. Our entire hotel team stands behind this decision as it is our responsibility to act in the best interest of our employees and future guests.

We will continue to monitor state and national health advisories and mandates, and we will announce a new opening date when appropriate. We look forward to opening our doors and ushering in the next era of The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park very soon. From the re-imagination of La Perla, our spectacular rooftop bar which was once Elizabeth Taylor’s penthouse, to the innovative dining experience our Executive Chef Andres Padilla will offer at Ámbar Restaurante, the transformation has been remarkable, and we can’t wait to share it with you.” 

***

***Dona Ana County records first case of Coronavirus, State total stands at 43 (3/20/2020)

SANTA FE – New Mexico state health officials on Friday announced eight additional positive tests for COVID-19.

Per the state Department of Health, the most recent cases are:

  • ​A female in Bernalillo County in her teens
  • Two males in Bernalillo County in their 40s
  • A male in Doña Ana County in his 20s
  • A male in McKinley County in his 30s
  • A female in Sandoval County in her teens
  • A male in Sandoval County in his 80s
  • A female in Taos County in her 70s

Including the above newly reported cases, New Mexico has now had a total of 43 positive tests for COVID-19:

  • Bernalillo County: 23
  • Doña Ana County: 1
  • McKinley County: 1
  • Sandoval County: 6
  • San Miguel County: 1
  • Santa Fe County: 7
  • ​​Socorro County: 2
  • Taos County: 2

The Department of Health has detected community spread. The agency reports that given the infectious nature of the virus it is likely other residents are infected but yet to be tested or confirmed positive.

To that end, additional restrictions enacted by order of the secretary of health Thursday are intended to aggressively minimize person-to-person contact and ensure spread is mitigated by social distancing and isolation. Certain businesses are mandated closed; others have been instructed to limit operations. New Mexicans are strongly urged to limit travel to only what is necessary for health, safety and welfare.

The New Mexico Department of Health has active investigations into the positive patients, which includes contact-tracing and swabs of symptomatic individuals who have had contact with the positive cases.

State officials have vigorously encouraged all New Mexicans to practice social distancing procedures: stay home, particularly if you are sick.

Every New Mexican must work together to stem the spread of COVID-19.

New Mexicans who report symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately (1-855-600-3453).

People without those symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19. This is allergy season, and allergy symptoms such as sneezing or itchy eyes, nose or throat do not indicate a need for testing. While the state is gratified that COVID-19 testing is increasingly available, we need to prioritize testing for persons with symptoms of COVID-19 infection – fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

New Mexicans who have non-health-related questions or concerns can also call 833-551-0518 or visit newmexico.gov, which is being updated and finalized as a one-stop source for information.

The state Department of Health will update its dedicated COVID-19 webpage with additional tests as the state lab provides results.

***

***President Trump announces pending closure of US/Mexico Border, Tax Day moving from April 15 to July 15 (3/20/2020)

President Donald Trump, during his daily team briefing on Friday, announced that the US-Mexico border would be closed tonight, the latest step in the county’s journey to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf stated the closure would go into effect midnight Friday at both the northern and southern borders.

Officials added that the closure would last at least 30 days.  When asked about a nationwide lockdown, President Trump said, “I don’t think so.”

The closure deals with non-essential travel, and does not apply with border crossers who attend “educational institutions.”  As for those migrants taken into custody at the border, Secretary Wolf said they would be returned to “Canada, Mexico…and other countries without delay.”

Administration officials made the point several times that the closure would not harm trade, and was in effect to curb any migrants entering the country that could have the Coronavirus.

In addition to the closing of the border, President Trump announced that tax day would be moved from April 15th to July 15th.  Taxpayers would be able to file with no penalties and no penalties.

On Thursday, a new travel alert was issued by the State Department urging Americans not to go abroad under any circumstances and to return home if they are already abroad unless they plan to remain overseas.  In part, the alert read:

“In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”

***

***UTEP releases information, helpful procedures in wake of U.S.- Mexico Border Restrictions (3/20/2020)

Today, it was announced that the U.S. and Mexico have reached an agreement to restrict all non-essential travel in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

This includes the ports of entry in the El Paso/Juárez area. It will be effective at midnight March 21, 2020.

Examples of essential travel include travel to attend educational institutions, for medical purposes, for emergency response and public health services, and for individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade.

As this situation continues to develop, we will share additional information.

The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico have also suspended routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services as of March 18, 2020. Exceptions will be made for certain emergencies. Contact the Embassy or consulate in your area directly for specific information on available services.

Members of the UTEP community who are unable to cross the border to return to their normal place of residency may need to seek out temporary living arrangements with friends or family members if available.

Those individuals who need assistance finding a place to live should contact Elisa Espinosa at eespinosa4@utep.edu or 915-747-6117.

• Students are expected to continue to fulfill online or other course requirements once courses begin remotely on March 30.

• Difficulties with internet access or completing course requirements online should be discussed directly with the professor.

• Staff and faculty who are unable to report to work due to the border restrictions and need assistance should contact Sandy Vasquez at svasquez@utep.edu or hrs@utep.edu, or call 915-747-7873.

International students who are impacted by the border closure should report any changes in their temporary or permanent residency to the Office of International Programs at oip@utep.edu or 915-747-5664. For more information, visit this website.

The UTEP community is working together to support our students, staff and faculty impacted by recent developments at the border. We will continue to update the community as we receive new information

***

*** TFCU to close all branch lobbies from Monday, March 23rd thru at least April 13, Drive thrus to remain open (3/20/2020)

 TFCU‘s Executive Management and Board of Directors have been, monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the beginning. They have a Response Team in place to ensure the safety and health of staff and members while still providing the community with the highest level of service.

Therefore, to maintain the well-being of members and staff and to limit the spreading of COVID-19(Coronavirus) in our community, TFCU will be temporarily closing all its branch lobbies beginning Monday, March 23 until Monday, April 13 or further notice.

At this time, all branch drive-thrus will remain open during normal business hours. Normal business hours are: Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 6:00pm and Saturdays from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Members can complete most of their usual lobby transactions through the drive thru; however, TFCU offers a variety of convenience services like online banking, mobile app, TFCU Branch ATMs, Allpoint Network ATMs, ProPay, and their Personal Audio Teller Response System (PAT) where you can check your balances, make transfers, and even check the status of your loan all from the safety of your home. For more information on their convenience services, please visit tfcu.coop.

In addition, TFCU assures the community that they are available to help those in need during these economically challenging times with loan payment extensions or special assistance loans. To find out more about how TFCU can help you, please call 915-544-5626.

If you have any additional questions about your specific situation, please contact their Call Center at 915-843-8328 during normal business hours.

***

***El Paso ISD updates on student meal distribution, procedures starting Monday (3/20/2020)

EPISD next week will begin distributing free, take-home meals for any child ages 1-18 at fifty school sites throughout the District as part of the Emergency Preparedness Week response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided to any child, regardless of their enrollment status in the district the weeks of March 23-27 and March 30-April 3.

he meals will be to take home. No dinning will be allowed in the schools.

Breakfast will be served only on March 23 only from 8 to 9 a.m. Lunch for the two weeks will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children will be given a lunch and take-home breakfast for the next morning. Children must be present to receive the meal.

The meals will be distributed at the following schools:

  • Andress High, 5400 Sun Valley
  • Aoy Elementary, 901 S. Campbell
  • Armendariz Middle, 2231 Arizona
  • Austin High School, 3500 Memphis
  • Barron Elementary, 11155 Whitey Ford
  • Bassett Middle, 4400 Elm
  • Bonham Elementary, 7024 Cielo Vista
  • Bowie High, 801 S. San Marcial
  • Brown Middle, 7820 Helen of Troy
  • Canyon Hills Middle, 8930 Eclipse
  • Chapin High, 7000 Dyer
  • Charles Middle, 4909 Trojan
  • Clardy Elementary, 5508 Delta
  • Coldwell Elementary, 4101 Altura
  • Cooley Elementary, 107 N. Collingsworth
  • Crockett Elementary, 3200 Wheeling
  • Crosby Elementary, 5411 Wren
  • El Paso High, 800 E. Schuster
  • Fannin Elementary, 5425 Salem
  • Franklin High, 900 N. Resler
  • Green Elementary, 5430 Buckley
  • Guerrero Elementary, 7530 Lakehurst
  • Guillen Middle, 900 S. Cotton
  • Hawkins Elementary, 5816 Stephenson
  • Henderson Middle, 5505 Robert Alva
  • Herrera Elementary, 350 Coates
  • Hillside Elementary, 4500 Clifton
  • Kohlberg Elementary, 1445 Nardo Goodman
  • Lee Elementary, 7710 Pandora
  • Logan Elementary, 3200 Ellerthorpe
  • MacArthur Elementary, 8101 Whitus
  • Magoffin Elementary, 4931 Hercules
  • Mesita ECDC, 220 Lawton
  • Morehead Middle, 5625 Confetti
  • Moreno Elementary, 2300 San Diego
  • Moye Elementary, 4825 Alps
  • Nixon Elementary, 11141 Loma Roja
  • Park Elementary, 3601 Edgar Park
  • Putnam Elementary, 6508 Fiesta
  • Rivera Elementary, 6445 Escondido
  • Roberts Elementary, 341 Thorn
  • Ross Middle, 6101 Hughey
  • Rusk Elementary, 3601 N. Copia
  • Stanton Elementary, 5414 Hondo Pass
  • Terrace Hills Middle, 4835 Blossom
  • Tom Lea Elementary, 4851Marcus Uribe
  • Travis Elementary, 5000 N. Stevens
  • Whitaker Elementary, 4700 Rutherford
  • Wiggs Middle, 1300 Circle
  • Zach White Elementary, 4256 Roxbury

***

***Ysleta ISD updates hours of operation for meal distribution (3/19/2020)

The hours of operation HAVE CHANGED for the distribution of breakfast and lunch meals at Ysleta ISD schools during the closure beginning Monday, March 23.
At select campuses, vehicles can pull up from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and receive BOTH breakfast and lunch meals on a drive-through basis for children inside the vehicle.

The select campuses are:

  • Capistrano Elementary
  • Constance Hulbert Elementary School
  • Desertaire Elementary School
  • R.E.L. Washington Elementary School
  • Bel Air 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
Thank you for partnering with us to make sure all YISD families are aware they can receive both breakfast and lunch meals for their children when they visit the select campuses above between the revised hours of 7:30-10:30 a.m. on weekdays during the school closure.

***

***Canutillo ISD times/locations for free meal distribution (3/19/2020)

Canutillo ISD will serve free breakfast and lunch for any child ages 1-18 in El Paso who may need a meal during the declared weeks of emergency preparedness of March 23 – April 3, when the District will be closed.

The Breakfast schedule at these campuses will be from 7 am to 9 am.
The Lunch schedule at these campuses will be from 11 am to 1 pm.

The meals will be served at the following schools:

  • Canutillo High School
  • Bill Childress Elementary
  • Garcia Elementary
  • Canutillo Elementary

***

***Ysleta ISD updates times, campuses that will offer curbside meals (3/19/2020)

To help minimize the impact to YISD families during the weeks of school closure, select campuses will offer weekday breakfast and lunch meals to school-aged children between ages 1-18 on a drive-through basis.

Vehicles will be allowed to pull up to the campuses listed below from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and receive both breakfast and lunch meals for children inside the vehicle:

  • Capistrano Elementary
  • Constance Hulbert Elementary School
  • Desertaire Elementary School
  • R.E.L. Washington Elementary School
  • Bel Air 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

As always, the district will continue to work closely with city and county health officials, and monitor any developments regarding COVID-19 as it relates to the Ysleta ISD community.

***

***IDEA Public Schools close until further notice, implements Distance Learning, Meal Service Program (3/19/2020)

To help keep our community safe, IDEA Public Schools campuses in Texas will remain closed until further notice. All planned events, athletics, field trips, after-school programs and other campus activities have been canceled for the remainder of the year.

Student instruction will continue online via distance learning for all students in grades Pre-K through 12 beginning:

  • Monday, March 23 in Tarrant County
  • Tuesday, March 24 in San Antonio
  • Monday, March 30 in the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, and Austin

IDEA will also provide physical copies of school materials available via curbside pickup.

In an effort to provide essential services that support the well-being of our students and families, all campuses will remain open only for curbside meal services for families beginning:

  • Thursday, March 19 in Tarrant County
  • Friday, March 20 in San Antonio
  • Monday, March 23 in the Rio Grande Valley, Austin, and El Paso

Select campuses will remain open to provide limited childcare to IDEA parents who work in critical public safety roles such as healthcare, first response, city or county-based roles.

Childcare will be available for these parents at designated campuses from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm Mondays – Fridays and will abide by CDC guidelines for public health, including temperature checks upon entry and gatherings of no more than 10 people per childcare area.

Childcare will be available for up to 50 students per site on a first-come, first-served basis.

Families wanting more information on extending school closure, meal service, childcare services, and the distance learning program, may visit IDEA’s website

***

***Emergence Health Network reminds community of mental health and wellness needs during this time (3/19/2020)

Emergence Health Network, the area’s mental health and wellness professionals, remind residents that they continue to offer crisis services for those needing them throughout the COVID-19 epidemic. Residents can call the Emergence Crisis Line at 915-779-1800, 24/7 if they need services.

Live operators continue to staff the crisis line as usual.

***

For official info on COVID-19 click on the links provided below: 

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

**

To read previous local information/releases, click on the dates below: 

March 3rd thru 9th   |   March 10th through 12th  |  March 13 through 15  |   March 15 thru 19th  |  March 20th thru 24th

El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce surveys members; Sets informational webinars for next week

Officials with the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced Friday the results of a survey from their members, as well as plans to conduct a webinars for businesses next week.

With a membership roster of over 1300 businesses, during this COVID-19 Pandemic, many are struggling to remain open, especially after the recent “Stay Home, Work Safe” directive from City and County leaders.

In an effort to better assist those businesses, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber surveyed members to gauge their critical financial needs during this crisis and received almost 400 responses in just a couple of days.

“Most businesses surveyed would apply for loans ranging between $10,000 to $50,000 and $150,000 to $300,000 for their businesses financial and operational functionality,” officials shared. “Over 32% of businesses surveyed believe they would not be able to remain functional for the next 3 months without some kind of financial assistance. Another 32% believe that period would be 6 months or less.”

“Over 42% of those surveyed are currently in the process of applying for assistance from Federal, State and Local Governments.” officials added.

The Federal Government recently signed a 2.2 Trillion dollar stimulus package to assist businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

86% of respondents are looking to obtain SBA Disaster Relief Loans; to that end, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber is available virtually to assist the community in applying for funds or grants available by the SBA, and to answer any questions.

The primary use of funding, should respondents receive assistance, would be to pay for and maintain inventory, monthly expenses, maintain payroll for employees that are still working, and to pay for rent obligations.

Over 63% of those surveyed are hoping to receive some assistance in the next two weeks, to keep their businesses functional. Many of the businesses that were surveyed to do not have a business continuity plan in place for disaster situations, almost 85%.

Next week, EPHCC will be hosting a webinar with Mike McQueen, from Kemp Smith Law Firm, to discuss HR issues that COVID-19 presents, and how to navigate them.

Additionally, they will host Leila Melendez, CEO for Workforce Solutions Borderplex during a live Town Hall to discuss workforce solutions for businesses and employees; as well as a webinar with ESEI to discuss Going the Distance: Tech for Working from Home while many are being asked to work from home.

“We are working to help aid businesses and employees impacted by the current public health crisis by hosting virtual webinars with financial institutions in our “Cash, Coin and Conversations” webinar series, as well as a webinar with our local SBA office,” EPHCC officials shared.

EPHCC also rolled out a new webpage within their main website, that is updated with current and relevant information to help the community during these trying times.

“The El Paso Hispanic Chamber is dedicated to helping the community remain informed with the most up to date information about the virus and its effects on the our society,” officials added.

El Paso-area Coronavirus Archive Stories from March 15 thru 19th

This archive page of our El Paso-area Coronavirus Information has releases and information from March 15 thru 19th.

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 of El Paso releases guidelines on ‘What it Takes to be Tested’ for COVID-19 (3/19/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health is sharing the step-by-step process on how the public can be tested for COVID-19 in order to address questions from providers, staff and area residents.

Step 1: All area residents should stay home whenever possible and monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms. This includes cough, fever and shortness of breath. If a combination of all three symptoms does not improve over the course of 72 hours or worsens, they should contact their healthcare provider.

Step 2: If a resident has all these symptoms AND has traveled outside of the El Paso region or if they have had close contact with someone who is a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19, they should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Step 3: The healthcare provider will assess the patient who is seeking care and should rule out other causes of symptoms, including allergies, and the common cold. Additionally, patients must provide proof of being negative for Influenza and Strep throat.

Step 4: After the healthcare provider rules out other sources of illness, they should contact the Department of Public Health Epidemiology Program for triage, based on the Texas Department of State Health Services guidelines. (See: Interim Criteria to Guide Testing of Persons Under Investigation for Coronavirus Disease 2019)

Step 5: If approved by the Public Health Epidemiologist, the healthcare provider will receive a “test number” from the epidemiology team. Using proper personal protective equipment the provider will collect and submit two upper respiratory samples (nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs), plus a third lower respiratory sample if possible.

Step 6: The healthcare provider will then notify the Department of Public Health Laboratory prior to submitting the sample to the lab. While awaiting results it is important to have the patient self-quarantine at home if they are discharged from care.

Step 7: Once the samples have been analyzed, the results will be sent to the healthcare provider to notify the patient. Positive results will trigger an epidemiological investigation by the Department of Public Health.

Residents who do not have a primary care physician or who do not have insurance should dial 2-1-1 and select option six (6) for a referral to a healthcare provider. There is no cost for the approved test analysis conducted by the Public Health Laboratory.

Further information and details are available at www.EPHealth.com at the COVID-19 page.

Message from Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino – 911 Protocol

***

***City of El Paso Department of Public Health officials confirm 3 more cases of Coronavirus in the city. (3/19/2020)

Thursday afternoon, Mayor Dee Margo announced that the city had tested and discovered 3 additional cases of Coronavirus, bringing the total number to 6 in the city.

Mayor Margo also announced that mobile testing only for emergency personnel and first responders would begin; he also asked residents to adhere to the new guidelines released by the Governor of Texas earlier today.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority added that no cases of the virus have been found on Fort Bliss.

Officials also strongly urged all businesses to follow the workplace guidelines and provided a link to that information, as well as city guidelines for daycares.

Below is the city’s full release.

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health announced today that three new individuals have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of positive cases in El Paso now stands at six.

The fourth patient is a female in her late 60s and the fifth is a female in her late teens. It is believed that these two patients were associated with the second case while in quarantine together. The sixth case involves a male in his 20s and is believed to be travel-related as he recently traveled abroad. None of these cases are from Fort Bliss and all new cases are being monitored and recovering at home.

“Also, it should be noted that we have tested more than 60 individuals and only six have come back positive,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, “this means that more than 90 percent of those with signs and symptoms and risks have tested negative.”

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.

Local officials have begun using the El Paso 911 Notification System to inform area residents of the most up-to-date COVID-19 information and prevention methods. Anyone who is interested in receiving regular emails, text messages, or telephone calls may sign up for the service online.

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.EPHealth.com or www.EPSalud.com for updates.

Additionally the 2-1-1 Texas Call Center is available 24/7. Callers can dial 2-1-1 and select option six for more information.

Message from Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority (English)

***

***Driver License (DL) Expiration Dates Extended, DL Offices Closed in Light of COVID-19 Outbreak (3/19/2020)

At the direction of Governor Greg Abbott and in light of the governor’s State of Disaster Declaration related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been directed to extend the expiration date of Texas identification cards (ID), driver licenses (DL), commercial DLs (CDL) and election identification certificates (EIC).

Additionally, the department has been directed to close DL offices, effective Thursday, March 19, until directed to reopen by the governor. These actions come as the state works to limit the ongoing spread of COVID-19 by increasing social distancing in communities.

DRIVER LICENSE OFFICE CLOSURES

Effective Thursday, March 19, 2020, DL offices across the state have been closed until further notice. The temporary closure does not apply to individuals seeking an initial CDL. A number of DL offices across the state are designated as CDL sites — these offices will offer CDL testing by appointment only. If you already have a CDL skills test scheduled, that appointment remains valid.

For those needing to schedule a CDL test, send an email to cdlappointments@dps.texas.gov. Please include your name, DL number, date of birth, telephone number, email address and your preferred office location in your request.

DRIVER LICENSE EXTENSION

In accordance with section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, the Office of the Governor approved DPS’ request to suspend provisions of the Texas Transportation Code to the extent necessary to delay the expiration of Texas DL/CDL/ID/EIC cards. 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.

It’s important to note that this extension applies to the expiration date only. A person who is not eligible to drive due to an active enforcement action (suspension, revocation or denial) may use the card for identity purposes only.

DPS is communicating with law enforcement agencies across the state to notify and inform them about the changes and what the extension means for their interactions with the public.

ONLINE SERVICES AVAILABLE FOR TEXANS

The majority of customers who come into Texas DL offices (for example, 3.2 million people in Fiscal Year 2019) don’t have to. These customers can actually conduct their transaction online, by phone or by mail. DPS encourages Texans to check the expiration date on their card and call 1-866-DL-RENEW (1-886-357-3639) or visit Texas.gov to see if you’re eligible to conduct your transaction online, particularly in light of the closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fee is the same for online, in-person and telephone renewals. For additional information about renewing your DL or ID card, visit the DPS website. Address changes and replacement of a lost DL or ID can also be taken care of online (or by mail) in many instances. Find out if you are eligible for online services by visiting Texas.gov.

WHEN WILL YOUR OFFICES REOPEN?

The department continues to be in constant communication with state leadership regarding this rapidly changing situation. The department will follow guidelines set by the governor as to when our offices will reopen and will keep the public informed as the situation continues to evolve.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • DPS DL COVID-19 Informational Web Page
  • Governor Abbott, DPS Waive Expiration Dates for Driver Licenses, March 18, 2020 (view here)
  • Governor Abbott Announces Temporary Closure of Driver License Offices, March 18, 2020 (view here)
  • Governor Abbott Holds Press Conference on Coronavirus, Declares State of Disaster for All Texas Counties, March 13, 2020  (Announcement | Declaration)
  • DPS Takes Preventative Measures Against COVID-19, Encourages Texans to do the Same, March 12, 2020 (view here)

***

***Ysleta ISD updates times, campuses that will offer curbside meals (3/19/2020)

To help minimize the impact to YISD families during the weeks of school closure, select campuses will offer weekday breakfast and lunch meals to school-aged children between ages 1-18 on a drive-through basis.

Vehicles will be allowed to pull up to the campuses listed below from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. and receive both breakfast and lunch meals for children inside the vehicle:

  • Capistrano Elementary
  • Constance Hulbert Elementary School
  • Desertaire Elementary School
  • R.E.L. Washington Elementary School
  • Bel Air 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

As always, the district will continue to work closely with city and county health officials, and monitor any developments regarding COVID-19 as it relates to the Ysleta ISD community.

***

***IDEA Public Schools close until further notice, implements Distance Learning, Meal Service Program (3/19/2020)

To help keep our community safe, IDEA Public Schools campuses in Texas will remain closed until further notice. All planned events, athletics, field trips, after-school programs and other campus activities have been canceled for the remainder of the year.

Student instruction will continue online via distance learning for all students in grades Pre-K through 12 beginning:

  • Monday, March 23 in Tarrant County
  • Tuesday, March 24 in San Antonio
  • Monday, March 30 in the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, and Austin

IDEA will also provide physical copies of school materials available via curbside pickup.

In an effort to provide essential services that support the well-being of our students and families, all campuses will remain open only for curbside meal services for families beginning:

  • Thursday, March 19 in Tarrant County
  • Friday, March 20 in San Antonio
  • Monday, March 23 in the Rio Grande Valley, Austin, and El Paso

Select campuses will remain open to provide limited childcare to IDEA parents who work in critical public safety roles such as healthcare, first response, city or county-based roles.

Childcare will be available for these parents at designated campuses from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm Mondays – Fridays and will abide by CDC guidelines for public health, including temperature checks upon entry and gatherings of no more than 10 people per childcare area.

Childcare will be available for up to 50 students per site on a first-come, first-served basis.

Families wanting more information on extending school closure, meal service, childcare services, and the distance learning program, may visit IDEA’s website

 

***Emergence Health Network reminds community of mental health and wellness needs during this time (3/19/2020)

Emergence Health Network, the area’s mental health and wellness professionals, remind residents that they continue to offer crisis services for those needing them throughout the COVID-19 epidemic. Residents can call the Emergence Crisis Line at 915-779-1800, 24/7 if they need services.

Live operators continue to staff the crisis line as usual.

***

***Area Leaders issue joint statement urging cooperation,preparation in the El Paso/Juarez area (3/19/2020)

Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Congressman Will Hurd (TX-23), Mayor Dee Margo, County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego, and Borderplex Chief Executive Officer Jon Barela, released the following joint statement urging U.S. and Mexican authorities to cooperate to contain spread of coronavirus, and El Paso-Juárez region to make contingency plans to minimize impact.

“Following the temporary restriction of non-essential travel across the U.S.-Canada border due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are urging the El Paso-Juarez region to prepare contingency plans in anticipation that similar measures may be implemented on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. and Mexican authorities need to cooperate closely to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to do so in a transparent, responsible way. Cooperation should include steps to keep supply chains open and safe, facilitate essential travel between both countries, and administer aid to refugees and other migrants, such as those individuals held in detention facilities in the United States and awaiting court dates in Mexico.

“This pandemic is a rapidly evolving global challenge, and the response to this pandemic demands bold, courageous action on both sides of the border. As a resilient binational community, we should all be alert, make contingency plans, and work to minimize the health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19 in our region. Let’s rise to the challenge.”

***

***City of Socorro issues new guidelines for offices, waiting rooms (3/19/2020)

Thursday afternoon, officials with the City of Socorro issued new rules for community members looking to interact at their city offices. Below is there statement.

***

***Governor Greg Abbott issues Executive Order closing dine in restaurants, bars, food courts; gyms closed, nursing homes visits banned, Texas schools to remain closed (3/19/2020)

During a morning news conference, Governor Greg Abbott issued orders closing dine in restaurants and bars statewide due to Coronavirus concerns. Gyms were also ordered closed, as well as a ban on visiting nursing homes and long term care facilities.

After taking a look back at how the state and the federal government reacted to the Coronavirus, Governor Abbott announced that a Public Health Disaster had been declared earlier in the day, by Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner, Department of State Health Services.

Governor Abbott followed declaration with an Executive Order, following the standards set by the President and the CDC. In brief, the order outlines the following:

  1. Every person in Texas shall not gather in group of more than 10.
  2. Texans are to avoid bars, restaurants, food courts, gym; essentially no dining out; however drive thru and pick up of meals is encouraged throughout the duration of the Executive Order.
  3. No visiting nursing homes, long-term care facilities; unless it is to provide vital services.
  4. All school temporarily closed, however the education will not stop, schools are to work with the Texas Education Agency to conting online and distance learning.

The order is effective midnight on Friday, March 20th thru April 3rd, but may be modified should the situation with COVID-19 warrant.

“This is not a shelter in place order, all critical infrastructure will remain open and functioning,” Governor Abbott stated.

Watch the full replay of Governor Abbott’s comments, courtesy PBS News Hour. | Click here to read the Executive Order

***

***Utility Assistance, other vital services available to low-income families, people laid off due to COVID-19 (3/19/2020)

Per guidance provided from local and state officials, the non-profit organization has introduced an emergency plan to better reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Effective March 20, 2020, Project BRAVO centers will be closed to the public and all client services will be provided by phone, email, and the internet. Applications and other documents may also be dropped off through mail slots or drop boxes at all six community centers.

In addition, office hours have been altered and Project BRAVO business will be conducted Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM.

Project BRAVO provides essential services such as utility assistance, furnace and air conditioning repair, patient assistance, and foreclosure prevention. Low-income families and people recently unemployed because of COVID-19 are especially encouraged to take advantage of Project BRAVO’s utility assistance program.

Households may qualify for up to $1,600 of utility assistance for the next six to nine months. Although utility providers are not enforcing disconnection notices, households will be responsible for paying their outstanding utility bills once the moratorium is lifted.

Applications may be found on Project BRAVO’s website at www.projectbravo.org. Customers may also call (915) 562-4100 and request an application by mail.

In order to facilitate assistance, applicants are asked to provide a working phone number, a backup phone number, and an email.

Applicants with appointments on or after March 20, 2020 will be contacted by phone to complete the application process. If phone numbers on an application have changed, please contact Project BRAVO at (915) 562-4100 to update contact information.

Contact information for all Project BRAVO centers:

CENTRAL
2000 Texas Ave.
El Paso, TX 79901
Telephone: (915) 307-4951
Fax: (915) 307-5109

YSLETA
8908 Old County Dr.
El Paso, TX 79907
Telephone: (915) 629-7664
Fax: (915) 591-1264

NORTHEAST
8815 Dyer St. Ste. 300
El Paso, TX 79904
Telephone: (915) 757-0199
Fax: (915) 751-1844

EASTSIDE
14901 Whitetail Deer Dr.
El Paso, TX 79938
Telephone: (915) 565-1377
Fax: (915) 225-5187

WESTSIDE
7000 5th St.
Canutillo, TX 79835
Telephone: (915) 877-7694
Fax: (915) 877-7695

LOWER VALLEY
13680 Socorro Rd.
San Elizario, TX 79849
Telephone: (915) 872-3915
Fax: (915) 225-5187

Applications and information is available online and applications may be emailed to apply@projectbravo.org

***

***UIL Announces extended suspension of all UIL Activities (3/19/2020)

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) is extending its suspension of all UIL sanctioned activities due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Texas. All contests, practices, rehearsals and workouts will remain suspended until further notice.

At this time, the earliest games and contests may resume is Monday, May 4th. Prior to this date, the UIL will allow its member schools a reasonable acclimatization period for rehearsals and practices to occur. All decisions remain flexible and will be consistent with the advice of local, state and federal officials.

“We are working diligently on contingency plans to conduct state championships in each of the activities that have been suspended,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. “While the immediate future is unclear, we are committed to providing these much-desired activities to all Texas students and will prepare for all possible outcomes, including extended school closures.”

The UIL will continue to provide timely, ongoing updates and is reassessing this ever-changing situation daily. Please continue to check the UIL website  and social media accounts for further updates.

***

*** Wells Fargo Donates $75K to Paso del Norte Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund (3/19/2020)

The Wells Fargo Foundation will donate $75,000 to the Paso del Norte El Paso COVID-19 Response Fund to support the community response to COVID-19 in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.

The funding will help deliver critical relief by providing rental and/or utility assistance to those who are unable to work due to business closures.

Additionally, the grant will help support vulnerable populations such as the homeless and elderly in accessing food or shelter through partnerships with nonprofit entities like El Pasoans Fighting Hunger.

“It’s important in times of community need that we all work together,” said Alma Ortega Johnson, region bank president for South Texas and El Paso. “We’re grateful for the leadership of the Pas del Norte Community Foundation for its ability to act quickly in caring for our local residents. We hope our support provides a measure of relief as we stand with the community during this challenging situation.”

This $75,000 donation is part of the $6.25 million in aid Wells Fargo announced earlier this month to support the domestic and global COVID-19 response.

***

***Speaking Rock announces immediate closure (3/19/2020)

Via a post on their website and social media page, officials with Speaking Rock announced the immediate closure of their facility.

***

***Inn of the Mountain Gods announces closure as of Noon on Thursday (3/19/2020)

Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort & Casino and Casino Apache has announced it will temporarily close its property at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2020, reopening for business on April 1, 2020.

Hotel guests will be allowed to remain on property with our standard check-out time of 11 a.m. Friday, March 20, 2020. Ski Apache will remain open until close of business on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Inn of the Mountain Gods is following the request of the management board. The resort has also been closely following guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The health and safety of Inn of the Mountain Gods’ team members and guests is a top priority. This action is being taken as concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to elevate across the U.S. and globally.

“This temporary closure of our property is the best thing to do for our guests and team members,” said Frizzell Frizzell Jr., Chief Operating Officer at Inn of the Mountain Gods. “Fortunately, we have not yet had any COVID-19 cases at our properties, or in the surrounding communities, though we feel it is important to take preventative steps to limit the risks of community spread.”

In preparation for and during our planned closure, some key staff members will help close operations and remain onsite to clean and maintain the facility. Additionally, all employees will be paid for this upcoming two-week period. During this time of closure, employee paychecks, paid time off and benefits will not be affected.

The gas station located at Casino Apache will remain open for credit card transactions only during the temporary resort closure.

“The safety of our team members and guests comes first,” said Frizzell Frizzell Jr. “Together, we will pull through this unprecedented time – and we will be ready to welcome everyone when we open our doors and resume normal activities.”

For more information on Inn of the Mountain Gods visit the website or call 1-800-545-9011.

***

***Walmart announces shorter operating hours, Tuesday shopping hour for older citizens, new limits on certain items (3/19/2020)

Our associates have been nothing short of heroic in their commitment to serve customers, stock shelves as quickly as possible and keep their stores clean. When their communities needed them the most, our people have been at their best. Their efforts continue to be a tremendous source of pride for everyone at Walmart.

Over the weekend we adjusted our operating hours to help make it easier for associates to stock and perform enhanced cleaning and sanitizing. We’re pleased with the results we are seeing and will take additional steps beginning Thursday, March 19.

Store Operating Hours

  • Walmart U.S. stores will adjust operating hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours. This will further help associates restock the shelves for customers while continuing to clean and sanitize the store. While the store hours change for customers, our associates will continue to have access to their regular scheduled shifts and full hours.

Special Shopping Hours

  • We know our older customers could be more vulnerable to the coronavirus and to better support them, Walmart is offering special shopping hours. From March 24 through April 28, Walmart stores will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older. This will start one hour before the store opens. Our Pharmacies and Vision Centers will also be open during this time.

Item Limitations

  • We know communities are counting on us more than ever and we are determined to serve the broadest number of customers and ensure they have access to the key items they are looking for. Our stores will have limits for customers in certain categories including paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.

Essential Services

  • Our people are working hard to have every part of the store ready to serve customers. To help support our people and focus on the most critical areas of the store right now, we will temporarily shut down our Auto Care Centers to allow those associates to focus on stocking and cleaning in the rest of the store.
  • Also, our Vision Centers will operate on their normal schedule, providing essential services only such as glasses repair and helping customers pick up existing orders. We will have at least one associate to serve the needs of our Vision Care customers, while the other associates will help in the rest of the store.

I think every one of us has had to adjust our daily routines in some way, and it’s likely that could continue. We are paying very close attention to our stores and communities and will continue making the necessary changes to help make sure our associates are taken care of and that our customers can get what they need. Let’s all take care of each other out there.

***

***NCO Leadership Center of Excellence Event Cancelation Due to COVID-19 Precautions (3/19/2020)

It is with great regret, that the presentation of a memento to honor the victims of the Cielo Vista Shooting on Wednesday, March 25, at 10:00 a.m. at the Cielo Vista – Walmart is now canceled, due to COVID-19 precautions.

At this time, the event will not be rescheduled.

***

***Texas State Parks, TPWD Facilities Limit Operations  (3/19/2020)

Texas State Parks to Close Public-Serving Facilities and Programs Starting at 12 p.m. March 19; Law Enforcement, Boat Registration Offices Close to Public Visitation

After careful evaluation of the ongoing public health situation, Texas State Parks will be limiting park programming and closing public access to park headquarters, visitor centers and park stores starting at 12 p.m. Thursday, March 19.

“Our main priority has always been the health and wellbeing of our visitors and staff, and in order to maintain this standard to the best of our abilities TPWD facilities will be modifying operations as a precautionary step towards protecting public health,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“While we have worked hard to provide access to state parks through much of Spring Break, we have now reached a point where changes are imperative for safety reasons. I am grateful to our State Parks team and volunteers for their valiant work during this exceedingly difficult time and thank our visitors for their patience and understanding as we continue to evaluate additional measures to ensure the safety of everyone in the parks.”

As part of these operational changes, parks will be suspending all cash transactions where feasible. Visitors are encouraged to utilize the self-pay stations, the online reservation system and credit card transactions at this time. Other reduced services include the suspension of equipment rentals and interpretive programs.

Park visitors should check the Texas State Parks Alert Map regularly for the latest information about the status of parks.

In addition to the operational changes at Texas State Parks, TPWD law enforcement and boat registration offices, including the license and boat registration counter at TPWD’s Austin headquarters, will be closing to public visitation at 12 p.m., March 19.

Texans needing to purchase hunting and fishing licensesboat and motor owner transfers, and boat registration renewals are encouraged to visit tpwd.texas.gov or call the department at (512) 389-4800.

These changes will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. TPWD will continue to monitor the evolving health situation with local and state officials and will adjust operations at department sites and facilities as necessary.

The public is encouraged to follow the department’s social media accounts and monitor its website for the most up to date information.

***

*** Bishop Seitz on Diocesan Closure in response to the Coronavirus  (3/18/2020)

As we are all aware our nation and the entire world is facing a crisis with the rapid spread of the novel corona virus. Our Diocese has not been spared. Daily new cases are reported and based upon the experience of many other communities around the world it has become clear that without radical steps this virus will threatened the lives of a large percentage of our citizens, especially those with already compromised immune systems and seniors.

If we are to have an effective response in our community no one can be exempt from doing their part. Young and old, rich and poor, this virus makes no distinction. Those who are fortunate to suffer mild cases, unless they self-quarantine, will spread this illness to many others.

Since this is a novel or “new” virus, no one has immunity.

The Church also has to respond resolutely and in a way that sets an example for others. The law of love is that which guides everything we do. Every other good gift and every other law finds its fulfillment in our love for God and for all his daughters and sons.

With these things in mind, after consulting many of my brother priests as well as many lay leaders and in cooperation with the civil authorities of our region I have decided to establish these protocols regarding the life of the Church in our Diocese until they are specifically changed or revoked.

Sunday and Weekday Masses

1. Until further notice the celebration of the Eucharist (the Mass) may not be celebrated publicaly. Only a limited number of those who serve in various ministries may take part. These roles include acolytes, lectors and a small number of musicians.

The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday is hereby dispensed.

2. The Diocese is presently negotiating with commercial stations to broadcast a Sunday Liturgy in Spanish and in English. Masses may be made available on other platforms and may be offered by any parish. This manner of participation is clearly not the same as being there but it is our hope that a prayerful participation will allow us to stay close to this primary act of the Church and help us to grow in longing for what we now cannot directly share.

3. Pastors are encouraged to consider liturgically acceptable ways to provide the Sacraments while practicing the social distancing and the limited numbers which are permitted at this time. I would ask pastors to seek the approval of Fr. Ben Flores, our Vicar General or myself before implementing such practices.

Churches to temporarily closed for Prayer and Eucharistic Exposition

Parish churches will need to be closed temporarily until we can remedy a critical shortage of cleaning supplies which are necessary to assure that the surfaces in the facilities are free of the virus. As soon as this can be rectified churches will be opened for prayer as long as possible each day for private visits by the faithful.

Numbers will need to be regulated to stay below the prescribed limit of 10 persons. Frequent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is highly encouraged.

Sunday Prayer at Home

All Catholics of the Diocese are asked to have a time of prayer together in their homes on Sunday. Recommended prayer guides will be made available at our El Paso Diocese website based upon the Sunday readings.

Wednesdays During Lent – Day of Prayer and Fasting

In addition to the usual requirements for abstinence from meat and penance on Fridays of Lent, Wednesdays will be a special day of prayer and fasting during Lent. This day will be devoted to asking God’s assistance for those who are suffering from this illness, as well as medical personnel and first responders.

Each one must decide how they personally will do penance and fast according to their health and ability.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)
Penance Services are cancelled. Reconciliation times can be arranged by appointment. Once the churches are open for visitation regular opportunities will be offered. Safe social distancing must always be provided for.

Passion (Palm) Sunday

Blessed Palms should be made available for distribution at the church after a non-public celebration of the Mass on this day.

The Chrism Mass

This year the Chrism Mass will be celebrated with the necessary lay ministers and only the priests who serve as Vicars present representing the priests of the Diocese. All priests and faithful are encouraged to take part by watching the Mass on line.

Vicars will be asked to distribute the Holy Oils to the parishes in their Vicariate in the days following the Mass.

The Sacred Triduum

The Rites of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday) may only have lay ministers (including musicians) who are essential to the smooth celebration of the rite in addition to priests and deacons.

The Scrutiny Rites and Baptisms will be done at a later date.

Receptions into the Church

Receptions of those already Baptised in other Christian Churches can be arranged with your pastor and celebrated at a daily Mass or outside of Mass but keeping under the limit of 10 present.

Infant Baptisms

With the exception of emergency Baptism, Infant Baptisms may not be celebrated until these restrictions are eased.

Confirmations

Group Confirmations are postponed until a later date.

Weddings

Marriages are to be postponed until a later date or celebrated at the discretion of the pastor respecting the limit of 10 present.

Quinceañeras

Quinceañera ceremonies must be postponed until a later date.

Communion of the Sick

Communion of the Sick at home and hospitals is permitted to be offered only by priest, deacons and seminarians. Senior priests and those with chronic health conditions may not bring Communion to the Sick. Trained Lay Eucharistic Ministers may bring Communion only to infirm members of their families.

Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum

Priests may celebrate these Sacraments individually, not communally. They must practice recommended precautions, but the Sacrament does require that the priest apply the Oil of the Sick to the skin of the person receiving the Sacrament. They may use gloves and/or apply the oils using cotton balls.

Funeral Rites

At this time Funeral Masses will not be permitted, but private graveside rites with immediate family should be celebrated by a priest or deacon. Priests should offer one of his non-public Masses for the repose of the soul of the deceased.

At a later date when Masses open to the public a Memorial Mass should be celebrated.

Religious Education Classes

1. Gatherings at church for Religious Education classes are cancelled and will resume when the public schools reopen. Online opportunities for religious education are encouraged.

2. First Communions are postponed.

Other Church Related Events

All in person parish gatherings, retreats, bazaars and meetings that gather more than 10 people must be postponed or cancelled. Meetings using online platforms are encouraged.

Individual meetings with priests and deacons for pastoral counseling or spiritual direction are permitted as long as all parties are in good health and safe social distancing is practiced.

Some Concluding Thoughts

We all need moments in our life which reveal to us whether our faith is a living one or if it has become a mere façade. This is one of those moments. If our practice of the Faith has become cold and superficial over the years I pray that we will experience this time as a wakeup call.

Some will sadly see this time as a free pass. They will try to live this time in which we are unable to gather at church and receive the Eucharist as though they have been liberated from former constraints.

When the Mass was not allowed to be celebrated in Mexico during the Cristero War many Mexicans fell away from the practice of their Faith. But many rededicated themselves to God, drew closer to the Mother of God and grew day by day in their longing for that day when they would be able to gather once again as the Body of Christ and celebrate his Sacrifice for us in the Eucharist. Many gave their life for this noble cause.

It is my hope that we, the People of God here in the Diocese of El Paso will be proven to be worthy descendants of these great predecessors whose deep faith runs in our blood.

As such we will be even more committed during this time to care for our brothers and sisters in need, the poor, the elderly, the sick and recent immigrants, even at the cost of great sacrifice.

I trust that in the midst of the financial challenges we will all face that we all will come together to make sure that our parishes have the assistance they need to pay the bills and continue their service even without a weekly collection at Mass.

May we remain close to one another in prayer and in mutual love and caring. Then the Lord will be close to us and give us all that we need to come out on the other side of this present crisis as an even stronger and more zealous Church.

I will stay in touch as will your pastors and other leaders through the MyParishApp. Be sure to download this important free tool by texting the word app to 88202.

May God Bless you!
Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, DD
Bishop of El Paso

***

***Clint ISD to provide Meal Service for all Students during District Closure(3/18/2020)

Clint ISD will provide breakfast and lunch service March 23-27, 2020 and March 30, 2020 -April 3, 2020. The meals will be made available at all schools in Clint ISD to pick up and take home.

To assist families who cannot walk/drive to the schools, Clint ISD buses will stop at specific locations to drop off meals.

The weekday service will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. for pick up at all elementary, middle, and high schools in the district. Service will be available via a drive-through or walk-up process.

Meals will be provided for children who walk up to pick up their meals or who are in the vehicles in the drive-through line. Meals will be provided for all children 18 years old or under in a household, regardless of where they reside or income qualifications.Clint ISD school buses will be stopping at various locations and will have meals available for pick up.

The bus will only be at the area for 10 minutes for meal pick up to ensure all locations are served timely. Visit www.clintweb.net for specific pick up locations and times.

The meal pick up will include lunch for the current day and a cold breakfast to be stored and eaten on the following day. Families will need to refrigerate cold breakfast items immediately after pick up to ensure the safety of the food for the next morning.

Changes or updates will be posted on the District’s web page.

Contact the Child Nutrition Program:  915-820-2339 or 956-220-0353
Contact the Transportation Department:  915-549-2089 or 915-474-0155

***

***Chamizal National Memorial modifying operations to implement latest health guidance (3/18/2020)

 Chamizal National Memorial is announcing modifications to operations to implement the latest guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and local and state authorities to promote social distancing.

As of March 18, 2020, Chamizal National Memorial has closed the Cultural Center including Visitor Center Information Desk, Park Store, Museum, and Theater as well as postponed all programming and events until further notice. Where it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance, the Memorial grounds and comfort station will remain open to the public from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Chamizal National Memorial is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.

The NPS urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park and to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick.

For high-risk populations, such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions, we ask that they take extra caution and follow CDC guidance for those at higher risk of serious illness.

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please check with individual parks for specific details about park operations.

***

*** El Paso Electric to Implement Changes to Customer Payment Centers In Effort to Flatten COVID-19 Curve (3/18/2020)

With the quickly evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) health situation, El Paso Electric (EPE) is implementing measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and taking proactive steps to enhance our customers’ and our employees’ health and safety.

Beginning Monday, March 23, 2020 all EPE customer payment center lobbies will be closed until further notice. However, all drive-throughs will remain open to take payment. Currently, payment drop boxes at every location are still available to customers to drop off their payment at any time.

The table below provides revised operations effective March 23, 2020:

 

 

 

 

 

TX

Downtown El Paso Stanton Tower Building

100 North Stanton Street

El Paso, TX 79901

 

 

CLOSED

Payment drop boxes available 24/7

Van Horn 207 West Second Street

Van Horn, TX 79855

Fabens 200 East Main Street

Fabens, TX 79838

 

OPEN

Drive-Through Only

Monday – Friday

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Payment drop boxes available 24/7

 

 

 

NM

Las Cruces 201 North Water Street

Las Cruces, NM 88001

Anthony 400 Anthony Drive

Anthony, NM 88021

EPE reminds customers of the resources available for other bill payment options via online at epelectric.com. Additionally, customers always have the option to mail in a personal check (instructions are provided on paper bills) or set up automatic payment via bank draft (info on EPE’s website under ‘Bill Management Center’).

EPE’s Bill2Pay app is also available for download from the Apple Store and Google Play.

EPE will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and will provide updates on any additional changes to our operations.

***

***COVID-19 Prevention Guidance Provided to Dental Providers  (3/18/2020)

This afternoon (Wednesday) El Paso City/County Health Authority, Dr. Hector Ocaranza issued updated guidelines targeting dental practitioners. The guidance is in an effort to curb transmission of COVID-19 in our community.

In addition to increased vigilance and sanitizing, these guidelines ask dental providers not to refer patients to emergency rooms in order to ease the demand faced by healthcare facilities.

“It is preferred that those patients who need to be admitted be directly admitted to the hospital from your office,” Dr. Ocaranza writes in the guidelines. Ocaranza stresses adhering to universal precautions, frequent handwashing, and the screening of patients for symptoms of COVID-19 in order to avoid exposing others.

Clinic managers are also reminded to review their Human Resources protocols and update sick leave policies in case employees should fall ill. Employees who are sick need to stay home and they should not report to work.

Residents with questions and concerns regarding the orders may email COVIDCompliance@elpasotexas.gov.

For more information and to remain up to date on the newest developments, the public is encouraged to visit www.EPHealth.com.

Message from Assistant Chief Rodriguez

Dr. Hector Ocaranza – Guidance for Travelers  (English)

Dr. Hector Ocaranza – Guidance for Travelers  (Spanish)

***

***City to Close Animal Services, Recreation Centers, Libraries, Museums and Zoo (3/18/2020)

In an effort to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and for the well-being of the public and City of El Paso employees, the City will close all recreation centers, aquatic facilities, libraries, museums and the El Paso Zoo at 5 p.m. today, until further notice.

El Paso Animal Services will also close its doors to the public beginning tomorrow, March 19.

While these facilities remain closed, residents are encouraged to use a variety of activities and community services available online. The following City Department have online services:

El Paso Public Library 

  • The library offers online services 24/7 from home for all its library cardholders. Resources include online books, music, movies and TV shows. The library is offering story-time, crafts and tutorials on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • For more information visit elpasopubliclibrary.org.

El Paso Museums (Archaeology, Art and History)

  • The Museum of Art’s more than 7,000 American, European, Latin American, and Modern & Contemporary art can be viewed at epma.art.
  • The Museum of History has access and opportunities to explore El Paso History through time periods, neighborhoods, or themes on the digital wall archive by visiting digie.org. Additional activities including recipes and coloring pages inspired by exhibits can be printed and completed from home.
  • The Museum of Archaeology has engaging pictures, lectures, discussions and unique posts on its Facebook page.
  • El Paso Zoo – “Sofa Safari” launches on March 19, every weekday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on its Facebook page. Sofa Safari gives everyone a chance to virtually meet a zoo animal and ask the zookeeper questions about the amazing creatures they care for.

El Paso Animal Services Impact

The Animal Services facilities affected by the closure include the Animal Services Center (5001 Fred Wilson), Mission Valley Adoption Center (9068 Socorro), and Field Services Building (4501 Hondo Pass). The public closure will result in several operational changes that will allow Animal Services to provide certain services on a limited or emergency basis:

Operational Changes:

  • Animal Protection Officers will only respond to high-priority calls. This includes: EPPD/EPFD assistance calls, sick and/or injured animals, cruelty, neglect, rabies, quarantine/bite investigations, traffic hazards, and aggressive animals.
  • The department will not accept any stray animals from the public that are brought to the shelter or reported to 311.
  • Owner reclaims, adoptions, fosters and pet pantry services will be facilitated by phone only and fulfilled by curbside service or home delivery:
    • For owner reclaims, dial 915-212-8741
    • For adoptions, dial 915-212-8705
    • For foster, dial 915-212-8732
    • For pet pantry, dial 915-212-8735
    • Phone lines will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m
  • During this closure, the community is encouraged to help reunite lost pets with their owners by taking these steps:
  • Submit a “Found Animal Report” by calling 311.
  • Take the animal to any El Paso fire station, veterinarian, or emergency animal hospital to have the pet scanned for a microchip.
  • Post the pet as found on sites like Nextdoor, Craigslist and Lost and Found Pet pages on Facebook.
  • Hang flyers where the pet was found, as most pets are found less than a mile or two from their home.
  • For any updates related to the department’s closure or services, please visit www.elpasoanimalservices.org

A complete list of closures, cancellations, and suspensions can be found on the COVID-19 banner at elpasotexas.gov.  In addition, for more information on COVID-19, visit elpasotexas.govEPHealth.comEPSalud.com. Additionally the 2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Center is available 24/7. Caller can dial 2-1-1 and select option 6.

***

***Simon – parent company of Cielo Vista Mall – announces closure of all properties starting at 7p (3/18/2020)

Cielo Vista Mall, along with all other Simon Properties across the nation, will be closing at 7pm Wednesday night.  Below is the statement from Simon Properties.

Simon, announced that after extensive discussions with federal, state and local officials and in recognition of the need to address the spread of COVID-19, Simon will close all of its retail properties, including Malls, Premium Outlets and Mills in the U.S.  This measure will take effect from 7 pm local time today and will end on March 29.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said David Simon, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Simon.

***Gov. Greg Abbott on Texas bars and restaurants: Expect an announcement Thursday  (3/18/2020)

Gov. Greg Abbott says he will make an announcement Thursday about potential further statewide action to combat the new coronavirus, acknowledging that the spread of COVID-19 in Texas has increased dramatically over the past several days.

His remarks came in response to a reporter’s question Wednesday about whether he plans to shut down bars and restaurants statewide. Abbott has previously deferred to local governments on how to handle such closures, which has been part of the governor’s broader strategy so far in responding to the pandemic.

Earlier this week, various cities and counties in areas such as Houston, Dallas and Austin ordered restaurants and bars to close to in-house patrons.

“Traditionally, the way disaster response works is that a governor will issue a disaster declaration, and that empowers local jurisdictions,” Abbott said at a news conference in Arlington, where he was joined by local and state officials. “We’re dealing with something, however, that is not just statewide in scope, not just nationwide in scope, but is worldwide in scope. I will be providing an announcement tomorrow that addresses all of this.”

To read the complete article from our partners over at the Texas Tribune, click here

***

***NM Governor issues Public Emergency Order, Various public establishments must be closed (3/18/2020)

On Wednesday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a sweeping new Public Emergency order to halt the spread of the Coronavirus in her state.  Starting Thursday, March 19:

All restaurants in New Mexico to be limited to take-out and food delivery,

Shopping malls, movie theaters, recreational facilities, spas and athletic clubs must close.

Casinos, not operated by Tribal authorities, bars and horse racing operations will also be forced to close. (While the Governor does not have the authority to force tribes to close their casinos, most have already agreed to do so.)

Hotels and motels can operate at 50 percent of capacity.

The order is in effect until April 10, but could be extended if necessary; Officials added that anyone not complying with the order could face civil penalties.

New Mexico COVID-19 cases: Now at 28

***

***Remainder of UTEP Spring Football Cancelled / Athletics Facilities Closed to Student-Athletes (3/18/2020)

UTEP Director of Athletics Jim Senter announced on Wednesday that the UTEP football team’s remaining spring practices, and the 2020 Spring Game, have been cancelled.

UTEP athletics facilities will be closed to student-athletes indefinitely beginning at 5 p.m. today and student-athletes will not be allowed to work out on campus.

“These measures have been taken with the safety of our student-athletes as the highest priority,” Senter said.  “We continue to preach to all of our student-athletes and staff the importance of practicing social distancing and good hygiene during this unprecedented time.”

***

***USL Championship extends Temporary Suspension of Season through May 10th (3/18/2020)

The United Soccer League announced today, following approval from the USL Championship’s Board of Governors, that the previously announced 30-day temporary suspension of play in the Championship will be extended to align with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on restricting public gatherings of 50 or more people through Sunday, May 10th.

As a club, El Paso Locomotive FC thoroughly supports USL in its decision to extend the temporary suspension. The safety, health and well-being of our supporters, players, staff and greater community remains our highest priority. We will continue to closely monitor the ongoing developments surrounding COVID-19 and work closely with local, regional, and national health and governmental agencies.

We appreciate the ongoing support, patience, and understanding of our fans throughout these unprecedented circumstances. Locomotive FC will continue to provide updates on the 2020 USL Championship season as they become available. Remember to care for one another, stay safe and stay healthy.

***

***President Trump provides nation with update on battle against Coronavirus (3/18/2020)

During his daily update to the nation, President Donald Trump outlined several new policy points, as well as actions the administration will be undertaking in the hours and days to come.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Trump tweeted that by “mutual consent” the U.S. would be temporarily closing the northern border with Canada to non-essential traffic, adding that trade will not be affected, as the number of U.S.  During the news conference, the president said a decision on the Southern border would be made “by this afternoon.”

“We’ll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it,” Trump said.  The Defense Production Act allows the administration to force American industry to manufacture medical supplies that are in short supply in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s never been an instance like this where no matter what you have it’s not enough,” Trump added.

As for the proposed economic stimulus package for everyday Americans, progress was noted, but specifics were not revealed.

When asked during the briefing, President Trump did not place a dollar amount on the payments, although the Treasury Department proposed that the payment amounts should be fixed and tiered, based on income level and family size, and each round of payments would be identical in amount.

“We are also playing with a lot of numbers, a lot of very big numbers and a lot of very small numbers, frankly,” Trump said. “We have to help everybody. It was nobody’s fault. This happened. I mean, some people could say it was somebody’s fault, actually. But it was nobody’s fault, and certainly none of these companies that all of a sudden had no passengers in planes and had no passengers on cruise ships, and all of the things that have happened, but I will say that they can’t be blamed for this. And we want to keep those companies vibrant.”

Late Tuesday evening, the administration requested $45.8 bn more from Congress – in addition to the trillion-dollar package currently being negotiated – in order to cover unanticipated costs for an array of federal agencies fighting COVID-19.

To view the entire briefing, click here.

***

***Workforce Solutions Borderplex Centers move to Remote Assistance, Only Resource Rooms Open to Public (3/18/2020)

 In response to concerns of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Workforce Solutions Borderplex (WSB) announces a closure update for its job centers effective March 18th.

WSB has moved to complete remote assistance to its clients and the greater Borderplex community. All centers, excluding those listed below, will be closed to the public for case management and in-office visits as they implement the federal guideline of social distancing.

Only resource rooms at all centers are open during regular hours for internet, printing and computer access.   The following centers will remain open and can service 5 clients at a time.

North Loop Center

8825 N. Loop, Ste. 122, El Paso, TX 79907
Hours:  Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Northeast Center

8941 Dyer St., El Paso, TX 79904

Hours:  Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Military Affiliated Satellite Center

Building 503 B, Basement Room 2, Ft. Bliss, TX 79906

Hours:  Monday-Friday from 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM

In addition, WSB offers a Workforce Guidance Video and Frequently Asked Questions download to assist those with questions.

***

***Jewel Box Series postpones last two shows of season  (3/18/2020)

The El Paso Community Foundation Jewel Box Series at the Philanthropy Theatre has postponed the final two shows of its sixth season out of an abundance of caution concerning the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Eden Enterprises’ Classic Campesino was scheduled for April 19 in the Philanthropy Theatre in the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Centre.

The Southwest Songwriter Series was set for May 10 in the Philanthropy Theatre.

Both shows will be rescheduled for the Jewel Box Series’ 2020-2021 season.

Classic Campesino was to feature two classic one-acts by playwright Luis Valdez.

The Southwest Songwriter Series was to showcase singer-songwriters Doug Adamz, Teresa Tudury and Gene Keller.

Individual ticket refunds are available at the point of purchase. Ticket holders also may keep their tickets for use at the rescheduled performances.

Season ticket holders should call or email Kathrin Berg at 915-533-4020 or kberg@epcf.org for more information.

The Jewel Box Series is produced in partnership with El Paso Live. The 191-seat Philanthropy Theatre is located above the Plaza Theatre box office on the second floor of the Plaza Theatre Performing Arts Centre annex.

Submissions for the Jewel Box Series’ 2020-2021 season should be available this summer.

***

***El Paso Locomotive head coach Mark Lowry pens letter to fans and the city (3/18/2020)

Wednesday morning, Locomotive Head Coach Mark Lowry wrote and released a letter to fans, sharing his feelings during this historic time.  Among other messages, Lowry shared, “El Paso, look after each other, and we will see you soon”

***

***Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, @WACsports cancels remainder of 2020 spring competitions. (3/18/2020)

***

***UTEP students living on campus asked to leave by 3/29 (3/17/2020)

Tuesday evening, UTEP students with residences on campus learned they would have to move off campus by March 29.  The message was shared social media platforms.

The message below was sent via the UTEP Housing and Resident Life Instagram account:

Housing and Residence Life staff continue to work with campus partners on UTEP’s response to COVID-19.  Effective immediately, all residents are asked to make arrangements to move out of campus housing by ‪5:00 p.m. Sunday, March 29, 2020‬. Students who do not have a suitable alternative should contact their Residence Life Coordinator for further information. Exceptions  will be made on a case-by-case basis. We are working closely with UT System and campus partners on a credit or prorated refund of housing expenses.  More information will be released soon.

Given the situation, we will be offering express check-out. Further guidance will be shared with you tomorrow about this process.

We understand that this is unexpected news, but the health and safety of our students is a top priority.  General questions can be sent to housing@utep.edu.

***

***Tornillo, San Elizario School Districts to hold emergency meetings to discuss, react to Coronavirus (3/17/2020)

Both Tornillo ISD and San Elizario ISD will hold emergency meetings this week to discuss and act on several measures as a result of the on going Coronavirus emergency.

On Thursday, March 19, SEISD will meet to discuss employee compensation and emergency purchases during the district’s closure. This meeting is set to start at 9 a.m.  To read the SEISD agenda, click here.

On Friday, March 20, TISD will meet at 10 a.m. in the morning to discuss the emergency purchase of laptops to assist in distance learning, as well as employee compensation, among other items. To read the TISD agenda, click here.

***

***Diocese of Las Cruces modifies Funeral Mass requirements (3/17/2020)

Upon further prayer and reflection, Bishop Baldacchino has revised the suspension of funeral Masses. Funerals will be celebrated in a private manner with only the immediate family present (less than 10 people).

***

***Cielo Vista, Sunland Park Malls adjust hours due to Coronavirus; Outlet Shoppes of El Paso, Fountains at Farah have regular operating hours (3/17/2020)

The city’s two largest malls have made adjustments to their operating hours, as a result of the fallout from the Coronavirus and related closures.  As far as the Outlet Shoppes of El Paso and Fountains at Farah, there have been updates to their operating hours.

Via a Facebook post, Sunland Park Mall officials announced their new hours would be as follows:

Monday – Saturday (11:00am – 7:00pm)  |  Sunday (12:00pm – 6:00pm)

On their webpage, Cielo Vista Mall officials posted the following statement:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

***El Paso City Council orders all bars, clubs to close; Restaurants given new guidelines to remain open (3/17/2020)

Late this afternoon the El Paso City Council unanimously agreed to enact an ordinance aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Effective immediately tonight all bars, lounges, taverns, arcades, and private clubs shall close and remain closed for at least two weeks.

In addition, restaurants must reduce their capacity to half of their maximum occupancy. Restaurant owners should also ensure a maximum of six persons per table with at least six feet between tables.

Restaurants which are combined with a bar area may remain open but the bar area should only be used to extend the food service area while maintaining the social distancing requirements.

Dr. Hector Ocaranza presented the plan to City Council who acknowledged the fact that financial assistance and housing and utility security will be needed in order to minimize the effect of the loss of income to those affected. Ocaranza says the decision was difficult but necessary during this pandemic.

“These emergency orders are being implemented 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,” Ocaranza said. “Our public health team and City Council 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.”

Ocaranza also issued orders related to workplaces, senior centers, and day care centers.

Further information and details are available at www.EPHealth.com at the COVID-19 page.

Message from Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority  | Link to all closures & guidelines 

***

***EPWater suspends disconnections for non-payment (3/17/2020)

El Paso Water will suspend service disconnections for non-payment on March 18, 2020 until further notice. In 60 days, the utility will reassess the suspension timeline.

“We understand that access to water is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said John Balliew, EPWater President and CEO. “One of the most important safeguards to prevent the spread of virus is handwashing, and this step will help our customers keep themselves and their families safe and healthy.”

Customers will be responsible for the full bill amount accrued until payment is made. Customers are encouraged to pay bills online or by phone. Go to epwater.org for details. EPWater’s Customer Service Center has been temporarily closed to limit in-person interactions and protect the health of both employees and customers.

Customers who already may have been disconnected and wish to be reconnected during this period can contact the utility via email at customer.service@epwater.org or by phone at 915- 594-5500 to arrange for service to be restored.

***

***El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank: 80 volunteers needed; Monetary donations requested (3/17/2020)

Tuesday afternoon, officials with El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank put out a call for assistance, as the organization is in need of community members to help distribute food to the elderly during this difficult time.

What follows is their statement.  To help EPFH, please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Miranda Chapman, at 915-247-0257 or by email at volunteer@epfhfb.org or visit their website.

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank is working during this incredibly challenging time to ensure that those who are most vulnerable in our communities be able to get the food they need. We are focusing our initial response on the seniors who have been negatively impacted by the closing of 12 city run senior centers and 8 county run senior centers.

To read the complete article, click here.

***

*** UTEP Spring Commencement Postponed Until Fall (3/17/2020)

In accordance with the guidance of The University of Texas System, The University of Texas at El Paso will postpone spring Commencement ceremonies.

Graduating students will receive their degrees as scheduled, but the ceremonies will not take place until the fall. The date in the fall will be announced as soon as that decision is made.

The decision follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for large gatherings.

***

***El Paso Municipal Court Cancellations to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 (3/17/2020)

Out of an abundance of caution and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the El Paso Municipal Court will cancel and automatically reset hearings scheduled through Friday, April 3, at 810 East Overland (notices will be mailed out once a new hearing is set).

The Court encourages people not to come to court if they have traveled internationally, have come in contact with a person with COVID-19, believe they may have COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms similar to COVID-19 or have flu-like symptoms or a fever.

Residents are urged to call or email the court to reschedule a hearing. The Court also encourages attorneys who know that clients, witnesses, or others have such a condition to alert the court in advance.

The following will be in effect at the court through Friday, April 3:

  • No Jury Trials scheduled for March 26 and 27. Jurors do not appear and are excused.
  • Northeast Hearings at 9600 Dyer remain in session. Individuals are encouraged to utilize video arraignment option at 10780-A Pebble Hills, 4801 Osborne or 9011 Escobar to speak with the judge.
  • Parking Adjudication Hearings at 810 E. Overland are remain in session. Scheduled individuals are expected to appear.
  • All Municipal Court activities to include Juvenile Case Management Classes, Youth Delinquency Prevention Classes, and Teen Court will be suspended in March and April.

The following options are available to stay up to date with the El Paso Municipal Court:

***

***Area Hospital visitation rules courtesy City of El Paso (3/17/2020)

The Hospitals of Providence
Visitations are limited to one visitor per patient at a time beginning March 16, 2020.
Visitor must be 18 years of age or older.

University Medical Center
Visitations reduced to 1 essential visitor beginning March 17, 2020.
Visitor must be 18 years of age or older.
Waiting in the lobby is suspended until further notice.

El Paso Children’s Hospital
Anyone younger than 18 years of age is not allowed in the facility.
Number of visitors limited to 1 person per room.

Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare
Visitors will be screened and restricted at entrance starting March 15, 2020.
Visiting hours changed from 6AM – 8PM

***

***Cinemark Theatres announces temporary closure of all theatres until further notice. (3/17/2020)

All of our theatres will be temporarily closed as of Wednesday, March 18, in order to ensure the health & safety of our guests and employees.

Please check back for updates. We look forward to welcoming you to the movies again soon.

***

***Opportunity Center releases Homeless COVID-19 Response (3/17/2020)

The community concerns over Coronavirus/COVID-19 (C-19) have led the Opportunity Center for the Homeless and its co-located partners to include West Texas Non-Profit Developments to implement immediate adjustments to shelter operations as a sensible precaution in order to protect our clients, donors, volunteers, and employees.

In contrast to other service providers who are curtailing services to the homeless community, we will remain open 24/7 and will continue accepting in-kind donations to provide services for those who turn to us in their time of need.

In order to provide an appropriate response to the current state of affairs the shelter has implemented the following changes.

  • Protocols under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for homeless shelters have been implemented.
  • Clients seeking services in our facilities are asked to exercise caution and practice good hygiene habits – including washing hands frequently, avoid touching eyes, mouth, and nose, and practice good respiratory hygiene.
  • Sleeping arrangements have been modified to ensure maximum distance is observed.
  • Additional screening questions had been added during the intake process.
  • Sitting arrangements in the dinner areas during mealtime has been modified.
  • Essential personnel will perform duties as required.
  • Meal serving will be handled internally. Volunteer groups who regularly participate in the food share committee and come to the shelters to serve meals are being asked to donate the meals already prepared to the shelter.
  • Food will be served in carry-out plates for all homeless individuals.
  • Isolation rooms have been identified – if needed.

We provide services to a highly transitory population, and the homeless community in regards to the coronavirus circumstances have been labeled as a ‘silent population” because outbreaks are recognized more slowly in that group than in groups that have better access to medical care.  As a direct result, we are working closely with a co-located health clinic operated by Centro San Vicente in addition to Aliviane.

The two shelters typically serve over 150 per evening.  Of those seeking shelter, many have only been in El Paso for a short period of time.  Additionally, over 40% of the population we serve is over the age of 51.

Of these individuals roughly half of them are over the age of 61.

We will continue monitoring the situation and will follow the guidelines and suggestions from our local health authorities.

Our response to COVID19 will require that we put in place additional resources to include staff to care for the homeless.  The community is asked, at this time, to consider supporting us financially to offset these costs.

Donations can be made online at www.homelessopportunitycenter.org.

***

***Texas coronavirus cases prompt Gov. Greg Abbott to activate National Guard (3/17/2020)

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that he is activating the Texas National Guard in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the state, which had at least 69 positive cases as of Tuesday morning. While there is no need to deploy them yet, he said, Guard members will be standing ready.

First responders and health care workers will be excluded from the activation, he said.

To read the entire story, click here.

***

***TxDOT Taking COVID-19 Action to Keep Employees and Public Safe (3/17/2020)

Efforts include travel center lobby closures, canceling in-person public meetings, safety messages, and a telework directive for office employees

TxDOT is acting to help reduce the risk of COVID-19. On Friday and over the weekend the department took several steps to protect the public and TxDOT employees. At the same time, TxDOT remains committed to delivering services to its customers all over the Lone Star State.

Given the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cancel gatherings of 50 or more people and the request from President Donald Trump to avoid gatherings larger than 10 people, TxDOT is postponing or canceling its in-person public hearings and gatherings through April 3. That date is subject to change. This excludes the Texas Transportation Commission meeting on March 26, 2020, which will be addressed separately. When possible TxDOT will look to offer virtual participation strategies for public input.

Work on projects to improve our transportation system continues, as does TxDOT’s ongoing work to maintain and operate our state’s transportation system, to include ferry operations.

TxDOT has closed the lobbies of its 12 Travel Information Centers until further notice to help combat the threat of COVID-19. Outside restrooms will remain available at all times and will be regularly cleaned between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The safety rest areas on highways throughout the state remain open. These provide important rest stops for drivers.

Travelers can also still speak with our center counselors about road conditions or travel information between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Anyone can call 1-800-452-9292 or visit drivetexas.org to obtain road condition information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As awareness is key, on Saturday, March 14, TxDOT began sharing safety messages on its digital highway signs throughout the state. These messages include, “Give Xtra Space, With Each Other, And On The Road” and “Hands Clean, 2 Beat Covid-19, Be on TX Team.” These are short, easy to read messages to help reinforce the importance of preventing the spread of the virus.

In conjunction with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration related to COVID-19, TxDOT is also requiring its office-based employees to telework beginning March 16.

Teleworking has been an option for TxDOT office-based employees for several years now, and with this temporary new directive, TxDOT will continue serving the state’s transportation needs. TxDOT’s number one priority is always safety, and the agency is in constant contact with state health and emergency management officials to do its part during this global health situation.

Visit the COVID-19 website of the Texas Department of State Health Services on the web for the most up to date information and guidance from state health officials.

***

*** “A Place to Stay Tour for Foster Awareness” Concert postponed  (3/17/2020)

Radney Foster and Kyle Hutton Postpone “A Place to Stay Tour for Foster Awareness” in El Paso, March 29 at the Rock Faith Church Center

Amid public health concerns over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19),  Radney Foster and Kyle Hutton will postpone their date for the “A Place To Stay Tour For Foster Awareness” on March 29 in El Paso at Rock Faith Center Church.

The Texas-wide free concert tour, which is presented by the The Real Life Real Music Foundationplans to reschedule the El Paso show later this year. For regularly updated tour news and additional tour announcements, please visit www.aplacetostaytx.org.

***

***AMC Theater Chain announces closure of all locations across the US (3/17/2020)

Via a statement posted on their Facebook page, AMC announced the closure of all their theaters starting today.

Effective today, all 630 AMC locations in the country will close for at least six to 12 weeks, in compliance with local, state and federal directives, and as a precaution to help ensure the health and safety of our guests and theatre staff. AMC Stubs A-List memberships will be paused automatically during the time AMC Theatres are closed.

For home entertainment, please consider #AMCTheatresOnDemand, featuring over 3,500 movie titles.

We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theatres.

***

***International Museum of Art to close 3/18 thru 4/1, Sunset Film Society events cancelled. (3/17/2020)

Because of recent events, The International Museum of Art will be closed starting this Wednesday, March 18th to Wednesday, April 1st.

We thank everyone for understanding and for doing our parts in keeping El Paso safe and healthy.

This also means the Sunset Film Society’s movie presentation of  ‘Lonely are the Brave’ on March 21st and their  Kermezaar  April 4th & 5th are canceled.

***

***Statement from El Paso Water John Balliew (3/17/2020)

President and CEO John Balliew speaks to the safety and reliability of El Paso tap water

El Paso is a resilient city, with the inherent disposition to help, lift up and overcome. As the concern grows about Coronavirus (COVID-19), I’m troubled about the emergence of people who are trying to profit from the fears of many. We are seeing many comments on social media implying that El Paso Water is unsafe to drink, and encouraging people to stockpile bottled water or purchase a filter.

As President and CEO of El Paso Water, a chemical engineer and a father of 3, let me reassure all El Pasoans that our water is clean and safe to drink. All EPWater employees have a vested interest in making sure our region’s water is of the highest-quality because we are customers too.

You can count on our services. EPWater has a plan to keep critical facilities staffed and operational 24/7/365. We place the highest value on safe drinking water. Our employees work around the clock, treating and monitoring water to ensure it is safe, reliable and clean – all so you can trust your tap.

We actively monitor water quality and perform daily tests at our modern, accredited, International Water Quality Laboratory to make sure we go beyond strict standards in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Highly-trained specialists collect 45,000 samples from water treatment plants and perform 370,000 tests annually. All tests are shared with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which provides regulatory oversight.

You may hear reports from other organizations that have ulterior motives, which include selling filtration products, and I want you to remember this: EPWater will continue to provide healthy, safe, reliable water from the tap.

John Balliew

El Paso Water President and CEO

***

***Health Officials in Juarez announce first case of Coronavirus in the city (3/17/2020)

According to the State of Chihuahua’s Secretary of Health, Jesús Enrique Grajeda, the first case of COVID-19 has been found in Juarez.

Officials say the 29-year-old man had recently returned from trips to Europe – including Italy.   According to Dr. Grajeda, the man is now recovering at home.

With this most recent case, the total number of positive COVID-19 cases in Mexico is 42.

***

***President Trump Expands Telehealth Benefits for Medicare Beneficiaries During COVID-19 Outbreak (3/17/2020)

The Trump Administration today announced expanded Medicare telehealth coverage that will enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.

Beginning on March 6, 2020, Medicare—administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country.

On March 13, 2020, President Trump announced an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act and the National Emergencies Act.

Consistent with President Trump’s emergency declaration, CMS is expanding Medicare’s telehealth benefits under the 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. This guidance and other recent actions by CMS provide regulatory flexibility to ensure that all Americans—particularly high-risk individuals—are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Prior to this announcement, Medicare was only allowed to pay clinicians for telehealth services such as routine visits in certain circumstances. For example, the beneficiary receiving the services must live in a rural area and travel to a local medical facility to get telehealth services from a doctor in a remote location. In addition, the beneficiary would generally not be allowed to receive telehealth services in their home.

The Trump Administration previously expanded telehealth benefits. Over the last two years, Medicare expanded the ability for clinicians to have brief check-ins with their patients through phone, video chat and online patient portals, referred to as “virtual check-ins”. These services are already available to beneficiaries and their physicians, providing a great deal of flexibility, and an easy way for patients who are concerned about illness to remain in their home avoiding exposure to others.

A range of healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, will be able to offer telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will be able to receive telehealth services in any healthcare facility including a physician’s office, hospital, nursing home or rural health clinic, as well as from their homes.

Medicare beneficiaries will be able to receive various services through telehealth including common office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive health screenings. This will help ensure Medicare beneficiaries, who are at a higher risk for COVID-19, are able to visit with their doctor from their home, without having to go to a doctor’s office or hospital which puts themselves or others at risk.

This change broadens telehealth flexibility without regard to the diagnosis of the beneficiary, because at this critical point it is important to ensure beneficiaries are following guidance from the CDC including practicing social distancing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

This change will help prevent vulnerable beneficiaries from unnecessarily entering a healthcare facility when their needs can be met remotely.

For more information, click here

***

***Toby Mac announces rescheduled dates for concerts postponed due to Coronavirus measures.  (3/17/2020)

On Tuesday, Toby Mac tour promoters released a list of new dates for his concerts that were postponed due to the Corona virus precautions.  Mac is now scheduled to play in El Paso on August 18th at the Haskins Center

All tickets purchased for the previous concert date will be honored for the new dates.

***

***The Hospitals of Providence update their visitation rules (3/17/2020)

Via a social media post, officials with the Hospitals of Providence released their updated guidelines for visitations  in their facilities.

For the continued safety of our patients and staff beginning today, visitation is limited to 1 visitor per patient. Visitors 17 and under are not permitted to visit. Thank you for your understanding during this time.

***

***Workforce Solutions Borderplex Shares Updated Job Center Information   (3/16/2020)

In response to concerns of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Workforce Solutions Borderplex (WSB) has provided an update to accessibility to its job centers effective March 16th.

WSB has established a system for remote assistance to its clients. They are working with state officials to minimize impact for existing program participants and benefits recipients requires to make in-office visits as the organization implemented by federal “social distancing” guidelines.

The following locations will stay open with regular hours.  Please note that these locations will only be able to service 10 clients at a time.

North Loop Center

8825 N. Loop, Ste. 122
El Paso, TX 79907
915-887-2600

Hours:  Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Northeast Center

8941 Dyer St.
El Paso, TX 79904
915-887-2600

Hours:  Monday – Friday from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The following locations will be closed until further notice.  Services can be provided remotely by calling staff at 915-887-2600.  The Presidio, Alpine and Marfa locations will be available at the phone numbers listed.

Downtown Center

First Floor, inside the Main Library
501 N. Oregon Street

El Paso, TX 79901

Military Affiliated Satellite Center

Building 503 B, Basement Room 2
Ft. Bliss, TX 79906

Horizon Center

13998 Horizon Blvd. Suite 110 – 120
Horizon City, TX 79928

Job Link Site

6351 South Desert
El Paso, TX 79932

Presidio Center

701 E Market, Suite 6B
Presidio, TX 79845
432-837-9800

Alpine Center

Ward Center Plaza
710 E. Holland, Ste. 2
Alpine, TX 79830

432-837-9800

Marfa Pop-Up

Marfa City Hall
432-837-9800

***

***Diocese of El Paso ‘weighing options’ regarding Mass; Diocese of Las Cruces Suspends the Public Celebration of Masses (3/16/2020)

Message from the Diocese of El Paso –

In coordination with local city and county officials, the Diocese of El Paso is in the process of weighing options on next steps for the well being of our parishioners, employees and clergy.

We are asking our Catholic Faith Community to download the MyParish app by texting app 88202 so that they can stay up to date on the latest decisions in the coming days from The Diocese of El Paso.

Message from the Diocese of Las Cruces –

With the foremost concern for our Parish community and recognizing the importance of social distancing in containing the spread of COVID-19, Bishop Baldacchino has made the difficult but necessary decision to temporarily suspend the public celebration of Mass including weddings and funerals.

In addition, all parish events such as baptism and marriage preparation classes, group meetings, etc. are suspended.

The Pastoral Center is currently transitioning to a limited-service operation. During this period, the Pastoral Center will operate with minimal staff on-site and some employees working remotely.

Although the Pastoral Center doors will be locked, personnel will be accessible by phone and email. This will allow for social distancing while minimizing foot traffic throughout the building.

During this time the faithful are encouraged to pray individually or as a family, with the Liturgy of the Hours, reading scripture, reciting the Rosary, and with other means.

Spiritual resources, including a Family Home Celebration During Suspension of Mass, are posted on the diocesan homepage.

***

***El Paso Comic Con (EPCON) provides update on upcoming event (3/16/2020)

Officials with the annual El Paso Comic Con released an online statement on the upcoming event

***

***BorderTown Underground provides update on status of upcoming shows (3/16/2020)

***

***UTEP student ID’d as 3rd Coronavirus case in El Paso (3/16/2020)

Monday evening, UTEP officials sent out an email regarding the city’s 3rd Coronavirus case.  The brief update only identified the female student by her recent actions.  The email follows in its entirety:

A female student at The University of Texas at El Paso who returned from extended overseas travel Saturday night, March 14, went directly into self-isolation as directed by UTEP’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety. On Monday, she tested positive for COVID-19.

She has not been on campus since her return to El Paso.

All UTEP students returning from overseas travel were contacted while overseas and told to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

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

For more the latest updates on the University’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, please visit www.utep.edu/coronavirus.

***

***El Paso’s 3rd positive case of Coronavirus Identified (3/16/2020)

Less than 24 hours after the second presumptive positive case of COVID-19 was announced, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) is reporting the third positive test result for COVID-19 in El Paso County, including Fort Bliss. (As per CDC guidance cases will not be considered presumptive positive and simply be referred to as cases.)

The patient is a female in her late teens who recently traveled abroad. She is currently recovering at home.

Results of that investigation will be used to identify any close contacts who may have been exposed by the patient and determine whether any further testing of close contacts needs to take place.

“As more El Pasoans begin to qualify for testing, we will begin to see more presumptive positive cases,” said Angela Mora, Interim Assistant Public Health Director. “While we wish we didn’t have more positives, it is a good sign that the system in place is working and that we are being effective in helping to prevent the spread of this disease.”

The public is reminded that COVID-19 is not an airborne disease and is spread primarily via coughs and sneezes of those already infected. 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.EPHealth.com or Referral Center is available 24/7. Callers can dial 2-1-1 and select option six for more information.

Message from the Department of Public Health

***

***Clint ISD Closure March 23 – April 3 due to Coronavirus; 

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

Due to continued developments regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and out of an abundance of caution, Clint Independent School District will be closed March 23, 2020 – April 3, 2020. 

Students and employees will return on Monday, April 6, 2020.

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

Clint ISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution on March 16, 2020 to compensate employees during this time. (see letter from Superintendent Dr. Juan I. Martinez to Clint ISD employees below)

District officials are currently working on a learning plan and a meal service distribution plan. Those plans and details will be communicated to parents and posted on the district’s website as soon as they become available.

Any employee who travels outside of the El Paso Tri-City area which includes El Paso, Las Cruces, Juarez will be required to notify their supervisor before returning to work.

Travelers, employees or students, returning from outside of the Tri-city area or who are symptomatic or have been exposed to Coronavirus will be required to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days before returning to school or work.

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

Please visit CISD’s website or follow us on social media for updates.

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***Socorro ISD approves policy to pay district employees during closure; Will offer free meals to ALL students via pickup service at ALL traditional schools during district closure (3/16/2020)

Socorro ISD administration recommended and Trustees unanimously approved updates to policy DEA (Local) – which allow the district to ensure all district employees are paid during the district closure.

This unprecedented action will require the district to work through many details to ensure district employees are taken care of. We ask for your patience as details are finalized and communicated. Here is what has been confirmed at this time:

Non Exempt (Hourly) Employees & Substitutes
Non Exempt employees that are deemed essential and asked by their supervisor to work during the closure will be compensated at time and a half. Non Exempt full time employees that do not work during the closure will be compensated at their regular rate. Non exempt part time employees and substitutes that do not work during the closure will be paid using their average hours worked January and February 2020. Any reported absences by essential and non essential employees will be canceled during the closure period.

Exempt (Salary) Employees
Exempt employees that are deemed essential and asked by the supervisor to work during the closure will be compensated at their regular rate. Non essential employees will be off during the closure and will be compensated at their regular rate. Any reported absences by essential and non essential employees will be canceled during the closure period.

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SISD will provide breakfast and lunch service March 24-27, 2020 and March 30, 2020 through April 3, 2020. The meals will be made available at all schools in Team SISD to pick up and take home.

The weekday service will be available from 8 to 9 a.m. for breakfast and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for lunch at all elementary, K-8, middle and high schools in the district. Service will be available via a drive-through or walk-up process. Meals will be provided for children who walk up to pick-up their meals or who are in the vehicles in the drive-through line. Meals will be provided for all children 18 years old or under in a household, regardless of where they reside or income qualifications.

Note: Food services are traditionally not offered during the second week of Spring intersession, which this year is March 16-20, 2020. March 23, 2020 also was scheduled as a staff development day, as such, food service will not be available this day. District staff will use this day to prepare for service the following days.

We will continue to update the community on how we will provide food services throughout the closure of our schools. Please watch for updates on the district website and social media.

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***Conference USA officially cancels all spring sports and championships

DALLAS – Effective immediately by a unanimous vote of the Conference USA Board of Directors, all spring sport competition and championships have been canceled.

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***McDonald’s USA to Serve Customers through Drive-Thru, Walk-In Take-Out and McDelivery (3/16/2020)

Ensuring the health and safety of our people and our communities is our highest priority as the United States quickly mobilizes to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our decisions are guided by expert local and national health authority guidance. Additionally, we are complying with all local and state restaurant restrictions, where applicable.

During this time, it’s important that we are available for all guests who rely on McDonald’s. To align with increasing regulations throughout the country, effective at the close of business today, McDonald’s USA company-owned restaurants will close seating areas, including the use of self-service beverage bars and kiosks, and shift our focus to serving customers through Drive-Thru, walk-in take-out and McDelivery.

This decision allows for customers without access to a Drive-Thru and those unable to use McDelivery to continue to have access to McDonald’s.

Additionally, we have made the decision to close all PlayPlaces at U.S. locations, also effective today.

Our independent franchisees continue to focus on the needs of their local communities and make safe and caring decisions. Franchisees are strongly encouraged to adopt similar operations procedures while keeping the needs of their people and communities at the center of their decisions. This guidance is supported by franchisee leadership and is expected to be adopted by the majority of franchisees.

We are committed to supporting our people through these extraordinary times and anticipate most crew members with scheduled shifts will be redeployed to support serving customers in the Drive-Thru, carry-out and McDelivery.

“It is remarkable how franchisees, suppliers, agencies and company employees have come together in recent days. During these uncertain times that impact all of us in personal ways, our ability to support each other, our people and our communities will ensure we emerge from this crisis stronger than before,” said Joe Erlinger, President of McDonald’s USA.

“Franchisee leadership completely supports the decision to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensure that large groups of customers are not gathered together inside our restaurants. We are committed to our role in supporting the communities in which we do business and protecting the public’s health by shifting our operations to Drive-Thru, walk-in take-out and McDelivery.” – Mark Salebra, National Franchisee Leadership Alliance Chair.

If customers have questions about the status of their local McDonald’s, they are encouraged to contact their local restaurant.

We believe this temporary change is the right decision for our consumers, our communities, and our business and will continue to evaluate our operations as the situation evolves.

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***El Paso Electric issues statement regarding Suspension of Service Disconnections (3/16/2020)

At El Paso Electric, we are continuously planning for various emergencies, and have been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We want our customers to know that we have contingency plans in place to deal with any further impact to our region.

Our dedicated and hardworking employees remain committed to providing safe and reliable energy as our region comes together to mitigate and reduce exposure to this virus. We want to assure the public that we are ready to continue supporting our region’s energy needs and will make any necessary adjustments to our work and operations to do so.

Keeping the Lights On

Currently, we do not anticipate interruptions to our regular course of business and we will continue with our normal business hours in our call center and payment locations. We are implementing measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and are taking proactive steps to enhance our customers’ and our employees’ health and safety. Therefore, we highly encourage all customers to visit epelectric.com to view or pay your bill online or to find additional information and resources related to your electric service.

Suspension of Service Disconnections

We understand that this virus could have a financial impact on our community. Therefore, we have taken the following steps and offer the following information:

  • Until further notice, we have suspended service disconnections for nonpayment. We will continue to evaluate the impact created by this pandemic in our region. Please note that regular billing will continue for all customers.

Payment Assistance and Other Payment Options

  • If you have questions about our assistance programs, need to make payment arrangements, or explore other billing options, please contact our Customer Care Team by email at customercare@epelectric.com or by phone at (915) 543-5970 or (575) 526-5555.
  • While we are currently maintaining normal business hours at our payment locations, we remind customers of the resources available on our website at com for bill payment options and other information. Additionally, our Bill2Pay app is also available for download from the Apple Store and Google Play.

Scam Alert: Stop, Call, Verify.

Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of opportunities during times like this and we want to remind our customers to remain vigilant. Customers should watch for suspicious emails, phone calls, or persons impersonating employees or charitable organizations. Be aware of threats to shut off your service if payment isn’t made immediately. Always knowing what to look for and what to do is your best defense and if in doubt call our Customer Care Team at the numbers provided above.

We are closely following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines and recommendations on the steps we can take to help prevent the spread of the virus. We have shared specific health and safety instructions with our employees on the importance of personal hygiene staying home if they feel sick or are returning from an area posing a coronavirus-related risk.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates on any changes to our operations.

Thank you,

 

Adrian J. Rodriguez, Interim CEO

Adrian J. Rodriguez
Interim CEO

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*** Council to Convene to Discuss COVID-19 Response (3/16/2020)

The City of El Paso has scheduled an emergency meeting of its City Council for the discussion and action of emergency ordinances related to COVID-19.

The Council will consider the following:

  1. Discussion and action on an Emergency Ordinance of the City of El Paso, Texas extending a disaster declaration due to a public health emergency.
  2. Discussion and action on an Emergency Ordinance instituting emergency measures due to a public health emergency, penalty as provided in Section 3 of the Ordinance.

The urgency of this item is that on March 13, 2020, the Governor of the State of Texas declared a state of disaster and the President of the United States of America declared a national emergency in relation to COVID-19.  On March 13, 2020, the Mayor of the City of El Paso issued a local emergency declaration.

On March 14, the President of the United States held an additional press conference relating to COVID-19, and on March 15, 2020, the CDC issued additional guidance in relation to the same.  Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the disease and emerging federal and state guidance, it is necessary that the City Council of El Paso consider and take action on emergency ordinances.

Who:               City Council

What:             City Council to Convene Emergency Meeting

Where:           Council Chambers, City 1 at 300 N. Campbell

When:             11 a.m., Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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***Horizon City Mayor issues a Declaration of Local Disaster (3/16/2020)

Monday afternoon, Horizon City Mayor Ruben Mendoza issued a declaration of local disaster.  Mendoza stated, “In light of the recent decision by the White House to recommend limiting the number of individuals to ten people in groups and with continued uncertainty, I have signed the emergency declaration.”

Though there are no known reports of Coronavirus in Horizon City at this moment, the declaration allows Mayor Mendoza to enact other emergency actions in the event the community spread occurs here.

As of Monday (3/16) the only service impacted is the Horizon City Municipal Court. The Judge has cancelled court hearings for March, and future courts may be canceled upon further evaluation.

All other Horizon City municipal services will remain operational as usual, unless the circumstances change.

Mayor Mendoza added, “We urge our residents to remain aware of the current circumstances – locally and nationally – via the media and internet for future updates.

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***Locally-owned grocery chain Vista Market sets special hours for older customers, releases information on COVID19 guidelines (3/16/2020)

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We will be opening from 6:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. to accommodate our 65 years and older customers. Regular business hours will be from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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***City of Socorro declares emergency due to coronavirus (3/16/2020)

In order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19, the City of Socorro will be suspending Courts held at Socorro Municipal Courthouse and programs at the Rio Vista Community Center and Chayo Apodaca Community Center.

Payments for court may be made by phone: (915) 872-8574 or in person.

Additionally, all City events will be postponed until further notice.

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***President Trump issues new guidelines for Americans during Monday afternoon news conference (3/16/2020)

The new guidelines for Americans include “engaging in home education, avoiding gatherings of more than 10, avoiding discretionary travel, and avoiding going to bars, restaurants and food courts.”

“My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than ten people, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants, and public food courts,” President Trump said.

“If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus, and we are going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly — a lot of progress has been made.”

A new website, Coronavirus.gov will have a full set of guidelines and information.

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***City Daycare & Pre-School Closures Due to COVID-19 Safety Measures (3/16/2020)

Out of concern for the safety of El Paso families, the City will close Daycare and Pre-School programs at the Galatzan and Veterans Recreation Center effective Wednesday, March 18, until further notice.

The City understands that this presents a challenge to families, and has partnered with the YWCA Paso del Norte Region to provide service to affected families who wish to keep their children enrolled in early learning programs.

Until the Galatzan and Veterans Recreation Centers childcare programs re-open, children who are enrolled at these two facilities can register at the YWCA for the same fees currently offered by the Parks and Recreation Department. If families pre-paid their fees, the fees will transfer to the YWCA, if they choose to have their children attend the YWCA program.

Parents can find a YWCA in their neighborhood by contacting the YWCA online or call (915) 519-0000.

The Galatzan Recreation Center is located in west El Paso at 650 Wallenberg, and the Veterans Recreation is located in northeast El Paso at 5301 Salem.

In addition, the City parks, libraries, museums and zoo remain open; however, all special programming at these locations are suspended until further notice. All Senior Centers remain closed; however, meals for seniors will still be available beginning Tuesday, March 17.

A list of closures, cancellations, and suspensions can be found on the COVID-19 Information and Status banner .  In addition, for more information on COVID-19, visit elpasotexas.govEPHealth.comEPSalud.com.

Additionally the 2-1-1 Texas Information and Referral Center is available 24/7. Caller can dial 2-1-1 and select option 6.

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***Ysleta ISD will pay part-time & substitute employees during closure  (3/16/2020)

Via Twitter, YISD officials made the following announcement:

Pursuant to Board Policy DEA (Local) and in the best interest of all district employees, part-time & substitute employees will be compensated during the emergency closure.

With this in mind, we will average substitute pay for January and February and will compensate substitute teachers accordingly.

Part-time employees will be paid their regular salary unless they assist with sanitation measures and/or providing meals at which time they will be compensated at a rate of time and a half.

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***NJCAA announces cancellation of all spring competition (3/16/2020)

The NJCAA – which EPCC is a member – announced the complete cancellation of spring sports for 2020.

Following the recent recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the NJCAA has made the difficult decision to cancel all upcoming basketball championships as well as spring competition, effective immediately.

“In light of the progressive evolvement of the COVID-19 situation, the NJCAA has decided to end all competition for the remainder of the academic year,” stated Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO. “As an association, the NJCAA exhausted all possible avenues to potentially postpone competition for both upcoming basketball championships and spring sport competition. We believe following the recommendations of the CDC is in the best interest of our member colleges and our student-athletes.”

Spring competition includes all practices, regular season, postseason, and national championship play.

Regarding eligibility for spring sports, no spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled at a member college in 2020 will be charged a year of participation.

Along with the cancellation of competition, all on and off-campus recruiting for all sports will be halted until April 15 with further evaluation to be assessed at that point in time.

The NJCAA will explore the opportunity to expand allowable Letters of Intent for spring sports for both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years under the recommendation of the NJCAA Eligibility Committee.

The NJCAA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.

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*** From New Mexico State University regarding student food pantry use  (3/16/2020)

NMSU and DACC students who may have been impacted by food shortages! They will be open during Spring Break. Food bags are distributed: Tuesdays 11 am – 1:30 pm & Thursdays 3 pm – 6 pm Bring your current NMSU ID and a reusable grocery bag/backpack Located at 906 GREGG ST

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***Texas STAAR test requirements waived due to coronavirus outbreak (3/16/2020)

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday he would waive testing requirements for this year’s STAAR exam, as many schools expect to be closed at least through the April testing window, due to the new coronavirus.

He also said he would ask the federal government to waive this year’s federal standardized testing requirements, which apply to all states.

According to the state, as of Sunday afternoon, 569 school districts had announced closures due to coronavirus concerns.

To read the entire story from our partners over at the Texas Tribune, click here.

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***Alamo Drafthouse El Paso issues statement regarding preps during Coronavirus emergency (3/16/2020)

While health and safety standards and procedures are followed on a daily basis at every Alamo Drafthouse, we wanted to make you aware of the extra precautions we’re taking to ensure everyone stays healthy during this time of heightened concern.

Full info via the Alamo website

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***University Medical Center reminds residents, physicians that site is not a Coronavirus test site; Emergency room rules (3/16/2020)

Via a series of Tweets, UMC officials reminded the public that the hospital is not a testing site for COVID-19 and the proper use of the Emergency Room.

It is important to know that University Medical Center of El Paso is NOT a testing site for novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Testing is conducted by the Department of Health.

Our Emergency Room is for emergencies. Symptoms should FIRST be discussed with your primary care physician. Do not go to the emergency room unless you are in an emergency condition.

In doing so, you could delay care for people who may be in need of emergency services, from heart attacks to strokes to serious, life-threatening injuries.

Patients can and should be screened first by their primary care physician, NOT at the emergency room.

Community physicians should NOT be referring patients to the emergency room for screening. This could also result in well-but-curious patients becoming sick from other diseases carried by patients in the emergency room.

If you want or need additional information about this process, call the City of El Paso’s designated number at 211.

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*** Locomotive FC Training Canceled (3/16/2020)

In the continued interest of the health and safety of all concerned, Locomotive training for this week has been canceled. The club will continue to closely monitor the developments surrounding COVID-19 locally, regionally and nationally to provide updates surrounding Locomotive FC.

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***El Paso County Sheriff’s Office cancels Detention Officer Class graduation  (3/16/2020)

Please note, the upcoming graduation ceremony for Detention Officer Class 20-1 on Friday, March 20, has been CANCELLED; in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that in-person events that consist of 50 people or more be cancelled.

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For official info on COVID-19 click on the links provided below: 

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

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Hurd on the Hill: Tools to Get Americans Through The COVID-19 Pandemic

Small businesses feed, clothe and provide services to our community. They help us thrive, and they employ our friends, family and neighbors. But, today, so many of our small businesses are facing a challenging time because COVID-19 has and will continue to wreak havoc on our entire economy.

Many of us have taken the difficult, but essential decision to social-distance ourselves in order to help slow the spread of this deadly virus. We have forgone our usual daily activities, like going to work and school, dining out at our favorite restaurants, visiting our corner coffee spot or going to our favorite shops.

These decisions may seem like inconveniences to us, but they translate into so much more for the small businesses themselves, which are struggling. The entire business model for many of these community stores and restaurants are seemingly void until COVID-19 ceases to threaten the United States and our way of life.

While the normal business model isn’t working like it traditionally would, there is hope for many of these stores. Besides turning to online orders, store-pick up or other delivery options, these businesses can also use some of the resources Congress has created to provide financial relief and hope.

The bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act created tax credits to help businesses afford the reality of employees taking sick time or family leave due to school closures. These credits are for business with 51 to 500 employees to provide paid sick leave and paid family leave to their employees.

The government, in exchange, will provide a refundable payroll tax credit to employers to cover 100 percent of the cost of wages. Another piece of this legislation that can help the more than 8,400 small businesses in TX-23 are low-interest disaster loans. Congress provided the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with the authorization to provide an estimated $7 billion in these loans to small businesses.

On Friday, the Small Business Administration extended its Economic Injury Disaster Declaration to include the entire State of Texas. This designation opens the process for Texas small businesses to apply for loans through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. These loans can help small businesses, agricultural corporations, and private or non-profit organizations by providing low interest loans to help businesses recover. There are eligibility requirements, and the loan amount and interest level may vary, but the bottom-line is: There is a financial resource available for businesses that help our communities every day.

To get information on how to apply visit sba.gov/coronavirus or call: 1-800-659-2955.

For workers that are concerned because their company had to let them go, there are also resources. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act gave state governments an incentive to ease unemployment benefits—something Governor Abbott has done here in Texas by waiving the one week waiting period and temporarily rescinding some of the requirements to receive unemployment. This will allow for families who are hurting to gain financial assistance faster.

Student loan interest has been deferred as well, and some people may be eligible to defer their tax payments.

I have heard from and understand the concerns of small business owners and all Texans. At the publishing of this article, the House of Representatives and Senate are involved in negotiations to pass a third round of relief. The goal is to help people that are unemployed, make sure we can keep people employed and ensure we have a robust economy when this pandemic is over.

The damaging health phase of coronavirus is far from over, so families everywhere need to keep following guidelines from government officials to keep themselves healthy and slow the spread of this deadly virus. We are in a dark, long tunnel, but we know the tunnel will end. To get to the light at the end as fast as we can, we must recognize we are in this together, and, by working together, we will get through this.

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A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness, and the House Committee on Appropriations, where he serves on the Subcommittees on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

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El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all views and viewpoints.  To have your opinion heard, review the guidelines here and the submit your letter to news@epheraldpost.com

Analysis: Order Texans to stay home, or risk impeding the fight against COVID-19?

Disasters always test leaders, but a pandemic isn’t a hurricane or a tornado. It doesn’t come and go in a day or a week. It’s not confined to a geographic area. It’s invisible. It preys on the social ties that bind us into communities, cities, a state.

But that’s what government is for, isn’t it? When the proper response to a crisis is collective action and not individual action. When the path to safety is in the opposite direction many of us would go if left on our own.

The crowdsourced solution to the coronavirus gave us shortages of toilet paper and bacterial wipes, dried beans and packaged pasta. That’s just a peek at what happens if we stick with the individual response. Experts are telling us that the wave of the virus could easily overwhelm hospitals and health care providers, putting medicine out of reach of many of us as cases of the disease peak.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is still looking for middle ground.

“There have been questions raised about whether Texas as a state must immediately go into a shelter-in-place status,” Abbott said Sunday, adding a few moments later, “We need to do several things first.”

He said his earlier executive orders — closing bars, restaurants, gyms and limiting the size of public gatherings — are still fresh, and he wants to see whether what’s already been done is enough. He said more than 200 of the state’s 254 counties haven’t reported a single case of the coronavirus. After saying that what might be appropriate for urban areas isn’t necessarily suited to rural parts of the state, he threw it to local control: “Local officials have the authority to implement more strict standards than I have implemented,” Abbott said. At this time, he said, it’s not the appropriate approach for the whole state.

It’s already helped, and in very short order, to tell people to stay home as much as they can. Now the question is whether that’s enough. Medical and civic leaders want Abbott to take the next step, to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, like Louisiana and other places have done.

Good medicine, tough politics.

It requires politicians to go against their instincts to tell people what they want to hear — and to instead tell them what’s good for them, including government-ordered confinement.

The same dilemmas appear on the economic side, too. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar decided last week not to waive the deadline for sales taxes; businesses that collected taxes on purchase in February had to turn that tax money over to the state, as usual, last Friday.

Some of those businesses are hurting, and it might be useful to hang onto that money for a month to try to keep things going. But Hegar initially decided that the taxpayers — consumers — had already paid the taxes and that the money needed to be used for hospitals and first responders and everything else the government does.

Good government, risky politics.

The sales tax deadline just happened to fall at the hardest point on the calendar, on the Friday of the week when a significant part of the state economy came to a sudden halt, when government ordered the closing of all of the businesses where people gather for food or entertainment or shopping. A number of lawmakers implored Hegar over the weekend to give businesses more time to pay.

Likewise, it’s not easy to order everybody to stay in their house, especially if there’s some penalty threatened for coming out for nonessential business. And the rewards of that isolation, while critical, are invisible.

It’s not easy to tell people in this self-involved culture to sacrifice personally for the greater community. Staying home if you’re sick is a no-brainer, but if you’re well, being ordered out of stores and restaurants and theaters might wear thin after a short time. You might resent whoever issued the order.

But play governor for a moment: What if you don’t issue the order? What if the worst numbers from Texas hospital experts become reality? Wouldn’t you wish you had ordered everyone inside? Maybe Abbott’s right, and the orders already in place are enough. Some mayors and county judges will be willing to enact stricter policies; in fact, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a shelter-in-place order shortly after Abbott announced he wasn’t ready to issue one for the whole state. Maybe the large expected increase in cases will prompt Texans to stop running unnecessary errands.

At a moment when we don’t have enough testing kits to figure out who has the disease, enough hospital beds, masks and other medical equipment to treat those who have it while protecting medical personnel, or either a vaccine to block the virus or a cure to stop it, distance is our best defense — the moat around the castle.

That’s the hard part of leading. It doesn’t always matter what’s popular.

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: If you’d like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here.

LIST+LINKS: El Paso-area resources, information

The following list was compiled by State Senator Jose Rodriguez’s office. All the links and information are current as of March 20,2020

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve, we will be sharing information with you, especially as it relates to state actions and resources.

There are innumerable issues to address, but foremost on our minds are two basic questions: How to stay healthy, and how to manage the economic disruption taking place.

Regarding testing, the City of El Paso distributed this information (click on image for the city resources website), and below this image, you will find important news regarding small business support announced today by Gov. Greg Abbott, and a list of local resources such as housing information, food support, and even educational and fun things to do with your children.

These resources are compiled from several lists local mutual aid groups are distributing, as well as notices posted on social media. You may find the Facebook group here.

Small business support

As of this morning, the SBA has included all counties in Texas in its Economic Injury Disaster Declaration and granted access to its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which will provide long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying businesses across the state.

Texas small businesses who believe they may be eligible for an SBA EIDL should visit www.sba.gov/disaster where they can directly apply for assistance. The online application is the fastest method to receive a decision about loan eligibility.

Unemployment support

The 10-day investigation period for people applying for unemployment benefits has been waived. If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday. Because of an increase in call volumes, however, TWC encourages people to use the online claim portal, and to sign up for Electronic Correspondence.

Texas Legal Aid has provided a web page with resources, including questions employees may have about their legal rights and other questions regarding time off from work.

Other items

Gov. Abbott is temporarily suspending certain provisions of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code to help businesses whose events were cancelled due to COVID-19. Suspending these provisions will allow for refunds of application fees paid to obtain a temporary event permit for an event that was later cancelled.

The governor directed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to temporarily suspend inmate fees for health care services related to COVID-19.

LOCAL RESOURCES

General assistance

The El Paso County General Assistance Division provides resources to El Pasoans through community and social service programs. Call 775-2700 to apply over the phone or click here to apply online. Examples of help the division may supply include emergency rent or mortgage payments and emergency food baskets.

Health care support

The Texas Department of State Health Services has extensive information about the virus and what you can do to prevent its spread. For that and other state information about the virus you may visit the Texas Department of State Health Services by clicking here.

If you develop symptoms or feel sick, contact your primary care physician over the phone to see if you should be screened for COVID-19. If you do not have a primary care physician or are uninsured or underinsured, you may call 2-1-1 and select option 6 for referral to a health care provider. A primary care physician must determine whether you should be tested for COVID-19. Only those people who have been seen and provided with a referral by a primary care physician can be tested for COVID-19.

More information on testing is available at www.EPHealth.com at the COVID-19 page.

Community Health Centers:
• University Medical Center provides healthcare services throughout El Paso County at a number of clinics. The main hospital has established new screening and visitation rules, which including limiting visitors to one per patient over the age of 18 who have screened negative. This provision applies to all hospitals.
• Project Vida Health CenterCentro de Salud Familiar La Fe, and Centro San Vicente. They provide integrated primary and preventive care, including behavioral health. They do not currently provide coronavirus screening, testing or treatment.

Aliviane continues to offer services for individuals in recovery. For assistance you may call (915) 782-4000.

Emergence Health Network provides recovery-based services for mental health, developmental disability, and related conditions for the people of El Paso County.

Housing resources

The City of El Paso has passed an ordinance halting evictions during this state of emergency. The Texas Supreme Court also has paused all eviction proceedings until April 19 and writs until April 26, with the exception of cases involving a threat of harm or criminal activity.

Should you or someone you know be threatened with eviction, contact COVIDcompliance@elpasotexas.gov or the El Paso Police Department’s non-emergency line at (915) 832-4400. You may also contact Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc. through its legal intake system at 1-888-9888-9996.

And as noted above, El Paso County General Assistance may be able to help withholding costs: Call 775-2700 to apply over the phone or click here to apply online.

Utilities

Utilities, including waterelectricity and gas, cannot disconnect customers at this time. However, this temporary halt on disconnections does not forgive outstanding balances or cancel your obligation to pay for service.

Project BRAVO’s Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) assists low-income households in meeting their immediate energy needs through utility bill assistance and energy education that encourages consumers to control energy use and costs. The organization offers various resources for those who qualify.

Food, Meals and Provisions

Special hours are offered for those aged 60+, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems across El Paso. Those include:

* Walmart: 7am-8am every Tuesday
* Albertsons: 7am-9am every Tuesday and Thursday
* Whole Foods Market: 7am-8am each day
* Target: 8am-9am every Wednesday
* Vista Supermarket: 6:30am-7am each day
* Dollar General: 8am-9am each day

School Districts are offering free meals to all students under 18, regardless of which district you live in. Find locations by clicking on the appropriate ISD: EPISDYISDSISDClint ISD

One Grub Community offers free meals on a “Pay it Forward” basis. Contact them to see if there are meals available at (915) 588-7078 or visit 901 Arizona St. Wed-Fri 8am-7pm/Sat 10am-2pm.

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food has pantry services available to the community. They also are in need of volunteers and contributions. Make sure to call before visiting.

UTEP students may access pantry services at Memorial Gym beginning at 9am Monday (March 23, 2020).

Toilet paper! The locally owned Spectrum Paper Company has opened its doors to the public. They will be accepting cash only and will limit quantity for toilet paper and kitchen towels. Spectrum Paper Company is located at 27 Concord St, El Paso, TX 79906. They are open 8-4 Monday-Friday. You can also inquire with your supermarket about stocking dates for toilet paper and all other necessary items – or try your neighborhood corner store.

Children’s services

The YWCA offers educational camps at six YWCA locations from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Child Care Services participants are accepted for these camps and YWCA also offers scholarships for households with an income of $38,000 or less. Click here for information on scholarships.

Locations and contact info
* West Side: 313 Bartlett Dr. – 915-519-0108
* Central: 1600 Brown St. – 915-519-0107
* Northeast: EPCC Transmountain Campus, 9570 Gateway N, 915-831-5832
* Mission Valley: 115 N. Davis – 915-519-0105, EPCC Valle Verde Campus, 919 Hunter Dr. – 915-931-2123
* Eastside: 10712 Sam Snead – 915-519-0106

The YMCA has extended day camps during school closures.

Locations and contact info
* Eastside: 2044 Trawood – (915) 590-9622
* North East: 5509 Will Ruth – (915) 755-9622
* Westside: 7145 N Mesa – (915) 584-9622

Things to do at home

Here is a list of resources compiled by parents for children who are learning at home during school closures.

Google Arts and Culture has partnered with 2,500 museums and galleries around the world to offer virtual tours of their spaces. Some of the options include New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. The Louvre, based in Paris, is also offering its own virtual tour online for free.

National parks are also providing virtual tours. Virtual visitors can travel through the trails of Yellowstone National Park, as well as the Yosemite National Park Families can tour zoos and learn about animals without leaving home, as well. The San Diego Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium are offering live webcam viewings of pandas, penguins and beluga whales.

PBS offers resources for school aged children, to include educational activities, games, tools and materials for those learning from home during school closures.

Volunteer and Donate

If you are healthy and understand how to practice precautions, volunteer at the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger foodbank. Register for a shift here or donate here

If you are healthy and able, donate blood at Vitalant. Make an appointment here.

To support local non-profits in the region consider donating to the Paso del Norte Community Foundation’s El Paso COVID-19 Response Fund.

Texas regulators contemplating a reduction in oil production amid coronavirus crisis

HOUSTON — The state agency that regulates Texas’ behemoth energy industry is weighing a reduction in oil production — at the behest of some producers — as the public health and economic crises fueled by the new coronavirus continue deepening both nationally and here.

The Texas Railroad Commission’s potential inquiry into its options comes as demand for oil across the globe has dropped significantly, with people staying home and implementing social distancing practices in hopes of avoiding the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“A couple of Texas producers have inquired into the feasibility of the Railroad Commission prorationing production,” said Travis McCormick, chief of staff to commission Chairman Wayne Christian. “No formal change in policy has been proposed. Staff is looking into what that change in policy would entail from a practical standpoint at the agency.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported the producers’ request and the commission’s response Thursday.

Jason Modglin, director of public affairs for Commissioner Christi Craddick, said the agency has not yet received a formal request to curtail production.

“We haven’t really been able to look at it and see: 1) how we would do it and, 2) how it would benefit or help Texas producers,” Modglin said.

Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, said a reduction in oil production in Texas is not likely.

“It’s got to be some predators looking to just slam some people into bankruptcy in a heartbeat,” Hirs said. “None of that would make a difference in the overall market.”

There would be “some natural concerns” among some in the industry to a dramatic oil production cut, including ensuring low-volume wells, those that produce no more than 15 barrels per day, are exempt from any cut, said economist Karr Ingham of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

“But I certainly understand the thought process behind producers watching their industry collapse before their eyes in the state of Texas and wanting to do something about it,” Ingham said, adding that the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers has not yet formalized a position on this issue.

Since Texans began limiting how much they’re in public, many people have lost jobs or had their hours cut by businesses adapting to limited or shuttered operations. As the new coronavirus has spread across the planet, oil prices dropped from over $60 a barrel at the beginning of the year to about $25 a barrel Thursday. The economic double whammy of the public health crisis combined with the steep drop in oil prices has experts here unclear about how deeply COVID-19 will impact Texas’ economy.

Oil production revenues made up about 6.1% of the state’s tax revenues in 2018, according to the Texas comptroller’s office. But the industry helps power the state’s economy, which is likely to take more of a beating since Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered statewide closures of bars and restaurant dining rooms as health officials prepare for an exponential increase in the number of Texans testing positive.

At a virtual town hall Thursday night, Abbott said that prices are near where they were in 2016 and that the state needs to understand the “contours” of the pricing drop before addressing it.

According to the most recent figures for this fiscal year’s state budget, Texas collected $17.5 billion in sales taxes and $2.5 billion in oil taxes. Together, those figures make up about 75% of the $26.3 billion in taxes the state has collected since September. But those figures only run through February. They do not include figures from March, which is when the virus upended Texans’ daily lives, entire industries and the economy.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Texas comptroller’s office referred to a March 9 statement from Comptroller Glenn Hegar, which said the agency “is monitoring weakness in financial markets” and is “tracking revenues carefully since markets began to soften.

“Certainly, Texas has exposure if oil prices remain depressed for a sustained period of time, and slowdowns in economic activity related to the COVID-19 outbreak could also be a headwind,” Hegar said in the statement. “We are still only six months into the current budget cycle, however, and it is too early to tell with certainty how current fluctuations will impact long-term economic performance and state revenues.”

Authors – MITCHELL FERMAN AND CASSANDRA POLLOCK – The Texas Tribune

Disclosure: The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Video: Cornyn speaks on current efforts, next steps to address Coronavirus

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday about his efforts to respond to the Coronavirus outbreak, including Congress’ recent vote for emergency funding and the next steps to address the economic impact.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and downloadable audio and video can be found above

“Hospitals around the state are facing a great deal of pressure and uncertainty surrounding the virus and working to ensure that they are prepared to treat potential Coronavirus patients without impacting their normal operations is an urgent concern. Last week, I helped organize a conference call with the Texas Hospital Association and officials from Health and Human Services and the Texas Department of State Health Services to discuss some of the issues of concern to hospitals serving on the frontline all across our state.”

“Fortunately, the President signed last week an $8.3 billion funding bill to support our nation’s response to the coronavirus. It will send vital funding to treating and preventing the spread of the virus, including the purchase of masks and personal protective equipment, as well as supporting the development of a vaccine. But to the point, the funding bill will also include money for state and local communities, including San Antonio, which have been at the forefront of the battle at home.”

“The next big question on everyone’s mind is how this virus will impact the economy. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to discuss potential options with President Trump and Vice President Pence and Secretary Mnuchin, and we’re continuing to work to identify the best path forward.”

“It’s not a time to play politics. It’s a time for us to work together in the nation’s interest. Keeping the American people safe and healthy and keeping our economy strong should be a shared bipartisan goal. I hope all of our colleagues will keep that in mind, just as we did when we worked with President Obama [during the Ebola outbreak] in 2014.”

“To help communicate what those practices are, as well as other information, my office has created a unique webpage on my official website: cornyn.senate.gov. This will serve as a platform to provide information to all Texans who have questions about the virus.”

How will the collapse in oil prices impact Texas? It’s too soon to tell, experts say.

Oil prices plummeted to their lowest point in decades overnight as Saudi Arabia declared a price war on Russia, adding another stressor to financial markets already reeling amid concerns over the rapid spread of a new strain of coronavirus.

While Texas’ economy and budget is highly sensitive to oil prices as the nation’s top oil-producing state, economic and energy experts and state officials said Monday that it’s too soon to say how big of an economic hit it will take. That will depend on how long both the Saudi-Russia deadlock and the COVID-19 outbreak persist.

If either one becomes a prolonged crisis, they say, the impact could be devastating.

“The consequences for Texas of the drop in prices over the weekend will depend on two questions: 1) how low, and 2) how long,” Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, wrote in an email. “Of course, we can’t look at the impact of a drop in oil prices on Texas in a vacuum. Behind all this is the economic impact of the coronavirus, which is still uncertain.”

Oil prices had already slipped as high production rates in Texas and beyond led to oversupply. And that oversupply will only worsen with Saudi Arabia’s price cuts and planned output increase — which triggered Monday’s oil price free fall. In the latter half of last year, Texas saw a significant decline in the active number of oil rigs, and service companies cut thousands of jobs.

When oil production slows in Texas, employment and tax revenues decline, and budget cuts at the state and local levels often follow. (Craymer has estimated that the state loses $85 million per year for every $1 decrease in oil prices.)

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, the state’s chief revenue estimator, predicted last year that oil prices would hover in the low- to mid-$50-per barrel range through the latter half of 2021. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude was hovering just over $30 per barrel at midday Monday.

Hegar tempered any economic panic on Monday, saying that “the fundamentals of the Texas economy remain strong” but adding that he will be closely monitoring the situation.

“Certainly Texas has exposure if oil prices remain depressed for a sustained period of time, and slowdowns in economic activity related to the COVID-19 outbreak could also be a headwind,” he said. “We are still only six months into the current budget cycle, however, and it is too early to tell with certainty how current fluctuations will impact long term economic performance and state revenues.”

Translation: If the Saudis and Russians strike a deal and COVID-19 goes dormant in the hot summer months, as some experts expect, Texas’ coffers will have time to recover before lawmakers convene in 2021 to write a new budget.

Hegar also said “state leadership has numerous financial management tools which allow the state to react to and contend with economic pressures.”

Craymer also noted that the state has some cushion: the last state budget was balanced with $2.9 billion to spare, he said. And the state has about $8 billion in its rainy day fund — though lawmakers set a $7.5 billion minimum fund balance last year in a sign of their bullishness on the economy.

But while it may be too soon to tell how Texas will fare, budget analyst Eva De Luna Castro of the Center for Public Policy Priorities noted that the state has “to kick off the budget process before anyone really knows what’s happening.” For example, revenue forecasters will have to give state agencies budgetary guidance this June.

“If things don’t rapidly improve, the agencies may be told to start cutting in their current budgets just to make room,” she said.

She said state lawmakers are more constrained now after making a commitment last year to more adequately fund public schools so local governments don’t have to increase property taxes as much.

“Just to not cut aid for students, the state has to come up with more and more money,” she said.

Experts said Texas is better positioned to handle an oil price collapse today thanks to a diversified economy. The last collapse in oil prices, in 2014, also forced the industry to cut costs and otherwise become more efficient. But University of Texas at Austin energy resources professor Michael Webber said COVID-19 throws an unprecedented economic variable into the mix.

When energy prices are low, demand for fuel typically increases. That’s not the case now amid government, corporate and self-imposed travel bans.

“There is significant demand disruption going on from coronavirus,” said Webber, who also works as chief science and technology officer at French global energy services company ENGIE. “This is unique and that could be really bad.”

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, told Bloomberg that “the situation we are witnessing today seems to have no equal in oil market history.”

Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, expressed hope in a statement Monday.

“While the current circumstances are very difficult and impactful to operations and employees, Texas oil and natural gas companies have proven themselves nimble and innovative in challenging times,” he said. “Historically, when oil prices have been down, free market principles, science-based regulations and ingenuity helped Texas operators weather downturns. Recent developments remind us that benefits associated with a thriving energy sector are not guaranteed.”

Author:  KIAH COLLIER –  The Texas Tribune

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, and the Texas Oil & Gas Association have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Experts say COVID-19 could hurt Texas trade and border economy

Economists monitoring the potential effects of the coronavirus on Texas’ international trade are adopting the tone of health officials: Be prepared, be prudent, but don’t panic. But they believe it’s only a matter of time before a major disruption in the global supply chain impacts the state’s economy.

Texas, which has the world’s 10th-largest economy, should brace for a hit, said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, the chairman of the Texas House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development.

“About 1 million jobs in the Texas economy are dependent on international trade,” Anchia said. “It is impossible to contemplate that there could be no impacts and further, more dramatic impacts.”

Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico, said some of the group’s members “are extremely concerned about the supply chain.” Those members include international companies that own and operate maquiladoras, or factories, in Mexico. The factories assemble parts or whole products, including many that move over the border several times before final production is completed.

Mexico has only confirmed five cases of the deadly virus that’s claimed more than 3,000 lives across the world. But one of the country’s main suppliers of equipment is China, which has partially shut down international shipments after the virus originated in and quickly spread throughout the country.

Mexican companies began preparing for a slowdown weeks ago when the virus was still confined to China. Plants in the Mexican state of Chihuahua began making adjustments to their operations as early as Feb. 8 because of the quarantine in China, according to El Financiero. And more than 600 workers in Ciudad Juárez have been sent home temporarily from factory jobs, the Border Report noted.

“People are learning a whole lot more about trade between the trade war with China and now this,” said Ken Roberts, the president of WorldCity Inc., a Florida-based company that analyzes trade data and business trends. “What they’re starting to learn is it’s not the finished product that comes from China, but it’s all the pieces of that manufactured goods that come through China.”

Last year, Mexico was the United States’ largest trading partner, with more than $614 billion in two-way trade passing between the two countries. The large majority passed through Texas; the ports of Laredo and El Paso saw $227.4 billion and $76.8 billion of that commerce, respectively, making those customs districts the country’s busiest. The ports of Pharr, Eagle Pass, Brownsville and Houston were also in the top 10.

Roberts said Texas’ oil and gas industry is also vulnerable to the effects of a pandemic: The price of oil could continue to fall due to lower demand from China, a major purchaser of Texas petroleum.

“As all those people [in China] are out of work, it lessens the demand for oil that’s going to come from Texas,” he said. “The number of supply ships that have postposed or canceled [shipments] over the last few weeks is more than anything during the global financial crisis,” Roberts said.

Barela added that the automotive industry could also see a big hit in the near term. Motor vehicle parts are the country’s second-leading export to Mexico, and noncommercial vehicles and motor vehicle parts rank No. 1 and No. 4 in imports, respectively.

In 2019, the state exported more than $330 billion in goods, and more than 90% of the state’s exporters are small businesses, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office of economic development.

Predicting exactly what long-term effects a sustained outbreak of coronavirus could have on Texas’ economy is still a challenge, however. Unlike trade wars, where the focus is on certain products and the conditions that led to the rift, the virus is unpredictable.

“We’re just seeing the very beginning of data taking in the impacts of the outbreak,” Anchia said.

That’s due, in part, to an emphasis on just-in-time business trade practices, where items and supplies are assembled and transported to meet current demand instead of creating a surplus for future needs.

Although the price of oil has already dropped and prescription drug manufacturers have warned about possible shortages due to supply-chain disruptions, the availability of basic consumer products shouldn’t be disrupted in the near term, said Ashley Craig, an attorney and co-chairman of Venable LLP’s international trade group.

“The basics, I don’t think we have to worry about that just yet,” he said. “Yeah, there is a run on Purell and hand sanitizer, and that’s another reflection of [the hype and the unknowns].”

Craig said the government and private sectors need to come together to inform the public better than they have.

“Unfortunately, there are too many unknowns. This is not a regional situation,” he said. “We do need to look to the government, the federal as well as the state and local levels, to provide some kind of continuity and stability. And at the same time, there needs to be an open discussion with the private sector. How can we address shortages in certain areas of the country? How do we allocate? Let’s openly discuss where we are.”

Last week, President Donald Trump said he was considering closing the southern border to prevent the virus from spreading, but he has since backed off that notion. But if the president considers ramping up enforcement on cross-border traffic to screen people entering the country for the virus, trade could take another hit.

When Customs and Border Protection officers were reassigned last May to help U.S. Border Patrol officers process unusually large numbers of undocumented immigrants, one Texas-based study said a yearlong slowdown in bridge traffic could have cost the state billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs. The reassignments lasted only a few months, but there were reports of hourslong wait times on commercial bridges during that period.

“Shutting down the border and threats of doing so create an air of uncertainty, and uncertainty is the enemy of private investment jobs and optimizing economic development opportunities,” said Barela, the Borderplex Alliance CEO.

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Disclosure: The Borderplex Alliance has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

What can Texas do if a coronavirus outbreak hits?

Addressing the possibility of person-to-person spread of the new coronavirus that originated in China, U.S. health officials said this week that it would fall to states to decide what control measures are necessary to confront an outbreak.

“Local and state governments should begin thinking about what this might look like for them,” Nancy Messonnier, a respiratory disease expert for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Tuesday. “There are a spectrum of actions that can reduce spread and impact.”

Texas has not yet seen “community spread” of the virus. On Wednesday, a Houston-area man who had traveled abroad tested positive for the virus; all 11 previous known cases in Texas were among patients who caught the COVID-19 disease overseas and then were brought to the San Antonio Lackland Air Force Base for quarantine.

Texas and U.S. health officials have so far encouraged individual actions — rather than government interventions — to prevent the spread of the virus locally: Wash your hands, cover your sneezes and coughs, and stay home when you’re sick.

They are also bracing for how to respond to the likely possibility of a widespread domestic outbreak. As of Wednesday, 11 people in the U.S. had died from COVID-19 — most in the Seattle area, where community transmission has been confirmed, and one in California.

Around the world, countries that have seen widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus — which causes COVID-19 — have implemented drastic control measures.

Chinese authorities placed Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the disease outbreak, on lockdown, barring people from leaving city limits and, in some cases, their neighborhoods, and placing the sick in makeshift quarantine camps. China had seen roughly 80,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths as of Sunday, according to the World Health Organization, but the rate of new infections appeared to be slowing.

In Italy, health authorities this week canceled school nationwide — and in the country’s north, where the outbreak has been most severe, officials have placed cities on lockdown, banning people from entering or leaving affected areas and suspending public events. Italian officials have tallied more than 100 deaths from the virus out of more than 3,000 known cases.

State law gives broad power to the Texas governor and health commissioner to implement similar restrictions in times of crisis.

The Texas health commissioner may legally impose restrictions “on an individual, animal, place, or object, as appropriate.” Those orders may include quarantine, isolation, detention or vaccination. (There is no vaccine available yet for COVID-19.)

“Should community spread occur, state and local responses will be tailored to fit the needs of the local community,” said John Wittman, a spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott. “The Texas Department of State Health Services and local health departments have the authority to apply control measures to individuals or groups in a variety of circumstances to protect the health and safety of Texans.”

State officials have stressed that the current limited scope of the U.S. outbreak does not yet warrant the extreme measures seen in places like China and Italy.

“We are thinking through when those tools may be needed, but they’re not the tools we’ll reach for first,” said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The state’s early response has focused on people who traveled to countries where coronavirus infection is widespread, said David Lakey, the state’s former top public health official. “Once we have community spread, we’ll have to transition to a different approach,” he said.

So far, state and local health officials have ordered some travelers to self-quarantine, monitored them and sought testing for patients with the most critical symptoms.

A public health official in East Texas recently issued a control order — a legal notice from a health authority limiting where a person may go — to a woman who had traveled to China and was asked to self-monitor for possible illness, according to the Department of State Health Services. She has not tested positive for the virus.

Van Deusen, the agency’s spokesman, declined to provide details about the patient or the control order but said it had been given because “there was an issue with [the person] following those voluntary instructions.”

“That control order is pretty broad in what it could do,” he said. “It could order a person to stay in a particular place or not go to a particular place.”

If a patient violates a control order, public health officials could ask a local court to enforce it, including issuing criminal penalties for repeated violators.

State and local health officials also have broad powers when it comes to schools and transportation in the event of an outbreak.

They can advise or order school districts to cancel classes, but Lakey said doing so may create other challenges, especially for parents who work during school hours or who rely on public schools to provide free or reduced-cost lunch.

The governor has the authority under state law to declare a disaster during a disease outbreak and to “control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area” — effectively giving him the power to place a city under lockdown.

The U.S. government also has broad authority to restrict travel; federal officials have already placed limits on international travel from China in hopes of limiting the arrival of visitors infected by the virus. President Donald Trump said this week that he was not considering any restrictions on domestic travel within the U.S.

Dennis Perrotta, a former Texas state epidemiologist, said placing parts of the state on lockdown is unlikely and would be unprecedented.

“It would be dramatic, and it has untold societal, political and health implications,” he said. “One would be hard-pressed to see that happen nowadays without really being at the edge.”

Local and state officials’ power is not unlimited in times of emergency. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued an emergency declaration this week that banned previously quarantined individuals from entering the city of San Antonio, but when he sued the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to stop the federal government from releasing quarantined people at Lackland Air Force Base, a federal judge quickly struck the suit down.

U.S. officials later agreed to change their policy for release as Nirenberg and Abbott had urged, requiring that patients test negative for the virus on two consecutive tests, and on Tuesday, more than 120 people living at the base were sent home.

Author: EDGAR WALTERSThe Texas Tribune

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