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Home | Tag Archives: coronavirus

Tag Archives: coronavirus

El Paso-area Updates: City’s Coronavirus cases rise to 35; Marathon Petroleum donates 9.6k masks to UMC, El Paso Children’s Hospital; Clint ISD gives students Hotspots

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

***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

Coronavirus test results in Texas are taking up to 10 days

At first Chris Woodruff thought it was a routine asthma attack. But when the North Texas businessman started running a fever, he moved out of the house and eventually got tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Last week, he got his results back — positive — and went on “extreme” lockdown as doctors instructed.

But it took 10 days to get the results.

Woodruff, now recovering, is far from alone. Though Texas has dramatically increased its testing capacity, many who have been tested are waiting days on end for the results, and sometimes a week or more, according to interviews with patients and healthcare professionals. Those delays, along with the relatively low number of tests conducted so far, mean no one really knows the true picture of the coronavirus spread in Texas, and patients aren’t getting the timely information they need to respond accordingly, patients and experts say.

In addition, Texans might not take isolating themselves seriously — or their friends and family might not take extreme precautions — until they have confirmation of a positive case.

“As long as there are these lags with testing, we’re not going to know the actual numbers, and I’m worried that there’s a tendency to underestimate the severity of the epidemic — pandemic at this point,” said Dr. Shelley Payne, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease.

Testing is done by healthcare facilities, commercial and public laboratories, making it difficult to know how common cases like Woodruff’s are. State authorities say the time it takes to get results depends on which lab a patient’s test went to, and, for private laboratories, where they’re located.

As tests have surged nationally, federal officials have acknowledged possible shortages of materials like swabs and reagents that healthcare providers and technicians require. Even the private labs that process a majority of Texas cases have suggested there may be delays triggered by the surge in demand.

“We cannot accommodate everyone who wants testing and meet tight turnaround time expectations,” said Quest Diagnostics, a commercial lab behemoth, in an online statement. The company’s ability to “rapidly” expand capacity is being outpaced by demand, the statement said, and supplies for COVID-19 testing are a “global industry- and government-wide issue.”

Testing for the novel coronavirus had a botched rollout that included problems with test kits and the U.S. declining to use an existing World Health Organization test. Private labs were initially side-lined, and hard-hit states like New York and California were a bigger priority than Texas, state officials say.

The number of tests in Texas has leapt to at least 25,260 as of Saturday, a ten-fold increase from the week before, and a newly authorized test could soon deliver test results in as little as five minutes.

State authorities downplayed the effect test results could have on the state’s preparedness and response to the outbreak.

Texas currently lags some 35 other states in the number of tests it’s recorded relative to its population of 29 million, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the COVID Tracking Project. New York, with 19.5 million people, had recorded 122,104 tests as of Friday.

In mid-March, when Woodruff was tested in Granbury, tests were scarcer in Texas than they are now. In fact, that same day the Texas governor announced, amid rising protests over a lack of testing capacity, that Texas would see an exponential increase.

Woodruff had been on an extended road trip for work — in Las Vegas and Hawaii — and returned to Texas on March 1. He started feeling sick about a week later.

Though he had most of the classic COVID-19 symptoms — fever, chills, shortness of breath, a dry cough — Woodruff thought it was probably the flu. Still, he felt bad enough to go to an emergency clinic on March 16. When his flu test came back negative, he was instructed to go immediately to a brand new drive-thru testing site nearby.

They told him he was one of the first people in his small North Texas county to get the test, Woodruff said. It wasn’t until March 26, 10 days later, that he found out he had COVID-19 after all. Woodruff was already staying away from his family and avoiding other people, but he was still driving and visiting his ranch.

“Was it as extreme as I am today? No, because I didn’t know,” Woodruff said. “It would be great to get (the results) sooner. Absolutely. Everybody would admit to that.”

His wife, Annette, said they figured he had come down with the flu — which their kids had already experienced — and they weren’t all that concerned.

“But if we’d have known that it was corona, we probably would have been a lot more careful around him before the fact,” she said.

Chris Woodruff applauded public health authorities in Texas and Washington for their response to the quickly spreading disease, and said he hopes people will panic less after learning how he contracted and then overcame COVID-19. He said most Texans are recovering, but people aren’t necessarily getting that message.

“I went through it. Yeah, I had a tough time breathing. Yes, I had a fever for eight days, 10 days. I went through it and apparently I’m going to be fine, but where’s my number? I want to see (the) number … of us that are getting through it. That’s the hope that people need to understand and see.”

While confirmed cases like Woodruff’s are added to the total number of Texans who have come down with COVID-19, the long lag time means that the data disseminated to healthcare providers, government leaders and the general public is out of date.

That not only makes it difficult for epidemiologists combating the disease to quickly access the accurate information they need to understand how the virus is spreading, but also can complicate the job of medical professionals across the healthcare system.

It’s “critically important for the treating physician to be able to know what’s going on in that patient that is laying down in a hospital bed in front of him or her, and to know it as quickly as possible so that they can make the needed changes in therapy or attention or focus and get them better,” said Dennis Perrotta, a retired state epidemiologist.

Case in point: a 17-year-old cancer patient who needs chemotherapy to combat aggressive bone cancer but was told to wait for the results of his COVID-19 test. Nine days later, he was still waiting, according to NBC News.

State officials and lab representatives say they are continually adding testing capacity.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that Texas is “administering every test that we get,” and was on a “very good trajectory in the increase of the number of people we are testing and I expect that increase to continue.”

In the meantime, Health Services Department spokesperson Lara Anton said test results won’t determine the state’s or doctors’ ability to respond to COVID-19.

“While test results are important for overall surveillance, they don’t have a significant effect on preparedness and response activities or the medical treatment of individual patients,” Anton said.

The rapid ramp-up in testing and a shortage in needed supplies have been blamed for testing backlogs across the country.

“It takes time to gear up for” testing on this scale, said Payne, the UT infectious disease expert. “I think that there was a sense that we weren’t at such a high risk when the first cases appeared in the U.S., and we didn’t start [to prepare for wide scale testing] at the time. So now, everyone is scrambling to get all of the reagents, the tools that are needed, and to make sure people have the proper protective equipment” when testing.

Neither LabCorp nor the state said they are not running short on supplies. The Texas lab has ordered swabs and reagents, received “partial shipments,” and has enough supplies to test for a few weeks,” Anton said.

She did not provide a specific timeframe in which test results are returned. Texas’ 10 public health labs can together analyze close to 700 “specimens” a day, Anton said, and prioritize high-need patients and those who “will tell us the most from a public health perspective about what’s going on with the outbreak in Texas.” That includes people who have a doctor’s order, COVID-19-like symptoms, and either require hospitalization, are at high-risk of serious illness or have traveled from a country rampant with the virus.

Quest pegged its test turnaround time at 4-5 days on average, but said it can vary across the country, ranging from “a day or two” to “about a week from specimen pickup” elsewhere.

A LabCorp spokesperson said patients receive their test results in 4-5 days, on average, after the “specimen” is picked up for testing. The time frame can “vary based on demand,” depending on how long it takes to transport the sample to LabCorp’s test facilities and the order in which patients are prioritized, said spokesperson Mike Geller.

Amy Sanders, a UT-Austin associate professor, said she was tested on Monday, after running a low-grade fever for days, receiving negative flu tests and returning “curiosities” with her vital signs.

A healthcare provider outfitted with a plastic face shield administered the test, an uncomfortable swab that scraped the inside of her nose, and then told her, “the labs that can process these tests are backed up. So it will likely be 7-10 days before we have a test result for you.”

Sanders was self-isolating at home and still waiting as of late this week.

“The governor made lots of promises a week ago about ramping up testing, and ramping up testing is important,” she said, “but if it takes someone seven to 10 days to get results, we’re never going to have an accurate picture.”

Authors: SHANNON NAJMABADI AND JAY ROOT – The Texas Tribune

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Quest Diagnostics 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.

Marathon Petroleum donates 9,600 masks to University Medical Center, El Paso Children’s Hospital

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

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.

“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.”

On Friday afternoon, a truck delivered the masks to the hospitals.

“Generosity from companies such as Marathon Petroleum relieves some of our stress,” said Jacob Cintron, UMC President and CEO. “We are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty when it comes to COVID-19. However, when it comes to El Paso companies such as Marathon Petroleum, who have already stepped up to support our efforts, we are reminded again why we are ‘El Paso Strong.’ We can depend on each other, especially in times of crisis. I know we can always count on Marathon Petroleum. Our thanks go to the entire Marathon Petroleum team.”

Based on patient volumes, UMC received 7,800 masks; EPCH received 1,800. The masks were delivered as the hospitals and the entire El Paso community prepare for the potential surge in patients infected with novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The importance of these masks and the level of safety they provide our nurses, physicians and other staff cannot be overstated,” said Cindy Stout, EPCH President & CEO. “Marathon Petroleum is a strong and valued member of our El Paso community and I am happy they are standing shoulder to shoulder with us as we continue to provide safe quality care for our community.”

Click here to donate to UMC Foundation’s COVID-19 Compassionate Care Fund.  For more information about the fund, call Estela Casas, UMC Foundation Executive Director at (915) 487-7987.

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.

Video+Gallery: Kelly Memorial Food Pantry hosts food distribution Friday afternoon

On Friday afternoon, Kelly Memorial Food Pantry and their volunteers held a open food distribution event at their location in Central El Paso.

Scores of El Pasoans made their way to the facilities parking lot, where volunteers with protective gear handed out the boxes of food.

For those wishing to help, officials share that volunteers – in good health – and ages 17 through 59 are still needed (send an email to kquintanar@kmfp.org or smolina@kmfp.org)

Our very own Ruben R. Ramirez was there – respecting the Social Distancing procedures – and we bring you his view of the distribution via this gallery and video.

Analysis: Coronavirus and local control in Texas

Only three COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the 22 counties in state Rep. Drew Springer’s North Texas House district, and he said Thursday that a lot of people “are just coming to the realization about why we need social distancing.”

“There were more people on the road in Gainesville and Muenster yesterday than in New York City,” he said.

“My constituents would have argued [earlier] that we’re drastically overreacting,” Springer said. “I think as they have started hearing more, they’re coming around. … I’m waiting to see whether the cases here, and the names of people who get sick, will change people’s opinions.”

Pandemic is a word for a disease that is no longer local, that has taken on worldwide scope.

But the responses to the new coronavirus pandemic in Texas and elsewhere are distinctly local and vary deeply — from the mostly voluntary shelter-in-place orders in effect in the state’s most populated cities and counties to the wait-and-see positions of governments and businesses elsewhere.

Those local differences help explain why statewide officials like Gov. Greg Abbott have been so reluctant to issue statewide stay-at-home orders. Metropolitan areas are aggressively putting social distancing rules in place, while less populated parts of Texas are more reticent.

Reports of COVID-19 cases might not be as prevalent outside of the metropolitan areas, and official actions have been slower and less restrictive.

In Midland, many residents have continued their normal routines, shopping in grocery stores and at busy retail locations. The city hasn’t issued restrictive orders but has been talking about it. There’s a striking parallel between the places restricting social gathering and the political map, but that’s not what some politicians see.

“I don’t know if it’s a red versus blue thing; it’s a human nature thing,” said Jack Ladd Jr., a member of the Midland City Council. “A lot of people want to see something like this before they react.”

That visibility is increasing as cases pop up in Midland. And the county recorded its first death attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, this week, which has prompted more discussion from public leaders.

At the same time Abbott was issuing his first set of emergency orders, Anderson County in East Texas was doing the same, barring gatherings of 10 people or more and asking people to limit their interactions.

County Judge Robert Johnston said the reaction “has been pretty positive overall.” He said some churches have pushed back, noting many of them don’t have the kind of internet access that would allow online services to replace in-person congregation.

The order has limited gatherings but hasn’t kept people inside, Johnston said. “No, I don’t think they’re staying at home. They are eating at home, still running errands, but there are fewer people out.”

So far, the county hasn’t reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19, either from its general population or from any of its five state prisons.

The county has no plans to impose a shelter-in-place order, he said, but suggested it might not be necessary. “People know if we’re going to get a hand on this, we’re going to have to stay home.”

Lubbock stopped short of telling residents to stay at home, but it did put restrictions in place. Lubbock’s emergency order, Mayor Dan Pope said, “is like the stay-at-home orders elsewhere, without the panic in it.”

“You know West Texas,” he said. “We have a little more common sense … and a healthy sense of skepticism.

“I would say people are in two camps — those who have bought in and understand and are really staying home, and another group that’s harder to reach,” he said.

He said Lubbock’s two hospitals are well situated at the moment — they can open another 40 ICU beds if needed — and added that “we don’t have any stress on our health care system” at this time. As of Thursday, the city had a drive-through testing center, and he said it plans to have a total of four by Monday. Lubbock County had 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, he said.

Springer’s House District 68, which stretches from north of Dallas-Fort Worth across North Texas and into the Panhandle, is seeing a new kind of visitor he attributes to the pandemic: shoppers.

“The odd stuff here is really the foot traffic,” he said.

One meat market sold out in a matter of hours this week. “Some of the stores are limiting sales,” he said, to allow locals a chance to buy groceries and supplies before out-of-towners scoop them up.

He said the county clerks in Cooke and Montague counties have seen a rush of lovebirds from the D-FW area, where the courthouses are closed, seeking marriage certificates. “The clerk has to actually see both people to issue a license,” he said. “Some of them don’t want to wait.”

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.

Grant to USO El Paso supports quarantined troops

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.

There are already several soldiers on the ground on a 14-day observation protocol with  more expected to arrive within the next several days. The quarantine period will restart if a  service member becomes symptomatic and/or tests positive.

Symptomatic soldiers will be  quarantined in a training area on Fort Bliss, according to Yolanda Castillo, USO El Paso  Director.

“We cannot adequately express the impact this support will make to those serving the  nation and coming home in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. This gift will go a long  way,” Castillo said.

The Cardwell Foundation is affiliated with the El Paso Community Foundation.

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.

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank: 80 volunteers needed; Monetary donations requested

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 complete 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.

EPFH is distributing 600 boxes per week to these seniors. However, it is impossible for us to be able to do this difficult work without the support of our community members.

We need to recruit 80 volunteers (40 per shift AM and PM) per day as quickly as possible. Volunteers need to be in good health and a minimum of 12 years old. EPFH has implemented a health and hygiene protocol to keep volunteers safe.

People who cannot volunteer are strongly encouraged to assist EPFH with monetary donations. $1 equates to 7 meals.

In addition, EPFH plans to begin distributing drive-through emergency box distribution at EPFHFB (9541 Plaza Circle) later this week and at Kelly Center for Hunger Relief (915 N Florence St) starting Monday, March 23, 2020.

EPFH is in the process of identifying 3 other large distribution sites in the near future to ensure broad coverage across El Paso County.

In the interim, if El Pasoans find themselves in need of food, they can come to 9541 Plaza Circle Drive for an emergency food box between 8 am and 5 pm.

EPFH is carefully monitoring developments regarding the community spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, EPFH is committed to serving communities and individuals facing hunger across El Paso, Culberson and Hudspeth Counties, wherever they are.

EPFH’s internal food bank crisis team is partnering with Feeding America, the network of 200 food banks, and local partners to ensure the safest handling of food and distributions to our communities. We are assessing new distribution activities to meet the evolving needs.

EPFH is built to support the community during uncertain times like these. Everyone is experiencing this for the first time. We’d like to thank our staff, volunteers, donors and community members for their understanding and continued support.

VIDEO+INFO: Cornyn Supports Families First Coronavirus Response Act

WASHINGTON – Wednesday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) expressed his support for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to protect the health and safety of Texans and provide much-needed economic relief to those struggling with the impact of this epidemic.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and downloadable audio and video can be found above.

“The difficult decisions that need to be made by elected officials and business owners and community leaders when they decide to shut down normal parts of our daily lives; these are not easy decisions for them to make.”

“This is an all-too familiar struggle for millions of Americans who are unable to go to work during this pandemic and are facing serious economic uncertainty about their future. Those in the service industry, especially those who rely on tips, are among the hardest hit. I’m glad to say that soon the Senate will take action to provide additional relief.”

“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will help protect both the physical and financial health of our country by supporting workers and their families impacted by the virus. It will remove financial barriers for Texans who need access to coronavirus testing regardless of income or insurance coverage.”

“The bottom line is no one will have to pay to be tested for the coronavirus, period. This legislation also includes a range of provisions to provide financial security for those who are unable to work, and that’s because they are protecting the public health. It will create a new federal emergency paid sick leave program for those impacted by the coronavirus. That means that any Texan, any American who’s diagnosed, quarantining, or caring for a dependent who is impacted by this virus will be able to take 14 days of paid sick leave.”

“This bill also makes changes to unemployment insurance. It will temporarily waive requirements for workers to prove that they are actively searching for work during the public health emergency response, and it will provide $1 billion in emergency grants to states to support processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits.”

“This bill also takes serious steps to strengthen food security for those who are struggling with reliable access to healthy meals.”

“This legislation provides a quarter of a billion dollars for the Senior Nutrition Program to provide home-delivered meals to low-income seniors. It also provides a half a billion dollars for federal food stamps.”

“That’s why I plan to support this bill when a vote is scheduled.”

“It’s time to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and that we provide this needed relief to the American people as soon as possible.”

What the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Means for Texas

The Senate will soon vote on the Families Fist Coronavirus Response Act to help Americans deal with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

  • Ensures no Texan will have to pay for COVID-19 testing by providing $1 billion to pay COVID-19 testing fees for the uninsured and requires all insurance to cover testing fees.
  • Provides 14 days of paid sick leave for Texas workers to cover diagnosis, quarantine, or care for dependents and expands the Family Medical Leave Act to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers who need to care for affected dependents due to closures.
  • Expands SNAP benefits to Texas families that depend on reduced or free meals through school, including two-thirds of schoolchildren in the state.  Sen. Cornyn also recently announced that USDA provided Texas with a waiver to allow students to continue to receive free meals despite school closures.
  • Expands access to home delivery meals for the elderly with $240 million so they can remain safely in isolation.
  • Expands unemployment benefits during this time of uncertainty by waiving the work-search requirement so that Texans can practice isolation, and authorizes $1 billion in emergency grants for states and interest-free loans to process and pay unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Takes care of servicemembers and veterans with $82 million for COVID-19 related expenses for military personnel and Dept. of Defense employees and $60 million for veterans’ related medical services.
  • Authorizes an additional $500 million for low-income women and children affected by COVID-19 through the USDA Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, in which 650,000 Texans are currently enrolled.
  • Provides $400 million for food banks, including the at least 21 food banks in Texas that cover every one of our 254 counties.

Texas officials link man’s death to coronavirus, first such case in state

Matagorda County officials reported Monday night that a man in his late 90s died the night before with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, making it the first known novel coronavirus-related death in Texas.

Hospital officials were notified Monday evening that the patient, a resident of Matagorda County, had tested positive, according to a Matagorda County Emergency Operations Center news release. The patient died at Matagorda Regional Medical Center.

Officials said the state has “launched an extensive investigation” into the case and that “they have informed the Matagorda County Hospital that evidence exists of a possible community link to the earlier positive case” in the county.

As of Monday, at least 69 cases of the virus have been reported in Texas. Those figures are expected to increase dramatically in the coming days as the state ramps up its testing capacity and as examples of community spread — which occurs when the source of infection is unknown — continue to surface.

“You’re going to see an exponential increase in the number of people testing positive on a daily basis,” Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference in San Antonio.

Author: CASSANDRA POLLOCKThe Texas Tribune

Coronavirus in Texas

The latest updates on coronavirus in Texas: At least one Texan’s death has been linked to COVID-19 as the state experiences a public health disasterCommunity spread has been discovered, at least 69 cases have been disclosed and the number of positive tests are expected to increase exponentially. A patchwork of school cancellations, calls for social distancing and businesses closures are disrupting the economy and Texans’ daily lives.

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

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.”

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.

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