District 29 Coronavirus Report 3.22.20
It has been an eventful week. At all levels, governments are limiting operations that involve contact with the public and taking emergency actions; the economy is struggling as business slows and workers lose pay; and people are mostly doing their best to heed the advice to stay home.In Texas Senate District 29, El Paso has eight cases diagnosed; there are no known cases in Hudspeth, Culberson, or the Tri-County area of Jeff Davis, Presidio, and Brewster counties(although there is one in Midland). In our sister city, Cd. Juarez has two announced cases (one of which was a woman who had traveled to New York).
My offices in El Paso, Marfa, and the state Capitol have closed, and staff is working from home. We have canceled April and May meetings of the District 29 Advisory Committees.
If you need any assistance during this period, please call 915.244.2425 or 512.463.0129, or email [email protected] to be routed to the staff member best equipped to help you with your request.
Of immediate impact to our region is the closing of the border to all but “essential” travel as of yesterday. Click here for the federal order.
I have been sending regular newsletters that include resources for information and support. In today’s newsletter you will find a compilation of news, information, and resource links sent out over the course of the week.
DISTANCING, FLATTENING, AND HAND-WASHING
The best medical advice on prevention is quite simple: The less person-to-person contact the less opportunity the virus has to spread. Through “social distancing” we can “flatten the curve,” or reduce the rate of infection so that hospitals are not overwhelmed and unable to treat an influx of patients.
The other simple idea to help prevent the spread of this virus, which is extremely contagious and more virulent than the typical flu, is to practice regular hand-washing. Sanitizer works, and so does soap and water – 20 seconds of scrubbing, making sure you get all the folds between your fingers and under your fingernails.
|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.
FEDERAL ACTIONS AND RESOURCES
The Senate is developing a major economic support package that will top a trillion dollars. It is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow. Many people will receive cash payments, payroll taxes will be reduced for businesses, and states will receive more aid. How these benefits will go to those who most need them will be the challenge we must meet together.The Federal Reserve also has put more than $1 trillion into the stock market, which has lost significant value – the most since 2008 – and is expected to add more.
On Wednesday, the House passed, and the Senate approved, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The act includes paid sick leave for some workers, free testing, and expanded unemployment benefits.Other items of note: Tax Day has been moved from April 15 to July 15, and interest on student loan payments is temporarily waived.
INFORMATION AND UPDATES FROM THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
STATE DEPARTMENT TRAVEL INFORMATION
USCIS ANNOUNCEMENT ON PUBLIC CHARGE RULE FOR IMMIGRANTS and ADVOCACY GROUP ANALYSIS AND SUPPORT INFORMATION
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION SUPPORT
STATE ACTIONS AND RESOURCES
Disaster Declaration and Executive Orders
Gov. Abbott issued a disaster proclamation for the state of Texas, directing “day cares, nursing homes and prisons to limit visitations and ordering state employees to work from home, where possible,” and followed that with further orders on Friday that including limiting social gatherings to 10 people and forbidding eating and drinking in restaurants, although pickup and delivery service is still available. The governor also has activated the Texas National Guard.
Texas Education Agency
STAAR testing for this year has been suspended. General Public Health resources, school closures, superintendent debriefs, general guidance and FAQ, testing waiver, specific information for SPED, nutrition, etc. at the TEA website.
You can find information on school meals here.
Health and Human Services information
Hospitals are granting access only to essential visitors such as medical professionals and authorized caregivers acting specifically on a patient’s behalf. LATEST GUIDANCE FROM HHS.
The Department of State Health Services has information on COVID-19, what to do if you get sick, state case counts and other resources.
Texas Workforce Commission
The 10-day investigation period for people applying for unemployment benefits has been waived. Apply at 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. TWC is experiencing high call volume and encourages people to sign up for Electronic Correspondence.
Texas Legal Aid has provided a web page for employees on their legal rights and other questions regarding time off from work.
Approval for Small Business Disaster Loans
The federal government has approved Texas’ application for access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying businesses across the state. ONLINE APPLICATION
Report to the Attorney General’s complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online by clicking here.
Local government meetings and elections
The Governor has suspended various provisions that require government officials and members of the public to be physically present at a specified meeting location. Members of the public will be entitled to participate. Click here for Texas Municipal League information
He also issued an order allowing local jurisdictions to postpone elections scheduled for May 2 until November. San Elizario has announced it will postpone its elections.
Department of Public Safety / Driver Licenses
DPS has closed driver license facilities, and will temporarily waive expiration dates for Driver Licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses, and other identification forms. This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal Driver License operations have resumed. Click here to find out if you are eligible to renew online. For additional information about renewing your driver license or ID card, visit the DPS website.
Employees Retirement System
For information on your health plan and other resources available to members of ERS, please click here.
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
The Coordinating Board has established a central website for coronavirus information relevant to Texas higher education.
Texas Department of Transportation
TxDOT has closed the lobbies of its 12 Travel Information Centers until further notice to help combat the threat of COVID-19. Outside restrooms will remain available at all times and will be regularly cleaned between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The safety rest areas on highways throughout the state remain open.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards has released guidance for jails and detention facilities. This includes recommendations that officials explore options with local county and district attorneys and arresting authorities for releasing non-violent misdemeanor offenders and implementing “cite and release” for non-violent crimes.
DISTRICT 29 ACTIONS AND RESOURCES
Local emergency declarations
Local governments across from El Paso to the Big Bend have declared emergencies. Follow developments in Marfa, Presidio, Jeff Davis, and Brewster counties here.The El Paso Health Department’s web page has links to the local declaration of emergency, announcement of the first case reported in El Paso, and status of the Public Health COVID-19 Education Taskforce. The Health Department also has a public information line at 2-1-1.
The order requires prices for certain goods and services to remain at the levels they were at on March 13, 2020. Click here to view the county order.
Most schools are closed until April 6. You should check with your individual school district on their plans. You may find a list of El Paso school districts here.
District 29 stretches from El Paso to the Big Bend, where schools so far are on track to return to classes March 24. You may find more information on closures of schools, institutions, and events in West Texas here.
Water, gas, and electricity providers have suspended disconnections:
* El Paso Water customers are encouraged to pay bills online or by phone. EPWater’s Customer Service Center has been temporarily closed. Customers who have been disconnected and wish to be reconnected can contact the utility via email at [email protected] or by phone at 915-594-5500.
* Texas Gas self-service phone system is 800-700-2443; Customer service representatives (available Monday-Friday, 7 am – 7 pm CT) at 800-700-2443. The Share The Warmth program also provides energy assistance click here to find out more.
* El Paso Electric locations will be closed starting tomorrow. The Customer Care Team is at [email protected] or by phone at (915) 543-5970 or (575) 526-5555. EPE is maintaining normal business hours at payment locations, but encourages using its website to pay online.
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.
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.
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 Center, Centro 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.
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 [email protected] 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.
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: EPISD; YISD; SISD; Clint ISD or by clicking here.
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.
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 – 915-519-0106The 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 homeHere 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 DonateIf 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.
Let’s take care of ourselves and those around us.