March 18, 2020 601 PM
MARFA — Last Wednesday, Marfa was packed, full of visitors here for the Big Bend’s peak tourist season and locals enjoying the warmer temperatures.
But on Wednesday and Thursday, local businesses started closing over concerns about the novel coronavirus. And by the weekend, Marfa seemed virtually shut down.
In recent days, the Big Bend region has been coming to terms with the grim realities of COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus — a reality that first upended daily life in China, then in South Korea and Italy and now is affecting daily life across Europe and the United States.
By press time, there were over 200,000 confirmed global cases of coronavirus and over 8,000 deaths — including over 7,000 confirmed cases and over 100 deaths in the United States, according to statistics maintained by Johns Hopkins University. San Francisco is under mandatory lockdown, while cities across the country — including Dallas, Houston and, most recently, El Paso — have all imposed restrictions on bars, restaurants and public gatherings.
At press time, there were at least two deaths and 83 cases of coronavirus in Texas, with almost 2,000 Texans tested. Those figures are up-to-date as of Wednesday at noon, with state health officials releasing new figures on a daily basis.
At least six Texas counties are also reporting community spread, where people who have not traveled and have no known coronavirus contacts are contracting the virus. Those places include Brazoria, Dallas, Matagorda, Montgomery, Tarrant and Webb counties. There are still no known cases of coronavirus in the tri-county area, according to the latest state figures.
Big Bend Regional Medical Center has 25 beds and two ventilators/respirators. Like health officials across the world, they are urging people to help “flatten the curve” to minimize a spike in people who need medical treatment or hospitalization.
President Donald Trump asked that Americans avoid groups of more than 10 people for the next 15 days to help contain coronavirus, until March 31. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending no events with 50 or more people in the United States for the next eight weeks (until May 10).
The Texas Department of State Health Services is also recommending Texans change plans to help protect themselves and other members of the public from coronavirus. Specific recommendations include: canceling large gatherings, avoiding all non-essential travel and practicing social distancing. For individuals, that could mean avoiding social gatherings and public spaces when possible. People with the coronavirus can spread the disease before they show symptoms.