With virus fears come misinformation, rumors

TRI-COUNTY — Concerns over the novel coronavirus have spread quickly across the United States, with panic buying emptying store shelves and many Americans hunkered down at home.

But in the tri-county area, which had no confirmed cases of the coronavirus at press time, misinformation and scary-sounding rumors appear to be spreading even faster.

Take the case of the Judd and Chinati Foundation employees. Some employees at both organizations, which have ties to New York City, have been self-quarantining at home as a precautionary measure after visiting the Big Apple. That’s led to fears in Marfa that they could be infected with the virus — a rumor that both foundations have adamantly denied.

Instead, in statements to The Big Bend Sentinel, both the Chinati and Judd foundations stressed that they were simply taking precautions and listening to advice from local officials and the Big Bend Regional Medical Center. The hospital last week said that West Texans should self-quarantine for 14 days if they’ve visited New York.

In addition, one Chinati Foundation employee was tested for coronavirus after they came down with a cough, the group said in a statement. But that test came back negative, according to the statement.

Unfounded fears and speculation over two prominent Marfa arts foundations are just some of the harmful rumors to circulate in recent days. Other untrue rumors include:

— A rumor that the Presidio-Ojinaga Port of Entry has closed over coronavirus fears, which is false, according to a statement from the City of Presidio.

— Rumors that several Terlingua visitors are suspected to have coronavirus, or that there are currently confirmed cases at Big Bend Regional Medical Center, which are false, according to local law enforcement and the hospital. Again, at press time, there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in the tri-county area.

— Rumors that any number of Marfa ISD students are suspected to have coronavirus, which are false, MISD Superintendent Oscar Aguero and Dr. J.P. Schwartz said last week.

— Rumors that Hotel Saint George is under quarantine or has any suspected cases, which are false, according to the hotel and a statement from the City of Marfa regarding coronavirus.

Local officials, health workers and the staff at The Big Bend Sentinel and Presidio International are all working overtime to bring you accurate information on coronavirus in the area. The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office asks that locals and visitors please do their part by staying mindful of rumors and misinformation.