May 21 Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

COVID-19 Paid Leave

As Texas reopens, most workers who cannot work remotely are understandably worried about their health and safety. Some do not know whether it’s better to stay home for the health of their families, or go back to work to keep their job and pay for necessities.

While hardly perfect, new COVID-19 leave laws give workers the right to paid COVID-19 time off if they’re told to quarantine, if they’re taking care of a sick family member or child whose school is closed or if a child-care provider is unavailable because of COVID-19.

Even though most employers are required to share information about employees’ leave rights, many workers don’t know about the new law.

Most workers are now eligible for two weeks of leave at full pay if they are under a stay-at-home order, told to quarantine by a healthcare provider or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis. Most workers are also eligible for two weeks of reduced-pay leave to take care of a family member with COVID-19, and up to 12 weeks of reduced-pay leave to take care of a child whose school or child-care provider is closed.

The Department of Labor’s charts, posters and guidance explaining the law are available online at For more information about rules and eligibility, visit the TRLA website or talk to a lawyer.

If you think you need time off because of COVID-19, follow the policy that your employer has hopefully updated, or, if there is no updated policy, request COVID-19 leave the same way you request any time off. Make sure to say that you need COVID-19 leave and explain why you cannot work. Tell your supervisor the names of everyone involved — the health care provider who advised you to quarantine, the child or family member you are caring for, or the school or daycare that’s shut down. A doctor’s note isn’t necessary.

However, not all companies have to provide COVID-19 time off. Companies with more than 500 workers are not covered. Employers of healthcare providers and emergency responders can choose whether to offer this leave. Small companies with less than 50 workers can also decide to not provide the 12 weeks of family leave for workers whose children are stuck at home if granting the leave might force the business to shut its doors. Regardless, those small companies must still provide sick leave to workers advised to quarantine or for those who are sick. All businesses should talk to a lawyer to clarify how the rules apply to them.

Even if a company isn’t covered by the new laws, having a COVID-19 leave policy makes sense. The CDC explained that flexible and supportive leave policies are critical to maintaining healthy business operations. Employees who aren’t given leave may come to work sick out of fear of losing their jobs, only to spread COVID-19 throughout their workplaces.

If a company is covered, tax credits may be available to recover the cost of providing COVID-19 leave. Check with your tax advisor. And having a COVID-19 leave policy in place (and posting the mandatory notice from the DOL’s website) should reduce the risk of a lawsuit down the line. The COVID-19 leave laws allow workers to recover damages if they’re wrongfully denied leave or retaliated against for asking for COVID-19 leave.

When employers follow these laws, and workers know their rights, Texas will be safer for everyone.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid provides free legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney in 68 southwestern counties, including the entire Texas-Mexico border. TRLA attorneys specialize in more than 45 areas of the law, including employment, disaster assistance, family, foreclosure, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, housing, education, immigration, farmworker, and civil rights. To apply for legal services, call our hotline at (888) 988-9996 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) Monday – Friday, or visit our website at

Amanda Chisholm

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Staff Attorney


Dear Editor,

Every Thursday I look forward to the new issue of The Sentinel; during this pandemic, now more than ever. We are so lucky to have the talent and dedication of reporters like Stephen Paulsen and Abbie Perrault who are finding ways to cover both the geographic breadth and diversity of the social, political and cultural issues here in Far West Texas. Last week’s profile of Mimi Webb Miller, updates on the city’s coronavirus actions and the pending rabbit disease outbreak were all well written and are only a few examples of the topics covered every week. The Sentinel and Marfa Public Radio (award winning!) are the information lifeblood of this community. Thank you all for your ongoing contributions.

Laura Doll



Dear Editor,

Last week I started hearing the phrase, “there are no active cases” (of COVID-19 in the tri-county).

My research of that term shows that “active cases” is defined as “people who have recently been tested positive and have not yet recovered.”

Since the CDC informs us that a significant number of people can carry COVID-19 and be contagious without exhibiting symptoms, and since testing in the tri-county has not been widespread, having “no active cases” does not mean that there is no risk of catching and spreading the disease here.

I say this because this week the use of masks and social distancing by customers appears to have decreased in stores in Alpine, and I think it is still wise for us to be careful.

Pam Gaddis



Dear Editor,

Dear Mack Fowler & Jenny Moore,

I’m writing you today as a concerned art neighbor and citizen of Marfa. I’ve heard that Chinati is planning some form of limited opening to the public with the assurance that you will be taking adequate safety measures on the Chinati campus in order to protect people from the coronavirus.

I think this is a bad idea any way you slice it. The town is already pretty open, the phones at the Hotel St. George are hopping off the receiver with requests for reservations and Airbnbs are being swamped with hopeful bookings.

Some restaurants in town with very close seating are also opening to the public. This is a real shit show and altogether will bring only the worst upon the town.

When we look at a map of the United States and then Texas and then we move it over to Marfa there is a profound absence of red dots. We’ve all seen it. I got tested last week. I don’t know how many will test positive from the last round of testing here but it’s probably still pretty low.

What that clear undotted map of America suggests is that this is a beach clear of COVID, and if you want a real vacation come here. Put your umbrella down. The state opening, the hotels opening in Marfa are abundantly sending that message and you, Chinati, will be the icing on the cake.

The Chinati Foundation is the gem of the town and the ultimate lure that will effectively draw people to this “safe space.” Safe for who. Me? You and your husband and kids, Jenny, and all our friends. As you both know there is no safe space from COVID. If you were to open up in some limited way you might keep it “safe” on the Chinati campus but you have no control over the general effect, the consequences, the real and virtual viral load of saying to people outside of our town, “Come and get it. Get your safe vacation here.”

One of the things that strikes me about the messaging coming out of the White House and probably from Greg Abbott’s house is that they are all operating like a gated community. Everybody gets tested frequently in there, lots of sanitizer and masks and all of them have the option of keeping lots of private space around themselves. They don’t need to shop in public, they don’t need to pump gas, they don’t need to go to bars. That does not strike me as the profile that you want associated with your institution. And life doesn’t work like that here. Your visitors will walk around. They will spread.

Chinati is so prominent and as an art museum you are a vital messaging center.

I really beg of you to send a safe, human-conserving, progressive message, not a hamstrung locally-driven one. Art institutions around the country are staying shuttered and I guess I’m asking if you are part of that community or the one obeying the governor who is obeying the president and putting all of us at risk for the sake of capital and future elections.

What does Chinati put first, human values or political ones? I just don’t get the politics of such an influential vanguard institution as yours opening to the public right now.

It messes with the message of your history and I think people will look back on this moment with shame if you forge ahead without a serious acknowledgment of consequences.

I hope by now you’ve put the issue to rest. It’s a mistake to open, plain and simple and I hope to hear that that path already for the present time is firmly shut.

Thanks for your attention,

Eileen Myles



Dear Editor,

An article in the Monday, May 18, 2020 Wall Street Journal in part stated, “the requirements requiring customers to cover up in stores, face coverings have become a flash point.” The media has fostered cases of violence, and are often confrontational along our usual cultural divide. Among the objections voiced, it’s a form of social control, a sign of fear or weakness or it doesn’t actually work. No one wants to inconvenience ourselves for no reason, so whether wearing masks really works is a worthwhile question.

So the answer while not globally unanimous, is a clear yes. It does work if you are where you are going to be in a situation, especially indoors, if you cannot keep the minimum socially acceptable distance of six feet.

So what does this mean to us here in Alpine? We have had only one case in Brewster County – way out here in the last frontier – as has been the case in many rural areas within the U.S. But as the country begins to open up, and people travel, mix and no longer isolate, we find that we are surrounded by Texas counties and states that have much higher rates of infections than us, and their population is now beginning to migrate through our city from all directions.

To help keep it in context, if the kitchen and bathroom standards that McDonald’s are expected (at no small cost) to bring their dining areas up to before they open to the public, then the city of Alpine is already behind the power curve. While subjective, I dare say that we do not have a restaurant in town that can meet those standards without a large financial burden. Yet “we” are open for business and who knows what is coming down the road.

So last Friday when the town started opening up along with the rest of Texas, I went by Stage’s first open day. Only one clerk had on a mask, no customers had masks on (I did) and socially acceptable distance was a joke, like six inches. Then I went to the local grocery store. To get in the front door I was blocked by three folks, no masks, hugging and all that stuff, plus two kids on the floor playing with the gum machine –- socially acceptable distance, forget it. Two people cannot pass through the same door and maintain socially acceptable distance. I went to True Value and every store employee was wearing a mask. Kudos!

I like Governor Cuomo of New York and his approach. He knows his stuff, just look what he did for New York and by default the rest of the country. Truthful, factual, and if he has an opinion you know what it is. If I wear a mask, I protect you and if you wear a mask, you protect me. I’ve got your back; do you have my back?

We have folks here in town that say the Constitution is being ripped out of our hands, our rights are being violated, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Those words were spoken by Patrick Henry several hundred years ago, but people that don’t study history tend to make the same mistakes all over again. In this case, the background and circumstances of the time then do not apply to now.

So, I will give you my version, so you can have your cake and eat it too. Just remember what John F. Kennedy in part said, “Ask what you can do for your country.” I was in the military for 30 years, went to war and was separated from my family. I gave up some freedoms temporarily; not for the long haul, but for a just cause. But I still have my life, family, etc.

So to you I offer a slight change to Patrick Henry’s words to meet the times for your desired freedoms:

Give me liberty AND give me death…leave your mask off, don’t practice socially acceptable distancing, get all the freedom and rights you demand and maybe the coronavirus will be your cake.

Godspeed and RIP,

Glenn Ramsdale



Dear Editor,


Trump launched a predictable pre-election strike diverting attention from his unconscionable COVID-19 leadership failures. “Obamagate” has less authenticity than his birtherism and Hillary’s emails. The fact is Trump lied; thousands died!

He also wants Obama’s and Biden’s testimony for additional obfuscation. It’s the Senate’s Benghazi, chasing a preordained rabbit down a nonexistent hole while a pandemic runs rampant! Priorities?

Instead, reply to Trump; copied to GOP Senators, “Après Vous!” with an attachment. The left column contains Trump-related scandals, associates and appointees’ felony convictions, Emoluments Clause violations, charging the government for using his business facilities, family making millions in influence-peddled foreign business, Articles of Impeachment and 20,000+ lies keeping a long list short.

Obama’s side is blank. Baseless accusations don’t count. If his expecting cooperation from the GOP was problematic, okay, list it.

Remember, his appointees weren’t convicted of crimes. We still have our 2nd Amendment guns.  Obamacare “death panels” didn’t kill grandmas. Death of vulnerable seniors is on Trump’s shoulders for gross incompetence and criminal recklessness: gutting the CDC, inhibiting our ability to respond to a pandemic, all while ignoring Obama’s detailed plans and stonewalling information.

His May 14th utterance added insulting ignorance to injury: “When you test you have a case, when you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing we would have very few cases.”

Trump’s “Aromagate” fails the smell test. Is his faithful base getting the whiff yet? Our COVID-19 face mask has an additional protective benefit.

Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah