Coronavirus: live updates for the Big Bend region

LAST UPDATED 9/28 3:38 p.m.

(9/28 3:38 p.m.)
UPDATED: Military testing teams are coming back to the Big Bend region, with sites currently scheduled for Tuesday, October 6, at the City of Presidio EMS & Fire Station at 100 East FM 170 in Presidio; Wednesday, October 7, at the Marfa Visitor Center at 302 South Highland Avenue in Marfa; and Thursday, October 8, in Alpine. The Big Bend Sentinel will provide more information on the Alpine testing site as we get it. As usual, these sites will run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. or until capacity is reached. These will be oral-swab tests. Appointments aren’t required, but a form of personal ID is.

(9/28 2:13 p.m.)
Ekta Escovar, the local health authority for Brewster County, has resigned “effective immediately,” county officials stated Monday in a news release. In the release, officials said Escovar had done an “excellent job” throughout the pandemic and wished her well on her future endeavors. The Big Bend Sentinel will provide more information as we get it.

(9/27 2:22 p.m.)
Medical Center Health System Odessa announced that a 69-year-old Alpine man passed away at their hospital Saturday afternoon.

From the Governor: Texans are expected to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity, building or space open to the public, and in outdoor spaces where maintaining 6 feet of distance from others is not possible.

The latest testing data from the Texas Department of State Health Services:
Presidio County: 97 positive, 77 recovered, 6 deaths (The county is reporting 109 cases)
Brewster County: 218 positive, 205 recovered, 3 deaths (The county is reporting 247 cases, 217 recovered, 3 deaths)
Jeff Davis County: 14 positive, 13 recovered

At least 15,522 Texans have died from the virus, 735,132 have tested positive for COVID-19 and around 6.01 million tests have been conducted across the state. We are staying in regular contact with health authorities, schools, businesses and other officials and will update regularly, with timestamps for time-sensitive updates.

Nearby counties’ case counts:
El Paso: 23,784
Hudspeth: 47
Culberson: 54
Reeves: 196
Pecos: 368
Terrell: 3
Crane: 72
Ector: 3,114
Midland: 3,707

 

Here’s what else we know. You can also use the links below to skip to the relevant section:

Testing

Information from local, state and federal authorities

Schools, businesses, churches and non-governmental institutions

Precautions and staying safe

 

TESTING
Online registration for drive-through pop-up testing sites has moved to https://texas.curativeinc.com/
If you are unable to get through with pre-registration, officials advise people still get tested by showing up to the site with personal identification and registering in-person the day of the event.

Upcoming Test Dates

There are no upcoming testing dates at this time. Please contact your primary care physician for information about being tested at a local clinic.

Mobile testing sites run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until tests run out. You do not have to have an appointment or have symptoms in order to get tested. Bring a personal ID. It will be a mouth swab test.

 

INFORMATION FROM LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL AUTHORITIES
Local

(7/9 12:34 p.m.)
Medical Center Health System in Odessa reported the death of a patient who had been transferred on July 8 from Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine. The patient, an 87-year-old male, died July 9. The patient had pre-existing conditions. It is the second reported COVID-19 related death for Brewster County.

(6/30 2:18 p.m.)
Brewster County today announced 137 positive COVID19 cases, up from 86 yesterday. Brewster County’s infection rate is now almost triple that of the state of Texas. East Brewster County and South Brewster County have both seen positive results, county officials said, but more than 95% of the positives are from North Brewster County. There are currently more than 800 tests pending in the tri-county area.

(6/29 5:00 p.m.)
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara on Monday afternoon issued an emergency executive order identical to the one passed earlier in Brewster County. That order — like Brewster County’s — requires masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible and prohibits most gatherings of more than 100 people.

(6/29 11:39 a.m.)
In an executive order on Monday, Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano said that starting on Tuesday (6/30), all Brewster County residents must wear masks in public places where it is difficult to maintain six feet of distance with other people. In addition, Cano’s order prohibits gatherings of more than 100 people (with some exceptions, including youth camps and professional sporting events) and asks that people conduct essential business online or in-person and “avoid visiting any Brewster County facilities unless absolutely necessary.” The order will impose fines of $1,000 on businesses that do not comply but carries no criminal or civil penalties for individuals not wearing masks.

(6/28 12:44 p.m.)
The first COVID-19 death of a Big Bend resident was announced Sunday morning. An Alpine resident, a 70-year-old male, passed away at the Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

(6/18 7:01 p.m.)
At an emergency city-council meeting tonight (6/18), Marfa City Council passed an ordinance mandating that businesses require employees and customers over 10 years old to wear face-coverings, where guaranteeing six feet of distance is not possible. It goes into effect on Monday, June 22, with a five-day grace period. Restaurant-goers can take masks off to eat and drink, but must wear them otherwise.

(6/9 3:00 p.m.)
Presidio County officials said “the probability exists of possible spread” of coronavirus in Marfa after officials said one confirmed patient and four “probables” in Marfa were “not respecting control measures.” Those individuals on Tuesday, 6/9 received an order from the state requiring them to quarantine. The Big Bend Sentinel will provide more information as we get it.

(6/5 4:00 p.m.)
Presidio County has announced a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in Marfa today. The case is a male in his 40s who has recently traveled to multiple nearby cities that have coronavirus outbreaks. The man is quarantining with four other family members and the state is treating the situation as one positive and four “probables.” The regional office of the Department of State Health Services has already begun contact tracing to determine whether the family has had contact with anyone who would need to be alerted.
It is the second confirmed case in Presidio County, with the first being a woman in Presidio, confirmed on May 23.

(5/23 3:37 p.m.)
The first confirmed case of coronavirus in Presidio County was announced by County Judge Cinderela Guevara on Saturday, 5/23. “The case is a female in her 40s and is a travel related case,” a press release read. The Texas Department of State Health Services’ local region is conducting contact tracing to identify if anyone was in contact with the impacted individual.

(5/21 7:54 p.m.)
There are now at least nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ojinaga, including six men and three women, according to Martín Sánchez, the mayor of Ojinaga.

(5/1 6:00 p.m.)
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara rescinded the continuation of the ordinance that limited hotels, motels and short term rentals on Friday evening, 5/1. The county received a phone call from Jeff Oldham, counsel to Governor Greg Abbott’s office, informing them that the local order was more restrictive than the Governor’s, and thus was unlawful. Hotels, motels and short term rentals may open for operation immediately, with no restrictions on capacity.

(4/30 4:39 p.m.)
In a news release Thursday afternoon, 4/30, officials in Brewster County announced the first known coronavirus case in the tri-county region. The patient is in their 60s, lives in South Brewster County and was tested at one of the local drive-through testing sites this weekend. At press time, officials were not yet sure how the individual was infected — though the case is under investigation. The Texas Department of State Health Services has not updated their data to reflect the newly confirmed case. The patient has been ordered to quarantine at home.

(4/30 4:27 p.m.)
Officials in Brewster and Jeff Davis counties decided on Thursday to allow their emergency orders to expire and will instead follow Governor Greg Abbott’s reopening plan. Officials in Presidio County initially voted to extend hotel closures to all but nonessential workers until May 15 (echoing a decision made by Marfa city leaders at a Wednesday night meeting) but the state intervened, superseding the local orders and demanding Marfa and Presidio County allow hotels to reopen.

(4/20 12:40 p.m.)
A young man infected with coronavirus in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico has been announced as recovered.

State

(7/9 4:28 p.m.)
Governor Greg Abbott once again suspended elective surgeries in more than 100 counties across the state, including in Presidio, Brewster and Jeff Davis counties. Doing so, he said, would “help ensure ample supply of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.” Previously, Abbott had suspended elective surgeries in major metro areas like Harris County (Houston) and Travis County (Austin).

(7/2 3:39 p.m.)
Governor Greg Abbott has released a new executive order that requires Texans to wear face coverings (with a few exceptions,) in a drastic reversal from his previous stance against requiring masks.

(6/26 10:22 a.m.)
Governor Greg Abbott shut down bars, drawing back from some of the most recent “reopening” allowances. Along with the closure of bars until further notice, restaurants will scale from 75% occupancy, back down to 50% maximum occupancy. These decisions come as the state is seeing day-over-day record highs in hospitalizations, new cases per day and total cases just weeks after the Governor implemented his “reopening” plan.

(6/25 12:22 p.m.)
In an announcement on Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was putting the state’s “reopening” plans on “temporary pause” due to increased coronavirus case-counts and hospitalizations. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” he said, urging Texans to wear masks, wash their hands regularly and practice social distancing.

(4/27 2:57 p.m.)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced today his stay-at-home order would expire as planned on April 30, and a phased reopening would begin. More on his announcement can be found here.

SCHOOLS, BUSINESSES CHURCHES AND NON-GOVERNMENTAL INSTITUTIONS

(7/10 10:38 p.m.)
The Marfa Chamber of Commerce announced the cancellation of the 2020 Marfa Lights Festival, writing “We want to keep our small community safe and healthy, as well as our neighboring communities. We appreciate everyone’s support and look forward to celebrating 2021 with all of you!”

(6/18 1:15 p.m.)
This week, local businesses and institutions have announced temporary closures, either after staff tested positive for COVID-19 or after determining that staff was exposed to someone who had tested positive. Convenience WestWienertown, 4i’s Optical and Cedar Coffee Supply have temporarily closed after staff were exposed to someone who tested positive and Basecamp Terlingua said it shut down the property where four coronavirus-positive guests stayed. SpicewoodGuzzi Up and the Davis Mountains State Park have all announced that one or more employees tested positive and have temporarily closed. The Big Bend Sentinel will update this list as we learn of additional reports.

(6/18 12:40 p.m.)
In a news release, Porter’s said that starting on Monday, June 22, it would provide free delivery to “any customer placed in quarantine by local or state government health officials.” The company asked that such customers please reach out to their local Porter’s store for more information.

Presidio ISD and Marfa ISD will both provide lunches through at least June 30, according to the districts. More information about pickup times and locations is available on their respective district websites.

Sul Ross State University plans to reopen its campus and have in-person classes beginning in the Fall semester, the school said.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Marfa is live-streaming their 10 a.m. Sunday worship service on their Facebook page and is offering Zoom classes. Those who need errands run on their behalf can contact the church. The church itself is open 24 hours and is accepting food donations for the Marfa Food Pantry. Updates on the Holy Week schedule are forthcoming. Call Vicar Mike Wallens at 214-862-7292 or email stpaulsmarfatx@gmail.com.

Pastor Ernesto Zubia at Iglesia Cristiana Jesus es Rey church in Marfa is asking churchgoers to stay home if they don’t feel well.

In a statement, the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend said it will continue to provide resources to domestic-violence and assault survivors during the coronavirus crisis and asks that people please call ahead to make an appointment. The numbers for assistance and appointments are 432-837-7254 for Alpine, 432-229-4297 for Presidio and 432-371-3147 for Terlingua. The group’s emergency hotline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-834-8256.

PRECAUTIONS AND STAYING SAFE
Local health authorities are still advising that people keep six feet of “social distancing” between individuals who are not from the same household.

Experts recommend people avoid touching their face and wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds. A hand washing guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available here. Health authorities also suggest that people keep their surroundings and clothing clean, as coronavirus can also survive on surfaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a guide on cleaning surfaces, and the American Chemistry Council has a guide of recommended cleaning products.

For individuals who worry they might have been exposed to coronavirus, health officials ask that people contact hospitals and doctors by phone rather than visiting in person. Health care providers will evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether individuals should come in for care. Preventative Care Health Services clinics have separate entrances for anyone suspected of having the virus.

Check our homepage for the latest in depth reporting on the virus and our local community.


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