Wolfabilene Updates Archives for 2020-03

Coronavirus in Texas: Hospitals, nurses call for statewide stay-at-home order

 

AUSTIN — Two of the state's largest health care associations on Tuesday urged Gov. Greg Abbott to extend the orders by several Texas counties requiring residents to self-quarantine in their homes to fight the further spread of coronavirus

 

"The time has come for Texas to issue a statewide stay-at-home order," said a letter to the governor from the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Nurse Association. "We urge you to implement this strict measure to prevent widespread illness in Texas."

 

Gov. Greg Abbott provides an update on the state's effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. He spoke in the Texas Capitol, March 28, 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott provides an update on the state's effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. He spoke in the Texas Capitol, March 28, 2020. (Photo: Still image from pool video)

 

Abbott, who this month declared a statewide emergency, shuttering schools, limiting restaurant service to drive-thru and takeout and banning public gatherings of more than 10 people, has so far resisted ordering a statewide shutdown. To date, nearly half of Texas' 254 counties have seen at least one case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and the cases number well into the hundreds in the urban counties.

 

Still, large expanses of West Texas and the Panhandle had still reported no cases, even as the statewide total approaches 3,000, including 38 who have died.

 

But Hospital Association President Ted Shaw and Cindy D. Zolnierek, president of the Nurses Association, said in their letter the best way to keep the virus out of those rural counties and limit the further spread in the cities and suburbs is through a statewide order.

 

"The faster and more consistently people stay at home, the safer we all will be and the sooner our economy can rebound from this disaster." they wrote. "With surging counts and projections – and news of community pockets that are not heeding the warning to distance – a statewide stay-at-home policy will send a clear message about the seriousness of the threat. Ultimately, it will save lives."

 

Abbott is scheduled to brief Texans at 2 p.m. Tuesday on the state's effort to fight the spread so far. In past briefings, the governor has urged residents to continue practicing social distance and to wash hands frequently. 

 

Earlier Tuesday, President Donald Trump's chief coronavirus adviser said he's seeing some encouraging signs that social distancing might be helping to slow the virus.

 

“What we're starting to see right now is just the inklings," Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN.  "And I don't want to put too much stock on it, because you don't want to get overconfident. You just want to keep pushing in what you're doing. 

 

"You're starting to see that the daily increases are not in that steep incline, they're starting to be able to possibly flatten out."

 

 

By: John C. Moritz

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved


City of Abilene announces 'Limited' Shelter in Place Order | What does it mean?

 

 

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The City of Abilene has announced a ‘Limited’ Shelter in Place Order due to the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases. 

 

During a special-called city council meeting Monday morning, Mayor Anthony Williams detailed the order, which will be in place through April 14. 

 

Residents must remain in their homes throughout that time period, unless they are performing an essential activity, including:

 

  • Attending work or providing financial support for families
  • Getting supplies necessary for food, shelter, medical care, and clothing 
  • Anything necessary for mental and spiritual health, such as going outside or going on a walk. Parks will remain open, but playground equipment and basketball courts will close.

 

Gatherings will still be restricted to 10 people maximum, indoors and outside. 

 

Carry out and drive-through dining at restaurants will still be allowed, but any indoor eating options must be shut down. Food truck gatherings are prohibited if more than one truck is present. 

 

All businesses, with the following exceptions, can remain open for business at this time:

 

  • Hair salons, hair stylists, barber shops
  • Nail salons
  • Tattoo parlor, piercing
  • Game rooms
  • Bowling alleys, movie theaters, mini golf courses, other entertainment venues
  • Gyms, fitness centers
  • Sexually oriented businesses
  • Smoking rooms inside tobacco stores (retail allowed to remain open)

 

All those ordered to close must do-so by noon on March 31.

 

Other businesses must limit customers and retail establishments must cut their maximum capacity by at least 50%.

 

In addition to the business closures, the Limited Shelter in Place Order demands the following people self-quarantine:

 

  • Persons who are sick with fever, cough, shortness of breath
  • All persons in household of positive covid-19 cases
  • All at-risk individuals

 

These self-quarantined individuals may seek medical care, but they are advised to call their doctor ahead of time before going in.

 

Anyone in self-quarantine must remain in isolation until they’ve been fever-free for at least 72 hours without medication and all symptoms of COVID-19 must be gone for 14 days. 

 

If any person with COVID-19 or anyone in their household refuses to self-quarantine, no matter how mild the symptoms, they will be fined $1,000 per day per occurrence and could have additional action taken, such as police surveillance or ankle monitoring. 

 

As of Monday morning, there have been 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Abilene, most of which are connected to residents and healthcare professionals at Disability Resources, Inc.

 

 

By: Erica Garner

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Taylor County now has 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases; 2 reported Monday

 

The city of Abilene reported two new COVID-19 cases Monday, bringing its total of positive cases in Taylor County to 11.

 

Of 335 tests conducted, 176 have returned negative, while 148 pending.

 

The two new positive tests are separate from a number of tests at Disability Resources Inc.

 

One is a 30-year-old man, whose case is travel-related, said Annette Lerma, director of health services with the city of Abilene, in an online news conference Monday afternoon.

 

COVID-19: 14-day limited shelter in place order for Abilene goes in effect Tuesday

 

"He had returned and had immediately reached out to his health care provider when his symptoms started," she said. "He was quarantined immediately.

 

So we feel like there was very little risk to anyone around him. He did it exactly how we wanted it to happen."

 

The other case is an 80-year-old man, who is hospitalized but in stable condition.

 

"He also had a history of travel," Lerma said.

 

The greatest concentration of cases locally is still at DRI.

 

There are six confirmed cases at the facility, which serves individuals who with developmental and physical challenges.

 

The first case in Abilene was reported Friday, a DRI resident. Later the same day, Dyess Air Force Base notified the city of its first confirmed case.

 

The Abilene Taylor-County Public Health District urges residents to protect themselves and medically fragile community members by:

 

  •  Practicing social distancing, and staying home as much as possible.

 

  •  Washing or sanitizing hands often.

 

  •  Covering sneezes and coughs.

 

  •  Avoid touching your face.

 

  •  Staying home if you are sick.

 

  •  Routinely cleaning commonly touched surfaces.

 

Those displaying symptoms should call their medical provider or the Abilene Taylor-County Public Health District at 325-692-5600 for screening and further instruction.

 

Do not arrive at a medical office, facility, or hospital without first making contact by phone and receiving instructions.

 

 

By: Brian Bethel

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


2 positive COVID-19 cases in Abilene, 143 tests still pending

 

 

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The latest COVID-19 testing numbers for the City of Abilene show two people have tested positive and 143 more are still awaiting results.

 

Friday’s numbers show 248 people total have been tested, with 2 positive results, 104 negative results, and 143 pending.

 

City officials were notified of Abilene’s first positive result Thursday morning.

 

They then held a press conference to disclose the information to the public, saying the patient is a male in his 40s who came to the ER just 24 hours before his positive result with multiple symptoms, including shortness of breath.

 

Later that night, Dyess Air Force Base confirmed Abilene’s second case, saying the patient is a health care worker on base who was tested on March 24.

 

Neither case has a confirmed location of contraction so far.

 

Investigators are working to determine both patients’ whereabouts in the weeks prior to their positive results.

 

Health Department officials many tests results are taking longer than these to return because all tests administered in Abilene are sent to labs outside the city for processing.

 

Depending on the lab, results are taking an average of one day to one week to return.

 

Dyess AFB’s positive case was the 7th confirmed in the Big Country in just the past week – two in Abilene, three in Brown County, and two in Eastland County.

 

The City of Abilene will give updated testing results each day and will get information about any positive cases to the public as soon as possible.

 

Stick with BigCountryHomepage for any updates on the local impact of COVID-19.

 

 

By: Erica Garner

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


4th coronavirus case confirmed in Eastland County

 

EASTLAND, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — A fourth confirmed case of coronavirus has now been confirmed in Eastland County.

 

County officials said the fourth case was confirmed on Friday. They could not comment on what part of the county it was confirmed in, nor whether the case was travel-related or community-based.

 

“As the availability of testing kits increases, we will see an increase in the number of positives across the country,” said Dr. Robert DeLuca of Eastland Memorial Hospital. “It is still very important to continue with social distancing and good hand washing. “

 

Medical officials still remind residents to be cautious if they start to become ill.

 

“Patients who are mildly ill with coronavirus are able to recover and manage their symptoms at home. If you have symptoms including a fever of greater than 100.4°, cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath, you don’t need to be seen by a provider immediately,” said Dr. Robert Deluca. “These patients are first asked to self-quarantine their entire family at home.”

 

Full statement from Eastland County

 

"COVID 19 Update Dr. Robert Deluca released the following: Good morning. Another positive case of Covid-19 has been reported in Eastland County. This makes the total of four positive cases. As the availability of testing kits increases, we will see an increase in the number of positives across the country. It is still very important to continue with social distancing and good hand washing. Please take time to relax and breathe deeply for five minutes every day. We are going to keep you updated. Always refer to the CDC website and Texas DSHS (Department of State Health Services) for information on COVID-19 guidelines. Be safe! Eastland County officials urge the community if you suspect you may have Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms to call first before going to your primary care physician’s clinic and/or Eastland Memorial Hospital. As a result, limited resources can be most efficiently used for those in our population who are elderly, have compromised immune systems or serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. “Patients who are mildly ill with Coronavirus are able to recover and manage their symptoms at home. If you have symptoms including a fever of greater than 100.4°, cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath, you don’t need to be seen by a provider immediately,” said Dr. Robert Deluca. These patients are first asked to self-quarantine their entire family at home. Eastland County officials stress the importance of this community-mindedness by staying vigilant with social practices and hygiene. Stay home if possible and practice social distancing to stop or slow the spread of contagious illnesses, such as COVID-19. Avoid shaking hands, cancel large events, avoid large crowds, and keep a 6-foot distance between you and others."

 

By: Travis Ruiz

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Abilene

 

 

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The first case of the COVID-19 has been confirmed in Abilene.

 

During a press conference Thursday morning, officials with Hendrick Medical Center and the City of Abilene said a patient that has been in quarantine that was highly suspected of having the virus had their test return positive around 7:30 a.m. 

 

The patient, identified as a 40-year-old-man, turned himself into the ER when he started showing symptoms and has been in quarantine ever since. 

 

Epidemiologists are now working to determine if the virus was contracted by travel or through the community and trying to trace where the victim went in the community. 

 

Health Department Director Annette Lerma says the patient has been notified, so anyone out there with a pending test shouldn’t worry if it’s them.

 

 

By: Erica Garner

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved

 


Doctor: New symptoms of COVID-19 include GI issues, fatigue, no fever

 

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — During Tuesday’s press conference, Dr. Amy Acton with the Ohio Department of Health provided new numbers regarding the coronavirus, new symptoms and encouraged people who don’t feel well to stay home.

 

“if you don’e feel well in any way, just stay home,” Dr. Acton said.

 

She stressed the importance of staying home in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19, which will in turn lower the number of people who need to go to the hospital. Dr. Acton said hospitals in Ohio are at 60 percent capacity and they will need to build extra capacity to treat patients.

 

Dr. Acton said new symptoms are arising including gastrointestinal tract issues and fatigue. She said even if you don’t have these symptoms or other symptoms related to COVID-19 and still don’t feel well, then you should still stay home.

 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said “we clearly don’t have enough capacity as it stands today” and that they will use buildings that are already in place to treat more patients.

 

 

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Abilene's latest testing numbers show no confirmed cases of COVID-19

 

 

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – There are still no COVID-19 cases confirmed in Abilene.

 

According to the city’s website, these are the latest COVID-19 testing numbers and results reported to the Abilene Taylor-County Public Health District as of March 24, 2020.

 

The latest numbers are: 

 

Test conducted: 129
Positive Results: 0
Negative Results: 44
Pending Tests: 85

 

 

By: Martin Mercado

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


City of Amarillo: First COVID-19 death reported

 

 

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The City of Amarillo Public Health Department is now reporting the first death in the Amarillo-area attributed to COVID-19.

 

Officials say the person that died is outside the jurisdiction of the Amarillo Public Health Department, requests for additional information should be directed to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

 

The City of Amarillo would like to reiterate that the decisions we make now regarding social distancing and following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

 

CDC guidelines and fact-based information regarding COVID-19 can be found at www.coronavirus.gov.

 

The Amarillo-area Coronavirus Status Alert Level remains at Level Orange. For more information on Alert levels, please visit www.amarillopublichealth.org.

 

 

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Those paying off student loans can suspend payments with no interest for 60 days over COVID-19

 

FILE – In this April 10, 2019 file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before the House Education and Labor Committee at a hearing on ‘Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education’ on Capitol Hill in Washington.DeVos has issued new rules on loan forgiveness for students defrauded by their colleges, a rewrite of Obama-era regulations that advocates say will make it tougher for students to get any relief. DeVos says schools that defraud students must be held accountable but that the Obama rule, which was aimed at for-profit colleges, wasn’t working. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

 

WASHINGTON (WIAT) — In the wake of the coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Education has announced it will waive student loan payments for at least the next 60 days.

 

In a statement released Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education would be providing loan relief to millions of borrowers, where they will have interest rates of 0% for at least 60 days. The borrowers will also have the option to suspend their payments for the two-month period if they want.

 

“These are anxious times, particularly for students and families whose educations, careers, and lives have been disrupted,” DeVos said in a written statement. “Right now, everyone should be focused on staying safe and healthy, not worrying about their student loan balance growing. I commend President Trump for his quick action on this issue, and I hope it provides meaningful help and peace of mind to those in need.”

 

DeVos has also authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower who is more than 31 days late on payments as of March 13.

 

“Some borrowers may want to continue making payments, like those seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or those enrolled in a repayment plan with a manageable monthly payment,” the press release read. “For borrowers continuing to make payments, the full amount of their payment will be applied to the principal amount of their loan once all interest accrued prior to the president’s March 13 announcement is paid. The Department will work closely with Congress to ensure all student borrowers, including those in income driven repayment plans, receive needed support during this emergency.”

 

 

By: Drew Taylor

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved

 

 


Tax Day officially moved to July 15

 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asks members of the media to practice social distancing as he departs a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 16, 2020. Mnuchin met with with Senate Republicans on an economic lifeline for Americans affected by the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

 

 

WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Friday the IRS has officially moved Tax Day to July 15. 

Friday’s announcement will give extra time for individuals and businesses to file their taxes and move the filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.

 

“We are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties,” Mnuchin said.

 

The administration had announced earlier in the week that it would delay the payments, a move that Mnuchin said would leave $300 billion in the economy at a critical time.

 

As of Feb. 21, the IRS had issued more than 37.4 million refunds averaging $3,125.

 

“I encourage all taxpayers who may have tax refunds to file now to get your money,” Mnuchin said.

 

 

By: Nexstar Media Wire

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Association wants to partner with struggling food businesses to feed Abilene officers

 

Abilene police (correct)

 

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Abilene Police Officer’s Association wants to partner with struggling food businesses to feed local officers. 

 

In a Facebook post made Thursday, the APOA said, “if you own a restaurant/food truck in Abilene and are struggling due to the current events, we would like to partner with you to provide meals for our officers.” 

 

They are asking anyone interested to message them on Facebook so they can figure something out.

 

Anyone who wishes to donate to this mission is encouraged to message as well.

 

 

By: Erica Garner

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texans to avoid groups of 10; closes bars, gyms and restaurants for dine-in

 

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott declared a disaster Thursday, taking statewide action against the spread of COVID-19.

 

“The traditional model that we have employed in the state of Texas for such a long time so effectively does not apply to an invisible disease that knows no geographic and no jurisdictional boundaries and threatens the lives of our fellow Americans across the entire country,” said Abbott.

 

During his Thursday announcement Abbott issued an executive order that took a number of steps to combat the coronavirus:

 

  • Limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people
  • Prohibiting eating and drinking at restaurants and bars
  • Closing gyms
  • Ban people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care
  • Temporarily close schools

 

Abbott’s executive order goes into effect at midnight Friday.

 

“Working together, we must defeat COVID-19 with the only tool that we have available to us, we must strangle its expansion by reducing the ways that we are currently transmitting it,” Abbott said while announcing his executive order. “We are doing this now, today, so that we can get back to business as usual more quickly.”

 

 

 

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved


Meals on Wheels Plus continuing home deliveries

 

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Meals on Wheels Plus is not stopping their deliveries despite concerns of the coronavirus spreading.

 

Monday through Friday, cooks prepare about 1,400 meals.

 

“It takes a lot to close Meals on Wheels because a lot of people depend on these meals,” says Nancy Ruelas, a case worker for the organization.

 

Nancy says they started to see a shortage in volunteers when local colleges decided to extend Spring Break.

 

“Those that went home and stayed home because of the extended leave won’t be here to deliver,” says Nancy.

 

During the shortage, staff are picking up the extra routes.

 

“If people don’t come in to deliver, then we have to. We have to get them out,” says Nancy.

 

Some of their clients say they have plans to keep themselves healthy.

 

“I’m basically staying closed in. I order my stuff from Walmart.com. My canned goods, those kinds of items. If I need meat I order from H-E-B. They deliver to me,” says Peters, a Meals on Wheels client.

 

Nancy says many of their clients don’t have family here, which makes their job even more important.

 

“We check in on them at the same time, just making sure that everything is OK. A lot of them have been by themselves over the weekend with no one to check on them, so when, if anything happened over the weekend, that’s when we will discover it,” says Nancy.

 

Meals on Wheels officials say only a few clients have asked them to stop deliveries to their homes, but for the most part, people just want to make sure they will still get their meals.

 

Officials also say they plan to operate as usual until a confirmed case pops up in our area.

 

 

By: Deneeka Hill

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 


Coronavirus: Live updates on how it is affecting Abilene

 

Concerns about coronavirus COVID-19 are affecting events, activities and day-to-day procedures as health care professionals encourage social distancing to slow the rate of infection.

 

Here is a roundup of how the coronavirus is impacting Abilene life. This will be updated throughout the day. 

 

Health care facilities screening visitors

Nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities are beginning to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that patients and visitors be screened for coronavirus symptoms before entering. 

 

Those symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. 

 

Before making a visit, call the facility to check if new screening procedures are in place. 

 

Dyess AFB increase health protective level

Dyess Air Force Base raised its Health Protection Condition level to A from zero Thursday in response to the spread of COVID-19, according to a base news release. 

 

"This change is a precautionary measure designed to implement increased disease protection measures and education of base personnel in order to help prevent potential widespread outbreak," the release said. 

 

Dyess is enacting additional preventative measures, including pre-screening personnel with on-base clinic appointments, narrowing access to the 7th Medical Group and base gym to a single point of entry, and having individuals keep hold of their ID cards when being scanned by security forces members for base entry, the release said. 

 

Church services still on

No local churches contacted by the Reporter-News on Friday had canceled Sunday services, although all are encouraging people who are sick to stay home. Some have made changes to communion services to limit physical contact.

 

Many churches now offer online livestreaming of services, and are encouraging those who stay home to keep connected digitally.

 

Canceled events

Event organizers can email information about cancellations to PublishMe@reporternews.com, or text 325-812-7151. 

 

  • Hendrick Health System – To support social distancing to decrease the likelihood of possible COVID-19 transmission, we are canceling some of our scheduled public activities:  Medication Cleanout, Saturday; Hendrick Hospice Care’s Celebration of Life Candlelight Memorial Service, Monday (will reschedule); and Stroke Support Group, Thursday. 
  • Vietnam War Commemoration in Midland, March 27 - Postponed

Schools

  • Cisco College – Face-to-face classes and events are cancelled March 16-20. Residence halls will be closed for these dates. Online classes resume as normal on March 16. Campus will remain open to faculty and staff; however, employees who have traveled in an area affected by COVID-19 are to work from home and follow CDC guidelines.
  • Howard Payne University – Spring Break will be extended March 16-20. All courses will transition to an online instruction format from March 23 to April 8, with in-class instruction resuming on April 13. All University offices will remain open from March 16 to April 9, and faculty and staff are to report to their offices as scheduled on 8 a.m. Monday, March 16. Student workers should contact their supervisors regarding expectations during this time. Residence Halls will remain closed until 5 p.m. April 12.
  • Texas State Technical College – "TSTC is extending spring break through March 29 for all TSTC campuses," the college said in a news release. "Online learning classes will continue as originally scheduled. The college will use this period to prepare for alternative methods of delivery so students can continue the semester." Face-to-face classes are expected to resume March 30, but that plan could be adjusted. 

 

 

By: Laura Gutschke

Copyright © 2020, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved

 

 


Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup to take additional precautions amid coronavirus concerns

 

ABILENE, Texas (KRBC)-The 62nd annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup will take place this year, despite growing concerns of the continued spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus.

 

Round-up officials have suggested visitors should attend the event on days with lighter crowds, Friday and Sunday. As additional precaution, each vendor booth and snake display will have sanitizer bottles for visitors to use.

 

9-year Sweetwater resident Richard Jimenez said he will not attend the 62nd annual Rattlesnake Round-Up at risk becoming infected.

 

“People are coming in from out of town and from other states and for that reason I’m not going to go,” said Jimenez. “I’m not going to chance it.”

 

Back in 2015, an economic impact study was conducted documenting nearly 26,000 people attended the Round-Up. Twenty-one thousand of those people were not local attendees. Exec. Director Karen Hunt of the Sweetwater-Nolan County Chamber of Commerce said these numbers have stayed consistent in recent years.

 

“We do have visitors coming in, and the calls that have been coming in are coming from California, Florida, one from Michigan that are calling to see if the event is still taking place because of their concern of the Coronavirus,” Hunt said.

 

As thousands of people flock to the Nolan Count Coliseum, officials have consulted with the Public Health Department to keep visitors healthy. The health department suggests visitors bring sanitation wipes and pocket hand sanitizer and to monitor their children closely.

 

Nolan County Coliseum marketing director Terry Locklar said the coliseum has even hired additional staff to maintain restrooms to follow CDC guidelines of washing hands more frequently.

 

“They’re going to be mainly the crew that’s going to go around and keep stuff disinfected as far as door handles, railings, [anything] in the restrooms,” said Locklar.

 

 

By: Katherine Garcia

Copyright © 2020, KTAB/KRBC Nexstar Broadcasting. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 


What can Texas do if a coronavirus outbreak hits?

Texas has not yet seen “community spread” of COVID-19. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)

 

Addressing the possibility of person-to-person spread of the new coronavirus that originated in China, U.S. health officials said this week that it would fall to states to decide what control measures are necessary to confront an outbreak.

 

“Local and state governments should begin thinking about what this might look like for them,” Nancy Messonnier, a respiratory disease expert for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Tuesday. “There are a spectrum of actions that can reduce spread and impact.”

 

Texas has not yet seen “community spread” of the virus. On Wednesday, a Houston-area man who had traveled abroad tested positive for the virus; all 11 previous known cases in Texas were among patients who caught the COVID-19 disease overseas and then were brought to the San Antonio Lackland Air Force Base for quarantine.

 

Texas and U.S. health officials have so far encouraged individual actions — rather than government interventions — to prevent the spread of the virus locally: Wash your hands, cover your sneezes and coughs, and stay home when you’re sick.

 

They are also bracing for how to respond to the likely possibility of a widespread domestic outbreak. As of Wednesday, 11 people in the U.S. had died from COVID-19 — most in the Seattle area, where community transmission has been confirmed, and one in California.

 

Around the world, countries that have seen widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus — which causes COVID-19 — have implemented drastic control measures.

 

Chinese authorities placed Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the disease outbreak, on lockdown, barring people from leaving city limits and, in some cases, their neighborhoods, and placing the sick in makeshift quarantine camps. China had seen roughly 80,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths as of Sunday, according to the World Health Organization, but the rate of new infections appeared to be slowing.

 

In Italy, health authorities this week canceled school nationwide — and in the country's north, where the outbreak has been most severe, officials have placed cities on lockdown, banning people from entering or leaving affected areas and suspending public events. Italian officials have tallied more than 100 deaths from the virus out of more than 3,000 known cases.

 

State law gives broad power to the Texas governor and health commissioner to implement similar restrictions in times of crisis.

 

The Texas health commissioner may legally impose restrictions “on an individual, animal, place, or object, as appropriate.” Those orders may include quarantine, isolation, detention or vaccination. (There is no vaccine available yet for COVID-19.)

 

“Should community spread occur, state and local responses will be tailored to fit the needs of the local community,” said John Wittman, a spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott. “The Texas Department of State Health Services and local health departments have the authority to apply control measures to individuals or groups in a variety of circumstances to protect the health and safety of Texans.”

 

State officials have stressed that the current limited scope of the U.S. outbreak does not yet warrant the extreme measures seen in places like China and Italy.

 

“We are thinking through when those tools may be needed, but they’re not the tools we’ll reach for first,” said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

 

The state’s early response has focused on people who traveled to countries where coronavirus infection is widespread, said David Lakey, the state’s former top public health official. “Once we have community spread, we’ll have to transition to a different approach,” he said.

 

So far, state and local health officials have ordered some travelers to self-quarantine, monitored them and sought testing for patients with the most critical symptoms.

 

A public health official in East Texas recently issued a control order — a legal notice from a health authority limiting where a person may go — to a woman who had traveled to China and was asked to self-monitor for possible illness, according to the Department of State Health Services. She has not tested positive for the virus.

 

Van Deusen, the agency’s spokesman, declined to provide details about the patient or the control order but said it had been given because “there was an issue with [the person] following those voluntary instructions.”

 

“That control order is pretty broad in what it could do,” he said. “It could order a person to stay in a particular place or not go to a particular place.”

 

If a patient violates a control order, public health officials could ask a local court to enforce it, including issuing criminal penalties for repeated violators.

 

State and local health officials also have broad powers when it comes to schools and transportation in the event of an outbreak.

 

They can advise or order school districts to cancel classes, but Lakey said doing so may create other challenges, especially for parents who work during school hours or who rely on public schools to provide free or reduced-cost lunch.

 

The governor has the authority under state law to declare a disaster during a disease outbreak and to “control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area” — effectively giving him the power to place a city under lockdown.

 

The U.S. government also has broad authority to restrict travel; federal officials have already placed limits on international travel from China in hopes of limiting the arrival of visitors infected by the virus. President Donald Trump said this week that he was not considering any restrictions on domestic travel within the U.S.

 

Dennis Perrotta, a former Texas state epidemiologist, said placing parts of the state on lockdown is unlikely and would be unprecedented.

 

“It would be dramatic, and it has untold societal, political and health implications,” he said. “One would be hard-pressed to see that happen nowadays without really being at the edge.”

 

Local and state officials’ power is not unlimited in times of emergency. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued an emergency declaration this week that banned previously quarantined individuals from entering the city of San Antonio, but when he sued the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to stop the federal government from releasing quarantined people at Lackland Air Force Base, a federal judge quickly struck the suit down.

 

U.S. officials later agreed to change their policy for release as Nirenberg and Abbott had urged, requiring that patients test negative for the virus on two consecutive tests, and on Tuesday, more than 120 people living at the base were sent home.

 

"What can Texas do if a coronavirus outbreak hits?" was first published at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/05/texas-coronavirus-response-what-state-officials-can-do/ by The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state.

 

 

By Edgar Walters/The Texas Tribune

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved

 


Larger Abilene VA clinic planned amid growing veteran population

 

ABILENE, Texas — With the veteran population in the Big Country expanding, the leadership team for the West Texas VA Health Care System believes there is a growing need for a larger VA Clinic in Abilene.

 

At 10,000 square feet, the Abilene VA Clinic serves over 5,000 veterans each year, according to interim director Jason Cave.

 

It serves their patients basic needs, like mental health and telehealth services, but Cave believes they need the space to do more.

 

“We want to be the one stop shop," said Cave. "We want to be the place that can cover all the healthcare and social needs for veterans.”

 

With a bigger clinic, Cave said they would have space to expand services like physical therapy.

 

"Physical therapy can be something from as simple as you had a procedure and now you’re working through that to get back to your normal self and operation," said Cave.

 

Along with becoming more efficient, Cave said the extra room will help the VA adjust for the fastest growing demographic -- female veterans.

 

“There may be separate clinic areas, maybe a separate waiting room," said Cave. "There’s some things that you can think about in terms of the interior space that are more conducive to that specific population.”

 

KTXS spoke with several veterans, on the way into the clinic, who declined to go on camera but hope the new space will cut down on wait times.

 

Although the clinic can get packed during peak hours, Cave said they are not in a rush to find the right home for a bigger clinic.

 

“VA is here for the long haul, said Cave. "We’re gonna be there in Big Country for the long haul, and we need to do something that is done right and will last for years and years to come.”

 

The lease for the current clinic ends in December 2021, but Cave said it could be extended.

 

As of now, there is no set time from for when the new facility would open.

 

 

By Daniela Ibarra

Copyright © 2020, KTXS12 ABC. All Rights Reserved