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2nd COVID19 Death reported, 252 positive cases in area; EP Poison Center reports increase in calls & cases, Issues Hand Sanitizer, Cleaning Product Warning - El Paso Herald-Post

2nd COVID19 Death reported, 252 positive cases in area; EP Poison Center reports increase in calls & cases, Issues Hand Sanitizer, Cleaning Product Warning - El Paso Herald-Post


2nd COVID19 Death reported, 252 positive cases in area; EP Poison Center reports increase in calls & cases, Issues Hand Sanitizer, Cleaning Product Warning - El Paso Herald-Post

Posted: 11 Apr 2020 01:19 PM PDT

This story will be updated as new information arrives from area government offices, school districts, and other organizations regarding their Coronavirus (COVID-19) preparations and guidelines.

City Resources & FAQ  |   Direct link to ALL city closures  |  Department of Health Information site

***Area records 2nd COVID19 death, positive cases now at 252 (4/10/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department is reporting its second COVID-19 death. The female patient was in her 70's with underlying health conditions.

El Paso is now reporting 27 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county's total number to 252. Positive cases in El Paso County include 133 females and 119 males; see accompanying graphics and map.

There are now 52 patients who are hospitalized, and 21 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"Today is another somber day for our community, our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected families," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "It is imperative that we stay home as ordered and continue observing social distancing and other preventive measures we have mentioned over and over, such as washing hands, not touching your face and especially social distancing. We know that for young adults, COVID-19 might be a mild disease, but the virus can be transmitted to a vulnerable loved one that may suffer severe complications, including death, from the disease."

Residents are reminded that the Stay Home, Work Safe orders remain in effect and families who usually gather for the Easter weekend are advised that any gatherings at City and now State parks are strictly prohibited; as are house gatherings with others who do not live in the household.

In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, all El Pasoans are asked to use social media and internet applications to visit with family and friends virtually.

Public health officials urge residents to use face coverings when out performing essential duties or tasks. It is recommended that the face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands immediately after removing the covering.

In order to help determine the number of cases in our area, residents should note that the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these symptoms don not improve, the person should contact their healthcare provider or seek medical attention.

***

***EP Poison Center reports increase in calls & cases, Issues Hand Sanitizer, Cleaning Product Warning (4/10/2020)

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health is reminding residents of the importance of proper use and handling of hand sanitizing and disinfecting products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the West Texas Regional Poison Center (WTRPC), there has been an increase of about 70 percent to the Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) that may be attributed to health concerns regarding children accidently ingesting hand sanitizers and cleaning products.

Hand sanitizers most commonly contain high concentrations of ethyl alcohol—between 60 and 70 percent. Young children are more susceptible to the alcohol's potentially toxic effects. Children may experience dizziness, drowsiness, changes in behavior, and even dangerously low blood sugars if they ingest the hand sanitizer.

"While we continue to advocate for regular thorough hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, and disinfecting products, we also want to make sure residents don't become complacent in the way they use and store these items in their homes," said Angela Mora, Assistant Health Director. "We especially want parents to be sure to keep hand sanitizer up and away from their children."

The use of bleach and other household cleaners to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 has resulted in a 71 percent increase in cases involving bleach products, and a 63 percent increase in cases involving other household cleaning agents reported to the TPCN during March and April compared to previous years.

These cleaning products should be stored in their original container and away from the grasp of children.

The West Texas Regional Poison Center is available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222 with specially trained and bilingual nurses, pharmacists, and physicians to help answer questions.

More safety information is available via this CDC link.

***

***El Paso area has first COVID19 death, 225 positive cases according to DPH officials (4/9/2020)

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced Thursday afternoon that the area had it's first COVID19 related death, and the total number of positive cases is now at 225.

The first death, according to the mayor, was a man in his 80's who was hospitalized.

He also urged residents to use face covers/masks when out, continue social distancing, avoid gatherings and reminded everyone that parks in the city and county are closed.

Health officials also announced specific clusters of cases; where gatherings are now known to have caused positive cases to be discovered.

There is a trend in El Paso where the virus is being spread at gatherings—clusters of people—in their homes as they host parties or visit their friends and families. Health officials are urging the community to adhere to the orders and stay home whenever possible to stop the spread of the virus in our community.

"We are seeing a rapid increase in cases and these clusters are an example of how easy the virus spreads by being in close contact with an infected individual that in some cases can be asymptomatic," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "Our community should understand that is everyone's responsibility to follow the Stay at Home Order and we need to follow all the preventative measures such as handwashing, social distancing and everyone wearing face masks to prevent the situation from worsening."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported a high number of COVID-19 transmissions due to clusters of people gathering at family parties, funeral services and other events that do not adhere to their recommendations of social distancing and staying home to prevent the spread of this virus.

"If we as a community do not do something to stop the trend, the numbers will continue to rise," said El Paso Fire Chief Mario D'Agostino. "Everyone must take individual responsibility and do their part to save lives by following the Stay Home, Work Safe Order."

Public health officials urge residents to use face coverings when out performing essential duties or tasks. It is recommended that the face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands immediately after removing the covering.

The 21-COVID hotline is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral, services contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

***

***El Paso County Sheriff's Office shares update on facilities, vehicle disinfection (4/9/2020)

The El Paso community continues to prove we are #ElPasoStrong, Sheriff Richard D. Wiles, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, and the El Paso County Sheriff's Officers Association have received the support of local businesses Air Defense Virus Protection and Althouse Restore that specialize in disinfecting and sanitizing.

These partnerships are invaluable as we continue to carry out our everyday duties to Serve the El Paso Community with Pride, the disinfecting and sanitizing services they have provided ensure our Office can continue operations.

On Wednesday, April 8, 2020, Air Defense Virus Protection disinfected the lobby, conference room, and several vehicles at Sheriff's Office Headquarters.

Air Defense offers several solutions and tools to disinfect and sanitize depending on the square footage and composition of an area, to include large open areas.

We will continue to work with Air Defense to do the same at all the patrol stations, patrol units and both detention facilities to rid them of any virus or bacteria.

This week Althouse Restore disinfected and sanitized 170 Patrol Bureau and Detention Bureau vehicles.

 "Althouse Restore has been serving El Paso and Las Cruces for over 30 years in fire and water damage restoration.  The employees are very Pro El Paso and wanted to do something to help our first responders.  Since we had all the proper Personal Protective Equipment and chemicals, we decided to sanitize the police cruisers for the Covid-19 Virus." – Gregory Althouse

***

***El Paso Department of Public Health announces area COVID19 total at 192  (4/8/2020)

The City of El Paso Public Health Department reported 39 new COVID-19 cases bringing the county's total number to 192.

Positive cases in El Paso County include 101 females and 91 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are now 40 patients who are hospitalized, and 12 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"People need to realize that things will continue getting worse in El Paso if they don't adhere to the Stay Home, Work Safe orders," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "We've doubled our cases in five days. If we don't stay at home, practice social distancing, and wear the recommended face coverings when in public, it is only a matter of time before everyone knows someone who is infected in El Paso. We can prevent this by being proactive in our approach, but it will take all of us."

In addition to abiding by the Stay Home, Work Safe orders and avoiding any gatherings with anyone outside a person's immediate household, public health officials continue to urge residents to use face coverings when out performing essential duties or tasks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. (See: CDC Website)

It is also recommended that the face coverings be cleaned daily. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their face covering and wash their hands immediately after removing the covering.

***

***City, State Parks Closed During Easter Weekend (4/8/2020)

The City of El Paso reminds the public that gathering and picnicking at City or State parks during Easter weekend is not allowed in order to protect family and friends from the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

The Stay Home, Work Safe order remains in place at parks, including City-owned hike and bike trails, playgrounds, basketball courts, dog parks and skate parks until further notice.

Easter weekend is one of the busiest days of the year for parks, but to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect families, residents are not allowed to gather at parks. In addition, at-home gatherings, parties and other group activities that encourage some form of gathering are not permitted.

"Easter weekend is typically a time for our families to come together but we must continue to stay home and maintain social distancing during this time of celebration," said El Paso Mayor Dee Margo. "We will overcome this challenge as a community, and we must all do our part to keep our families and neighbors safe from the spread of the virus. The sooner we suppress the spread, the sooner we can start getting back to normal."

Law enforcement and code enforcement officers will issue citations to those who do not adhere to the order. In addition, the Parks and Recreation Department has received numerous complaints of people parking outside of McKelligon Canyon and using the road to walk, run or cycle. The use of McKelligon Canyon by the public remains prohibited.

The Stay Home, Work Safe order allows for healthy outdoor activities such as walking, running or biking around neighborhoods provided residents maintain the 6-foot social distancing requirement.

The measures are needed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 within the community.

For more information about the City of El Paso's COVID-19 containment efforts, visit www.epstrong.org

***

***Chamizal National Memorial Temporarily Closed (4/8/2020)

Effective immediately, Chamizal National Memorial will be closed to all visitors until further notice in response to guidance from the El Paso County public health department

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are working closely with our partners to support city and countywide efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, based on local public health guidance," said Chamizal National Memorial Superintendent Gus Sanchez

The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Chamizal National Memorial, including: the park website and Facebook.

Updates about NPS operations will be posted onlineOfficials will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on their websiteand social media channels. 

***

*** Environmental Services Department Update: COVID-19 Not Transmitted by Mosquitoes (4/8/2020)

As the ongoing effort to prevent spreading COVID-19 in our community continues, the City of El Paso's Environmental Services Department (ESD) advises residents that presently there is no scientific evidence to suggest mosquitoes spread COVID-19.

"While there is no data suggesting that mosquitoes are carriers of the coronavirus, we want our residents to take precautions this spring to protect themselves from other mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile and the Zika virus," ESD Director Ellen Smyth said.

The department's Vector Control Program sets traps and fogs areas throughout the community all year long to prevent mosquito breeding.

Residents can reduce their risk of getting mosquito bites by following these tips:

  • DEET:-Use insect repellents that contain DEET when outdoors
  • DRESS: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors
  • DUSK and DAWN: Although mosquitoes associated with the Zika virus can be active throughout the day, residents should take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours (from dusk to dawn) or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
  • DRAIN: Drain standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, and birdbaths.

For more information about the City's Vector Control Program, visit their website or call 3-1-1.

***

***El Paso DPH says area's COVID19 cases jump to 153 (4/7/2020)

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in El Paso County has now reached 153.

That is a 28 case jump from yesterday's total number of cases. The spike in cases comes less than a month after the first positive case was identified on March 13, 2020.

Positive cases in El Paso County include 79 females and 74 males; see accompanying graphics and map. There are 27 patients who are hospitalized, and 10 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"This rise in cases is to be expected because of increased testing, and community spread," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "The good news is that private businesses like grocery stores and other essential businesses are taking responsibility to tighten their policies and implementing social distancing as ordered. We need a community-wide effort to follow the new orders, observe social distancing and stay home."

The latest orders come from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Today, the State directed all state parks to be closed to the public effective at the close of business today and until further notice. In El Paso, the new order will affect Hueco Tanks and the Franklin Mountain State Parks.

Residents are reminded that the Stay Home, Work Safe orders remain in effect and families who usually gather for the Easter weekend are advised that any gatherings at City and now State parks are strictly prohibited; as are house gatherings with others who do not live in the household.

In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, all El Pasoans are asked to use social media and internet applications to visit with family and friends virtually.

LINK TO UPDATED NUMBERS & GRAPHICS

***

***Ysleta ISD takes proactive measures to protect public health (4/7/2020)

Out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of students, staff, and families, the Ysleta Independent School District is taking several aggressive measures to safeguard the public health after an employee who has worked at Del Valle Middle School self-reported Tuesday that two family members tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

The employee in question has NOT tested positive for the virus, officials said. However, Ysleta ISD is immediately suspending the Grab & Go school meal service program at Del Valle Middle School. Families in that area may instead obtain meals at Del Valle High School through Thursday of this week (employees do not work this Friday because it is a district holiday).

Federal health privacy laws prohibit Ysleta ISD from releasing certain details about the employee in question. However, this employee last worked at Del Valle Middle School on April 1, during which time the employee wore a mask and gloves; used hand sanitizer; practiced strict social distancing; and did not exhibit signs of the illness.

At present, district administration is notifying all personnel who have worked at Del Valle Middle School since March 30 to self-quarantine, monitor their temperatures, and contact their primary care physicians if they begin to experience any symptoms of the illness.

The employee in question also had contact with workers at Ysleta ISD's Central Office on April 2. Again, district administration is notifying Central Office staff who may have had contact with the employee at that time to take similar precautionary measures to protect their health.

Please know that Ysleta ISD is following all recommended health protocols, and has shared its plan of action with local health officials, who agreed it is both sound and proactive.

The district also sent emails to parents and employees regarding this matter Tuesday evening out of an abundance of caution, as there are NO confirmed cases of the virus among Ysleta ISD employees.

Because the Grab & Go meal service program at Del Valle Middle School has been suspended, the district is considering adding another Grab & Go meal site on Monday, April 13.

Any updates will be shared on Ysleta ISD's website and on the district's social media pages.

***

*** U.S. Secretary of Defense authorizes the use of masks on all DoD property, installations and facilities  (4/7/2020)

Via a social media post, the U.S. Secretary of Defense has authorized the use of masks in instances where social distancing cannot feasibly be maintained, such as for mission essential personnel at work centers.

All individuals (Soldiers, Contractors, and DA Civilians) who are unable to maintain social distancing guidelines wear a face mask that covers the mouth and nose to minimize exposure to themselves and others. All other 1AD service members are authorized to wear masks.

When in uniform follow the guidance below:

-Only colors which are specific to the duty uniform, with the addition of coyote brown and black, are authorized unless wearing a medical mask. The medical mask must be neutral or similar to the typical blue masks that medical personnel wear. Unit commanders make the determination on a case-by-case basis. There is not a requirement for an entire unit to have a mask of the same color. No logos or writing are authorized on the masks.

-Service members are authorized to wear their issued gloves and eye protection within the standards prescribed in AR 670-1.

-Effective immediately: Soldiers conducting ASP missions, either issues, turn in, or regular operations, wear a face mask. IAW FBTX guidance, neck gators, scarfs, or medical masks are appropriate.

***

***El Pasoans urged to 'Unite with Light' (4/7/2020)

In support of our medical professionals and first responders working to aid our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, City officials encourage residents to light their porch, apartment windows, and balcony with candles, flashlights, glow sticks, or any kind of light at 7:30 p.m. every Friday.

Homeowners are being asked to have their lights on by 7:30 p.m. every Friday to offer support to the many doctors, nurses, firefighters, paramedics and other medical professionals on the frontline of the coronavirus epidemic.

Share your photos and videos on the City of El Paso's social media platforms with the hashtag #UniteWithLightEP.

***

***Texas State Parks Temporarily Close to the Public (4/7/2020)

At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas State Parks will be closed to the public effective at the close of business Tuesday, April 7 in order to maintain the safest environment for visitors, volunteers and staff.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will continue to stay current with the latest public health recommendations and will announce when a definite reopening date has been determined.

"Given the myriad of challenges and heightened risks of operating the parks at this time, we believe this is the best course of action right now in order to meet the health and safety expectations the state has set out for the citizens of Texas," said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD. "All state parks will remain temporarily closed until public health and safety conditions improve. During the closure, staff will continue to steward and care for the parks to ensure they can be immediately reopened to visitors at the appropriate time."

Outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, biking, jogging, walking, hiking, wildlife viewing, and the like are essential activities for Texas citizens. TPWD will continue to do its part to actively encourage and promote these opportunities in ways that are safe and close to home, said Smith.

Through this trying time, TPWD has worked diligently to facilitate access to the outdoors across the state, including in the state park system, which hosted nearly 740,000 day and overnight visitors throughout the month of March.

Despite the implementation of increasingly restrictive visitor use measures to help minimize the transmission of COVID-19 at parks, TPWD has reached a point where public safety considerations of those in the parks, and in the surrounding communities, must take precedence over continued operations.  Difficulty in ensuring compliance with social distancing, problems in maintaining adequate supplies and keeping park facilities sufficiently sanitized are only a few of the challenges encountered by state park staff.

While parks are closed to the public, staff will be working to help maintain the standard upkeep, maintenance, stewardship, and continued regular cleaning of site facilities.

The Texas State Parks Customer Service Center is currently working toward contacting customers with upcoming overnight reservations to reimburse stays booked through the reservation system. Group and facility reservations have been cancelled until April 30. Cancelled reservations will not be charged normal administrative fees.

Day passes purchased through the reservation system, not associated to the Texas State Parks Pass, will also be refunded without penalties. The Texas State Parks Customer Service Center will automatically process cancellations of both overnight and day-use reservations. If your reservation is impacted by a facility or park closure, a Customer Service Center agent will contact you – you do not need to contact us. We are contacting customers in order of arrival date and appreciate your patience.

Questions regarding state park reservations can be emailed to customer.service@tpwd.texas.gov and general park information can be found at TexasStateParks.org

***Department of Public Health announces 125 COVID19 cases in area (4/6/2020)

Monday afternoon, Mayor Dee Margo, virtually alongside Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, announced that the total number of residents with the COVID19 (Coronavirus) infection had reached 125.

Today, Monday, April 6, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported ten new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 66 females and 59 males; see accompanying graphics and map.

As of today, there are 27 who are hospitalized and 10 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"Our community was ordered and urged to continue to stay home whenever possible. To only go out for essential activities and to choose only one person in the household to carry out those essential activities such as grocery shopping or pick up medicines," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "We will continue to emphasize how our community will have a dramatic increase in cases in coming week, but we should also recognize that there are new recommendations to help slow down or stop the spread of COVID-19

One of those new recommendations for El Pasoans is to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that ask the public to consider wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies).

The CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Surgical masks and N-95 respirators are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance via this link.

***

***Food Bank adjusts emergency food box distribution schedule (4/6/2020)

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank's COVID-19 response team has modified its emergency food box drive-thru distribution schedule to ensure broad coverage across El Paso County. The new schedule is as follows:

West: Abundant Living Faith Center West at 7100 N. Desert Blvd. on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from 10AM-2PM.

Central: Kelly Center for Hunger Relief at 915 N. Florence on Tuesday & Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 10AM-2PM.

Northeast: Katie's Pantry at 4801 Sun Valley – Monday through Friday from 10AM-2PM.

East/Socorro/Clint/San Elizario/Fabens: El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank – Monday through Friday from 9AM-3PM.

Since transitioning to a drive-thru distribution model on March 17, 2020, EPFH has given out more than 50,000 emergency food boxes to families and individuals who are in need of food assistance.

The food bank is focusing its initial response on vulnerable senior citizens, families and individuals who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

EPFH is also calling upon the support of healthy community members to volunteer. The food bank needs to recruit 80 volunteers per day (40 volunteers per shift) as quickly as possible. Volunteers need to be in good health and a minimum of 16 years old. EPFH has implemented a health and hygiene protocol to keep volunteers safe.

Community members who are able to volunteer can contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Miranda Chapman, at 915-247-0257 or by email at volunteer@epfhfb.org

People who cannot volunteer are strongly encouraged to assist EPFH with monetary donations. $1 equates to 7 meals. Donations can be made online by clicking here. 

***

***NMSU employee in stable condition after testing positive for COVID-19 (4/6/2020)

An NMSU female employee in her 50s is hospitalized in stable condition after testing positive for COVID-19. She has been working from home since March 18, when the university began to implement telework procedures.

NMSU has notified the appropriate agencies and affected employees of the situation. The university continues to follow all established protocols for COVID-19, including cleaning of facilities and social distancing for individuals.

***

***EPCC announces all Summer Classes to be held online (4/6/2020)

Via a post on the their Facebook page, El Paso Community College officials first announced that their Summer semester would be conducted online.  Below is their statement:

After careful consideration along with monitoring how COVID-19 is expected to continue to impact our State and community, EPCC has decided to transition all summer courses online.

We have weighed all the information available carefully and made this difficult decision in the best interest of the health and well being of our students and campus community. Since these are circumstances none of us expected, we are waiving the $50 Distance Education Fee for all summer courses.

COVID-19 may be keeping us at home, but it doesn't have to disrupt your future! Online summer classes are the perfect opportunity for you to get closer to finishing your degree. Online classes allow you to be flexible with your schedule, manage your work and family responsibilities, and get college credit at the same time! You can also use your Summer Pell! Register for summer today!

It's easy, you may register online. Currently there is no in person registration. If you need help, you may call 915-831-2150. If you need advising, email counseling@epcc.edu.

You may also visit the virtual Admissions and Registration office

***

***Mexico's Foreign Ministry Urges Mexicans to Avoid Nonessential Travel Over Easter Week (4/6/2020)

The Government of Mexico reiterates its call for all Mexican citizens to avoid nonessential international travel to and from Mexico. This includes travel for recreational reasons or tourism, especially over Easter week. This is part of the measures taken to curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Mexico and around the world.  In addition, the reduced number of flights and routes has greatly complicated the logistics of international air travel.

The Foreign Ministry urges our citizens who live abroad to stay home and avoid international travel.  Specifically, it again urgently calls on the Mexican community in the United States that traditionally travels to Mexico at Easter to postpone all visits to our country.  The measures recently put in place by both countries to contain the virus have reduced flights and limited nonessential border crossings.

On behalf of the Government of Mexico, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates its commitment to providing all possible consular assistance and protection to our Mexican citizens abroad. However, given the current situation, it is extremely complicated to repatriate individuals at this time. Therefore, it is of paramount important to avoid nonessential travel abroad.

***

***Customs and Border Protection: 4 El Paso area CBP Employees test positive for COVID19 (4/6/2020)

Via their website, Customs and Border Protection officials released information regarding their employees nationwide who have tested positive for the COVID19 (Coronavirus)

The numbers shared show at total of 160 employees with COVID19 as of April 5.  The CBP website did not include any information on those currently in their custody.

CBP officials also included the following statement:

What is CBP doing to safeguard its employees/personnel during this pandemic?

In order to minimize exposure to COVID-19, the CBP workforce is using social distancing to the maximum extent possible. CBP has ensured that personnel who cannot telework have ready access to Personal Protective Equipment and comprehensive guidance for the use of that equipment. CBP is taking every precaution to keep our workforce, their families and the American people safe while still accomplishing the CBP mission.

What specific protective equipment is CBP providing to agents and officers?

CBP has provided extensive guidance to all of its employees regarding the risk-based use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE recommendations range from gloves to N95 respirators, eye protection, disposable outer garments and more based on infectious disease risks, job functions, and job settings. CBP has also issued sanitary guidance to its facilities specifically to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

***El Paso ISD Super: EPISD@HOME will help keep students on track academically (4/6/2020)

El Paso ISD Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera released a letter to EPISD parents on Monday, updating the district's distance learning program, among other efforts.  Superintendent Cabrera's full letter is included below:

Dear EPISD Family:

I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and doing well during these challenging times.  We hope that our efforts to provide learning at home and food distribution services helps to offer some consistency and stability as we manage our school closures.

EPISD is working closely with city and county officials and remains closed until further notice so we can follow the Stay Home Work Safe order.  EPISD is committed to doing its part in curbing the spread of the dangerous COVID-19 (coronavirus) in our community. We urge you to follow the Stay Home Work Safe order and avoid going out unless absolutely necessary. Each one of us is responsible for doing our part in social distancing.  This will only work if we all do our part.

The closure of our schools is a challenge for all of us, but the EPISD Family is up to the challenge. Last week we launched EPISD@HOME, the District's distance learning program. The program is the result of tireless efforts from the District's academics and technology teams who worked through their spring break holiday to make sure our students remain on track academically.

I've heard many wonderful stories of EPISD educators going above and beyond to make sure their students received the information and materials they needed to connect to EPISD@HOME. It was great seeing the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram photos and videos of happy kids learning from their kitchen tables. It was like the first day of school all over again!

While I'm very happy with the launch of EPISD@HOME, I know there were some glitches and some connectivity issues with Schoology.  We are 100 percent certain EPISD@HOME will be a valuable community resource, but we know there will be growing pains as we work hard to build our new school model.  Please know EPISD is fully committed to supporting our families and we appreciate your patience as we work to improve performance.

Already, we are seeing more and more students access the EPISD@HOME portal without incident so that they can continue their education and stay on track with their academic goals. I want to thank everyone for their patience as we work through these issues. We will continue to get better and improve your school experience.

There are also concerns about the availability of iPads and Wi-Fi hotspots for families who do not have connectivity at home. We distributed thousands of iPads to elementary-school students. For those who still need devices, we are working to meet everyone's needs. The EPISD trustees recently approved funding that will allow us to buy more iPads and hotspots so that we can continue to distribute them to those families who need them. Thank you, trustees!

For families that lack connectivity or want a low-tech option, we are working on paper packets to help children continue their studies during the closure. More information will be announced soon.

Of course, our response to the closures has gone beyond the launch of EPISD@HOME.

Thanks to the dedication of our Food and Nutrition Services team we are now distributing more than 20,000 meals to children every day. Our cafeteria workers are doing their best to make sure our students have access to healthy and delicious food, even when schools are closed. This is very important, and I am proud of our team members who are working hard to support our community with daily meals.

I also want to thank the EPISD custodial and transportation staff who have worked non-stop cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, offices and buses. Thank you so much!

As you can see, EPISD is setting the standard of excellence not just in El Paso but in the state for how we are responding to these unprecedented circumstances. There still are many unknowns as we continue our fight against COVID-19. Together, we will get through this and emerge stronger than ever.

Thank you, EPISD. And please stay healthy and safe in the comfort of your home.

#IAMEPISD #EPISDPROUD

Sincerely,

Juan E. Cabrera, Superintendent

***The number of positive COVID-19 cases in El Paso County has now reached 115. (4/5/2020)

Today, Sunday, April 5, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported nine (9) new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 63 females and 52 males; see graphics and map below.

As of today, there are 27 hospitalized and 10 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"This week we implemented stricter orders to include prohibiting gatherings of any number, closed City parks and trails, and yesterday we closed Scenic Drive; all in an effort to reduce the number of people congregating in public spaces. We have been working with essential businesses to follow social distancing, and we are seeing more and more of them come into compliance," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority.

"However, we continue to receive complaints about businesses and residents who are not following these directives. While City and County officials are working to investigate these complaints and enforcing the new orders, I must stress that the number of positive cases will accelerate dramatically over the next several weeks and it will only get worse. This is a true emergency and we need everyone to take responsibility and insist on strict cooperation. We cannot do this without the community taking some level of accountability for their own health, and that of their family, friends and neighbors."

***

*** Ysleta ISD Superintendent Xavier De La Torre announces 2020 graduations postponed, not canceled. (4/5/2020)

Dear Parents,

As we kick off our instructional continuity plan, The DISTRICT@home plan is to assist in maximizing the amount of virtual instructional time for students to ensure they complete the 2019-2020 school year while supporting student mastery of grade level standards.  Student participation in at home instruction is mandatory whether it is virtual or through paper packets. We will be determining grades for students and effectively monitoring whether students have demonstrated proficiency in the knowledge and skills (TEKS) as required by the state.

We elected to delay the recording of grades for a short period of time to allow students and teachers to become acclimated to the virtual learning process; however, we will provide assignments for student completion as well as feedback to the students for completed assignments. Credit for courses for high school graduation will continue to be awarded based on a student's demonstrated proficiency in the essential knowledge and skills for the course. We will provide remote opportunities to receive instruction and demonstrate proficiency in the remaining content for a course to ensure students are awarded credit for courses.

Given the importance of high school graduation for our seniors, we have elected to postpone the ceremonies rather than cancel them, as it is important that these students experience the right of passage with crossing the stage upon completion of their high school years.  We will continue to update the community on commencement ceremonies as additional information becomes available.

In honor of our class of 2020, our community, and in collaboration with the State's #BetheLight campaign, each high school began illuminating their stadium lights at 20:20 Monday through Friday for 20 minutes to demonstrate support for our students, their strength and their perseverance during these unfortunate circumstances.

As always, we will also continue to work closely with our city and county health officials, and monitor any developments regarding COVID-19 as it relates to the Ysleta ISD community. Please visit our www.yisd.net website for the latest updates.

Sincerely,

Xavier De La Torre, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

To view the Superintendent's statement, click here.

***

***Number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County at triple digits: 106 positive cases.  (4/4/2020)

Health officials implore the community to stay home as the number of cases are expected to accelerate dramatically over the next several weeks.

Today, Saturday, April 4, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported ten (10) new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 57 females and 49 males; see accompanying graphics and map. As of today, there are 26 hospitalized and 8 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"It is unfortunate that we have now seen our numbers grow past one hundred, but this is only the beginning. As I have repeatedly stated, we will continue to see our numbers escalate without the community's strict cooperation," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "This disease must be taken seriously and the best protection against COVID-19 is for us to stay apart from others including our loved ones—as difficult as this is for us."

***

***Scenic Drive Closed to Reduce Risk of Spreading of COVID-19  (4/4/2020)

Effective immediately, Scenic Drive will be closed to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The closure will remain in place until further notice and is intended to prevent the public from gathering along the winding road's lookout spots and park.

The Stay Home, Work Safe order prohibits public gatherings of any size at recreational areas to include parks.

Residents and visitors are also encouraged to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tips to help combat the spread of the virus:

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow

The public may stay up-to-date with City service changes, social distancing protocols, and other important information related to COVID-19 by visiting, www.EPStrong.org.

***

***El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank adjusts emergency food box distribution schedule (4/4/2020)

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank's COVID-19 response team has modified its emergency food box drive-thru distribution schedule to ensure broad coverage across El Paso County. The new schedule is as follows:

West: Abundant Living Faith Center West at 7100 N. Desert Blvd. on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from 9AM-3PM.

Central: Kelly Center for Hunger Relief at 915 N. Florence on Tuesday & Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 9AM-3PM.

Northeast: Katie's Pantry at 4801 Sun Valley – Monday through Friday from 9AM-3PM.

East/Socorro/Clint/San Elizario/Fabens: El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank – Monday through Friday from 9AM-3PM.

Since transitioning to a drive-thru distribution model on March 17, 2020, EPFH has given out more than 50,000 emergency food boxes to families and individuals who are in need of food assistance. The food bank is focusing its initial response on vulnerable senior citizens, families and individuals who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

EPFH is also calling upon the support of healthy community members to volunteer. The food bank needs to recruit 80 volunteers per day (40 volunteers per shift) as quickly as possible. Volunteers need to be in good health and a minimum of 16 years old. EPFH has implemented a health and hygiene protocol to keep volunteers safe.

Community members who are able to volunteer can contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Miranda Chapman, at 915-247-0257 or by email at volunteer@epfhfb.org

People who cannot volunteer are strongly encouraged to assist EPFH with monetary donations. $1 equates to 7 meals. Donations can be made online by clicking here. 

***

***USPS responds to tips/information that worker tests positive for COVID19  (4/4/2020)

Amid several tips and rumors that one (or more) of their workers at the central processing facility in El Paso tested positive for COVID19, officials released the following statement.

The U.S. Postal Service has learned that an employee at the El Paso Processing & Distribution Center (P&DC) tested positive for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This has been confirmed by the El Paso Department of Public Health and we will follow the guidance they provide.  We believe the risk is low for employees who work at the El Paso P&DC, but we will keep our employees apprised as new information and guidance becomes available. The employee did not work with the public.

As you may know, under the Rehabilitation Act and the Privacy Act, specific employee medical information must be kept confidential and may only be shared in very limited circumstances. Therefore, the Postal Service cannot share the name of the employee who tested positive for COVID-19 or further specifics of his or her medical condition.

The safety and well-being of our employees is our highest priority. To ensure the health of our employees, we are continuing to follow recommended guidance and strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition, both the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html) and the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses) as well as the U.S. Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through the mail and packages.

***

***El Paso Department of Public Health announces COVID19 cases now at 96  (4/3/2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 96. Health officials urge the community to stay home as the number of positive cases continues to rise.

Today, Friday, April 3, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported eighteen (18) new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 53 females and 43 males.

As of today, there are 19 hospitalized and 8 of those hospitalized are currently in ICU.

"We are going to continue to see numbers go up as COVID-19 spreads in our community at a rapid pace. However, social distancing is the best way to slow down the rate of transmission of the virus, thus protecting our most vulnerable love ones", said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority.

Residents are directed to stay in their home and if they must run essential errands they should to do so by themselves and avoid taking seniors and children with them. As they make their way in the community, they must maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

COVID-19 signs and symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

If these symptoms don't improve they should contact their healthcare provider or seek medical attention.

***

***El Paso County Sheriff's Office announces 'Stay Home, Work Safe' enhanced patrols (4/3/2020)

In accordance with the Stay Home, Work Safe order by County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office will be closing and actively patrolling County Parks as well as Red Sands, the desert area behind the Socorro Athletic Complex and
San Felipe Park.

These areas as well as the others outlined in the "Stay Home, Work Safe" order will be actively patrolled during the orders duration, the public is reminded to not frequent these areas during the duration of the order.

The order is enforceable under the Texas Government Code 418.173, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or confinement in jail for the term that does not exceed 180 days.

The public is encouraged to avoid these areas for the safety of our community during this pandemic, please "Stay Home, Work Safe".

***

***Walmart announces changes to customer entrance into stores, mobility inside stores (4/3/2020)

Walmart officials announce on Friday more changes to the way customers access their stores nationwide during the COVID19 Pandemic.

Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer,  of Walmart U.S. released the following guidelines:

In this taxing and uncertain time, our associates have gone above and beyond to help Americans get the food, medicine and supplies they need.

We care deeply about our associates' health and well-being, and in recent weeks we've taken steps such as expanding our paid leave policies; closing our stores overnight for cleanings and restocking; installing sneeze guards and social distance markers in stores; beginning temperature checks; and starting to make gloves and masks available to associates who want them.

While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people. We want to encourage customers to bring the fewest number of people per family necessary to shop, allow for space with other customers while shopping, and practice social distancing while waiting in lines. We're also seeing states and municipalities set varying policies regarding crowd control – which has created some confusion regarding shopping.

To promote health, safety and consistency for our associates and customers in this environment, we're taking some further steps for our U.S. stores:

Regulating Store Entry

Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity.

To manage this restriction, the associates at a store will mark a queue at a single-entry door (in most cases the Grocery entrance) and direct arriving customers there, where they will be admitted one-by-one and counted. Associates and signage will remind customers of the importance of social distancing while they're waiting to enter a store – especially before it opens in the morning.

Once a store reaches its capacity, customers will be admitted inside on a "1-out-1-in" basis.

Shopping Inside the Store

We'll also institute one-way movement through our aisles next week in a number of our stores, using floor markers and direction from associates. We expect this to help more customers avoid coming into close contact with others as they shop.

We'll continue to put signage inside our stores to remind customers of the need to maintain social distancing – especially in lines. And once customers check out, they will be directed to exit through a different door than they entered, which should help lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.

We always want people to feel welcome at Walmart, and we know that in ordinary times a store is a gathering place for members of a community to connect and socialize. We look forward to the time when that is again the case; however, we now want to prioritize health and safety by encouraging customers to do their shopping at a distance from others, then head home.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, our leaders and operations teams will continue to listen to advice from medical experts, associates and customers, and consider how we can best serve people while helping slow the spread of the virus. The health and safety of our associates and customers is what matters the most.

***

***President Trump: CDC recommending use of cloth masks for Americans in coronavirus hot spots  (4/3/2020)

During Friday afternoon's news conference on COVID19, President Donald Trump said the Center for Disease Control now recommends cloth masks – not surgical masks – for Americans in Coronavirus hot spots.

"The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as a voluntary health measure," Trump said during his Friday briefing. "It is voluntary. They suggested for a period of time. This is voluntary."

During the White House daily briefing, Trump emphasized wearing the covering is voluntary.  "You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it," Trump said. "It's only a recommendation."

Friday's announcement is a change for the CDC, which has for weeks said only medical professionals, those who are sick, or those caring for the sick needed to wear masks.

The president added, "The CDC is not recommending the use of medical grade or surgical grade masks…" as they need to be saved for medical professionals.

Per the CDC officials, a mask made out of fabric or a T-shirt could help prevent carriers of the virus from spreading it if they cough or sneeze while in public, particularly before the onset of symptoms.

For the latest information, visit the CDC website by clicking here.

***

***Santa Teresa Port Temporarily Adjusts Closing Time Beginning April 6 (4/3/2020)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operation is alerting members of the traveling public that the Santa Teresa port of entry will close at 10 p.m. starting Monday, April 6.

Regular operational hours at the Santa Teresa crossing are 6 a.m. to midnight. The change does not impact commercial traffic hours.

With the "essential only" travel restrictions imposed on March 21, 2020 in response to the COVID 19 pandemic, CBP continues to see significantly reduced privately owned vehicle and pedestrian traffic along our northern and southern borders.

Nationwide, passenger vehicle traffic is down 72%, while pedestrian crossings are down 83%.

International border crossings are not closed, they remain open to essential travel and trade operations.  CBP continues to maintain a strong and secure economic supply chain across our border.

"CBP recognizes the importance of maintaining a strong and secure economic supply chain and commercial trucks crossing will not be largely impacted by these reduced hours," Said CBP Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha. "Our borders are not closed, they remain open to essential travel and trade operations.  We continue to maintain a strong and secure economic supply chain across our border."

CBP reminds the public that the El Paso port of entry and Columbus port of entry are maintaining their 24-hour status and are available as alternatives..

The Santa Teresa port will return to previous hours once the current travel restrictions are lifted.

***

***IDEA Public Schools to Add Supper to Curbside Meals (4/3/2020)

Beginning Monday, April 6th IDEA Public Schools will offer free supper curbside meals to all children under the age of 18.

 "At IDEA Public Schools we understand that many of our students rely on us for needs beyond academics," says Irma Munoz, IDEA Public Schools Chief Operating Officer. "We are very thankful that we have the opportunity at IDEA Public Schools to add supper meals at all of our campuses."

All IDEA schools in El Paso will have breakfast, lunch and supper available for curbside pick-up from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Monday – Friday.

All meals are provided via drive-thru only. Children are eligible for meal service at any school location. Due to new regulations by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) if a child is not present in the car, parents must be able to show proof of identity in order to receive meals.

Families wanting more information on school closure, meal service, childcare services, and the distance learning program, may visit IDEA's health service website.

***

***UIL Amends Suspension of Activities Due to COVID-19 (4/3/2020)

AUSTIN — In accordance with the Executive Order issued by Governor Greg Abbott mandating schools remain temporarily closed through Monday, May 4, 2020 due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is further modifying contingency plans and extending its previously announced timeline for completing UIL activities this academic school year.

These modifications are based on schools resuming operations on Monday, May 4, 2020. As that date approaches, UIL will monitor all available information and provide member schools with more specific guidance on district and post-season date adjustments related to this new extension.

All in-person practices, rehearsals and workouts remain suspended until further notice and remote instruction remains in place. UIL remains committed to providing a reasonable acclimatization period for rehearsals and practices to occur prior to resuming contests and games. All decisions remain flexible and will be consistent with the advice of local, state and federal officials.

The UIL will continue to provide timely, ongoing updates and is reassessing this ever-changing situation daily. Please continue to check the UIL website and social media accounts for further updates.

***

***Hurd Announces $612,900 in Native American Housing Grants Due to COVID-19 (4/3/2020)

U.S. Representative Will Hurd (TX-23) today announced $612,900 in Indian Housing Block Grants for the cities of Eagle Pass and El Paso. These funds are a result of the COVID-19 pandemic legislation and will provide Native American tribes vital funds to prevent, prepare for and respond to the virus.

"Every community in the U.S., no matter the size, is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including everyone in the 23rd congressional district of Texas. Congress has worked to provide aid to help everyone from those unemployed, to small businesses, to our tribes. As the representative with more tribes in the district than any other Texas congressman, I felt it was essential to ensure our tribes were granted resources to deal with this virus. Today's grants will provide $612,900 to tribes in Texas' 23rd district to address coronavirus. By working together, we will all make it through this crisis," said Hurd.

The following grants were awarded:

  • City of El Paso: $549,919
  • City of Eagle Pass: $62,981

***

***El Paso Identifies Additional COVID-19 Cases  (4/2/2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 78 and health officials continue to advise the community to stay home.

Today, Thursday, April 2, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported ten (10) new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 44 females and 34 males:

"We must continue to make changes to protect yourself and your family by staying home and avoiding contact with those who may be infected. We can keep the total number of cases low in El Paso if we all do our part to protect our community," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority.

The 21-COVID hotline is operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For referral, services contact 2-1-1 and select option six (6). For more information, visit www.epstrong.org.

COVID Report – April 2, 2020

***

***In a message to the UTEP community, Heather Wilson outlines new reporting guidelines for travel and employee illness. (4/2/2020)

Thanks to all of you for everything you are doing for our students and our community.

I'm sure many of you have seen in the media that community spread of COVID-19 has begun in El Paso. That means that some people have been diagnosed without having known, extended contact with another person who has the disease.

We also have new rules from the City and County restricting travel.

So far, we have only had three staff and one student diagnosed with COVID-19. Three of them have already recovered. The other one is still isolated at home.

With community spread an issue, we need to request additional information from each of you.

Effective immediately:

  • All University faculty and staff must self-report any travel beyond 100 miles from the City of El Paso to an email address we have set up for this purpose: COVIDaction@utep.edu
  • All University faculty and staff who have traveled beyond 100 miles from the City of El Paso must self-isolate for 14 days. UTEP has been staying in touch with every employee and student in self-isolation and we will continue to do so.

More than that, we really need to know if any faculty or staff member is sick. Effective immediately:

  • Any employee who is sick must tell their supervisor.
  • Department heads are responsible for submitting reports of illness among staff and faculty within their department to COVIDaction@utep.edu.
    • The report should include who is ill, when the illness began, the last date the ill employee was on campus, whether they have been tested for COVID-19, and any other employees who have been within 6 feet of the ill employee for more than 15 minutes within the past two weeks.

With that information, our Environmental Health and Safety team can make rapid decisions to help us protect each other.

Again, thanks to all of you for staying home unless it is essential for you to go out. It is the best thing we can do to protect our families and each other.

Heather Wilson

President

***

***IDEA Public Schools to remain closed for 2019-20 school year; Officials hope to reopen campuses in August  (4/2/2020)

Officials with IDEA Public Schools announced on Thursday afternoon that they are preparing to offer distance learning for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, with their facilities remaining closed until August.

Below is their statement:

At IDEA Public Schools the safety of our students, staff and families is our top priority. All IDEA Public Schools campuses in Texas are preparing to offer distance learning the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year. Our school buildings will remain closed except for meals and childcare.

We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the summer and hope to reopen our school buildings in August.

IDEA Public Schools operates 3 schools here in the El Paso area – IDEA Mesa Hills, IDEA Edgemere  and IDEA Rio Vista in Socorro – with a new campus under construction – IDEA Horizon Vista – in Horizon City and expected to open this August for the 2020-21 school year.

***

***Parks & Recreation Closes All City Parks (4/2/2020)

The Parks and Recreation Department has closed all City Parks and Recreational areas until further notice to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as part of the amended "Stay Home, Work Safe" order.

The closing of parks includes City-owned hike and bike trails, walking trails and playgrounds. Also not allowed are gatherings at any recreational areas or facilities.

Earlier closures of parks facilities including aquatic centers, recreation centers, senior centers and sports facilities remain in effect.

As announced earlier, all Parks and Recreation programming, which includes Scenic Sundays, remains suspended. These measures are necessary to reduce the number of people gathering outdoors to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The public is asked to remember that with cancelation of "Scenic Sundays" walking, running and cycling on Scenic Drive is not allowed on Sundays, and the road will remain open to traffic.

The Parks and Recreation Department is following the City's Stay Safe, Work Home order that directs community members to stay inside their homes and limit all outside movement beyond what is necessary to take care of essential needs.

The Parks and Recreation Department continues to work closely with both the El Paso Department of Public Health and the Office of Emergency Management, who are monitoring COVID-19.

***

***EPISD closes all facilities to the public (4/2/2020)

 The City of El Paso on Wednesday amended its Stay At Home order to prohibit the use of outdoor recreation facilities to include parks and basketball courts.

Therefore, EPISD is closing all campus facilities, including outdoor tracks, courts, playgrounds and stadiums. Effective immediately, all school facilities – inside and outside — will be closed to the public.

We will continue to offer meals at designated sites. We remind everyone to continue to practice social distancing guidelines.

We appreciate your cooperation in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19.

***

***Sun Metro New Customer Service Hours (4/1/2020)

Effective immediately, Sun Metro is adjusting customer service operating hours in response to COVID-19.

New Customer Service Hours are as follows:

  • Monday through Saturday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

These changes, which include flexible work schedules, will provide for added protection for customer service representatives in line with social distancing requirements. The modified customer service hours follow reduced service hours for fixed, LIFT and Brio routes. Streetcar operations were suspended last month.

Customer service call takers will continue to focus on customers with immediate needs such as those with questions that are directly impacting rides to essential services. This includes activities such as picking up medications and/or groceries, to get to healthcare or work if the resident is deemed an essential employee.

Sun Metro also offers an online option: contact.sunmetro.net to assist with customer service and reduce call wait times.

The public may stay up-to-date with service changes, social distancing protocols due to COVID-19 by visiting the sunmetro.net/covid website.

***

***City/County officials announce 68 positive cases of COVID19 in area; New stricter guidelines announced for gatherings, recreation and work (4/1/2020)

During another virtual news conference, Mayor Dee Margo and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego touched on the new updates to the 'Stay Home, Work Safe' guidelines first introduced last week, as well as the 18 new cases of Coronavirus in the city.

As of today, the Department of Public Health (DPH) reported eighteen (18) new cases. The total number of positive cases in El Paso now stands at 68. Positive cases in El Paso County include 38 females and 30 males.

Mayor Margo announced that all city parks and recreation areas were now off limits; with the order now including private clubs and golf courses.  The mayor also discouraged the use of hiking trails.

The order places new limits on construction, but allows the projects to continue. Distancing required, shifts must be staggered, prohibit gatherings for meals or breaks.

The following are some of the changes that will go into effective at 11:59 p.m. tonight, April 1, and will remain in effect until further notice:

  • All individuals living within the City of El Paso are directed to stay at home or at their place of residence unless they are performing essential duties, working in an essential business, government, etc.
  • Public and Private gatherings of any number of people are prohibited.
  • Any travel is restricted to approved activities. Anyone returning from travel of 100 miles or more outside the City must self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Any public of private gatherings at any recreational area, park, pool or recreational facility is prohibited. This includes hike and bike trails, whether formally recognized by the City or not; including, but not limited to any golfing in public or private courses; any gathering in school recreation areas, tennis clubs, and any other private recreational club; the area near Socorro Independent School District Student Activities Complex ("SAC") located near 1300 Joe Battle Boulevard; all to include the use of any type of recreational vehicle at any outdoor area.
  • Critical infrastructure and construction activities that are exempt are more clearly defined.
  • Business owners must provide mandatory rest breaks of at least 15 minutes every four hours so workers can follow hygiene guidelines. Additionally, businesses can take no adverse action against an employee who has been quarantined or advised to self-quarantine due to possible exposure.

The directive still allows the public to visit grocery stores, gas stations, and banks, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

***

***Free Community Meals to Go at The Salvation Army (4/1/2020)

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, The Salvation Army will begin serving a daily, free meal to the community from 6 to 6:30PM.

Understanding the heightened community need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current social distancing protocols, The Salvation Army has adjusted it's normal meal service and will provide dinner to go.

"The meal will be served from the mobile kitchen typically reserved for service during disaster situations," Salvation Army officials shared. "We invite anyone in need of a meal to join us at 6PM."

Who: THE SALVATION ARMY OF EL PASO

What: FREE DINNER TO GO – SERVED FROM THE SALVATION ARMY MOBILE KITCHEN

When: MONDAY-FRIDAY, BEGINNING THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2020 – 6PM- 6:30PM

Where: THE SALVATION ARMY, 4300 E. PAISANO DR, EL PASO

***

***UTEP, City of El Paso sign agreement to allow employees to assist with Coronavirus Testing (4/1/2020)

A new agreement between The University of Texas at El Paso and the City of El Paso will enable UTEP faculty and staff to assist the city's Department of Public Health in identifying cases of the novel coronavirus.

The El Paso City Council approved the 12-month interlocal agreement on March 31, 2020. Per the agreement, the city will reimburse UTEP up to $200,000 for services and equipment.

"UTEP has always worked with our community to improve health," said UTEP President Heather Wilson. "We teach Clinical Laboratory Science at UTEP. In fact, I understand that most of the employees at the city lab are UTEP alumni. Our faculty members are ready to help their former students and use their skills to reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community." ​

Five of the public health department's laboratory staff are graduates of UTEP's Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) program.

According to the agreement, UTEP faculty or staff who are trained in nucleic acid extraction and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods, will help the public health department's laboratory staff to analyze patient samples for COVID-19. They include Lorraine Torres, Ed.D.; Delfina Dominguez, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Camacho; and Laurencia Almeida in UTEP's CLS program; and Jonathon Mohl, Ph.D., mathematical sciences research assistant professor, and Miguel A. Beltran, biological sciences Ph.D. student.

As of March 30, public health officials reported 46 COVID-19 cases in El Paso County. Three of those cases are UTEP employees and one is a UTEP student.

To read the complete article, click here.

***

***City cases of COVID19 now at 50, Health officials confirm community spread  (3/31/2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases in El Paso County now stands at 50 and health officials are confirming evidence of community spread, meaning the source of infection is unknown in some of the positive cases.

On Tuesday, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) reported four (4) new cases. Positive cases in El Paso County include 31 females and 19 males.

"Every time we report new numbers, whether it's one or two or four, keep in mind that these are more potential exposures for people who may have underlying conditions. We cannot afford to be complacent in the war against this virus and compromise the lives of those who are susceptible," said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority. "When we ask you to stay home you need to stay home."

The City and County of El Paso postponed a scheduled press conference for later this week in order to allow City, County and Health Officials an opportunity to review Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Orders relating to COVID-19. Gov. Abbott issued another Executive Order regarding essential activities.

In order to ensure compliance with the Governor's order, Mayor Dee Margo, Judge Ricardo Samaniego, and Dr. Ocaranza decided to postpone issuing any additional restrictions today. The existing Stay Home, Work Safe orders issued on March 23, 2020, remain in effect.

Courtesy EP Dept of Health

***

***City/County postpones scheduled news conference scheduled for Tuesday; Officials to Review New Executive Orders Issued by State  (3/31/2020)

The virtual press conference scheduled for 5 p.m. March 31, was postponed for later this week in order to allow City, County and Health Officials an opportunity to review Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Orders relating to COVID-19.

Governor Abbott issued another Executive Order regarding essential activities. In order to ensure compliance with the Governor's order, Mayor Dee Margo, Judge Ricardo Samaniego, and Dr. Hector Ocaranza decided to postpone issuing any additional restrictions today.

The existing Stay Home, Work Safe orders issued on March 23, 2020, remain in effect.

For more information regarding COVID-19 prevention efforts, visit www.epstrong.org

***

***City Updates Drive-Thru Guidelines, Operating Hours to Increase COVID-19 Specimen Collection (3/31/2020)

In effort to increase the number of specimens collected and tested for COVID-19, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health has updated the qualifications needed to access the service.

The following criteria will be used to identify those who qualify for specimen collection:

  • First Responders and Health Care Workers with symptoms
  • Persons 65 y/o or older with symptoms
  • Persons any age, with symptoms and underlying medical conditions
  • Individuals evaluated by their medical provider and provided with a lab order through Quest Diagnostics

Additionally, specimens will now be collected Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

A picture ID or any other form of identification is required to confirm appointment. Patients who qualify may call (915) 212-0783 to make an appointment. The patient's privacy will be maintained and the patient will not be asked for their citizenship or immigration status.

Qualifying individuals must not take any fever reducing medications prior to the appointment. A physician's order or insurance is not required; however, staff may still ask for orders and insurance as a part of the process. If testing criteria is not met, the appointment and/or specimen collection at the site will be denied.

Additional information is available at EPStrong.org.

***

***Clint ISD Lights the Night for Seniors and Community  (3/31/2020) 

Clint ISD will shine the stadium lights at all three high school stadiums as a symbol of unity and hope for all seniors in the Class of 2020 and for El Paso area communities as together we endure the challenges brought on by Coronavirus.

The athletic field stadium lights at Clint High School, Horizon High School and Mountain View High School will #LIGHTtheNIGHT for an hour each weekday evening beginning at 2020 hours so the Class of 2020 and the greater El Paso community know we are in this together.

Visit www.clintweb.net or follow Clint ISD via their social media for updates.

***

***El Paso Leadership Academy extends school closure thru May 4th. (3/31/2020)

We will be extending the campus closure until Monday, May 4, 2020. We understand that as the date approaches and new developments arise, we may not be able to return to campus for the remainder of the year. 

***

***Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare requires staff and providers in all patient care areas to wear masks during COVID-19 pandemic (3/31/2020)

***

*** Business COVID-19 Inspections Lead to Warnings, Citations (3/31/2020)

Two weeks after the City of El Paso issued orders for workplaces to implement social distancing, restrict visitors or temporarily close, the number of inspections has increased to 4,660.

During this time, officials with the Environmental Services Department, Department of Public Health and the Fire Department have issued 271 warnings and two citations.

"Citations can cost an individual up to $1,000 or up to 180 days in jail, additionally they may risk losing their City permits. Peace officers and the Fire Marshal Office, are authorized to enforce this Directive," said Jorge Rodriguez, Emergency Management Coordinator.

The data comes as City and Public Health officials finalize new orders that will help refine efforts to reduce community spread of COVID-19.

While business inspections continue throughout the City, residents are encouraged to report non-compliance by calling 3-1-1 or visiting www.EPStrong.org and follow the instruction on the red banner at the top of the website's page.

Information about business orders and recommendations for citizens are available online.

***

***Gov. Abbott announces modification of Executive Order, extends social distancing guidelines thru April 30  (3/31/2020)

On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott addressed the state, releasing the new numbers of those Texans tested for COVID-19 and those found to be positive for Coronavirus; as well as extending the social distancing guidelines through at April 30, with schools remaining closed statewide through May 4th, unless otherwise extended.

Over 42,000 tests had been administered statewide, with 3,266 Texans testing positive.  The death toll for the virus now stands at 41 victims.

Noting that those found positive for COVID-19, the governor shared that they were infected before any social distancing guidelines were in place.

Governor Abbott also announce a modification to his original Executive Order, with respect to social distancing norms and those essential businesses and essential service protocols associated with the order.

The order extens

"The goal is to limit personal interactions, while still having freedom to go to grocery store and do tasks associated with the essential services," Abbott said.

The governor referenced everyday activities – going to the store, bank, getting gas, shopping at hardware stores and hunting and fishing – as essential activities, so long as those involved were following the social distancing guidelines set out by officials.  Abbott also reminded the public that essential activities included physical activity, saying exercise was crucial during this time.

The Governor also mentioned the importance of religious activities in the everyday lives of Texas, as part of those essential activities, adding that the religious activities – either remotely administered or in person – had to follow the previously mentioned social distancing rules.

Abbott again reminded residents of the list of essential services, and said that the activities surrounding those services would continue.

"Texans continue to rise to this occasion…and we will get through this," Abbott added.

To view the Governor's complete news conference, click here.

***

***New rules allow parents to pick up meals for children starting Wednesday (3/31/2020)

Parents picking up free breakfast and lunch for children at any of the 50 distribution sites in the El Paso Independent School District will no longer need to bring their children to receive the meals.

New federal and state rules starting Wednesday will allow EPISD to distribute meals to parents during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) related closures without their children present if they follow one of two procedures.

Parents starting today can bring their children to a distribution site to be officially counted by EPISD Food and Nutrition staff. Once counted, a parent will be issued a card noting how many children live in that household, and that card can be presented every day from then on to receive meals.

A second option for parents is to bring one of five documents to show proof that a child lives in that household. The parent will then be issued a card noting the number of children in the home, which can be presented every day from then on to receive meals.

Parents need to present one of the following documents to participate in this option:

• An official school enrollment document (letter or email)
• Student report cards
• School attendance records from a school district parent portal
• Birth certificate for children not enrolled in school
• Student ID cards

The cards issued will be site-specific and will be valid only at the school that issued them. Parents are asked to use the meal distribution service only at one location.

EPISD offers free take-home breakfast and lunch for children ages 1-18, regardless of their enrollment status with the District. Meals are distributed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday through the school closures at 50 sites throughout the District.

Service is curbside and EPISD staff practice social distancing in accordance to the health guidelines outlined by the City of El Paso's Public Health Department.

EPISD MEAL DISTRIBUTION SITES

***

***Sun Metro provides update on Social Distancing due to COVID-19 (3/31/2020)

Effective immediately, Sun Metro will take extra steps to safeguard its passengers and employees by implementing the new 'Seat Closed' rule.

Upon boarding from the rear doors, passengers will notice 'Seat Closed' signs on every other seat to make it easier for them to follow the more aggressive social distancing protocol of one seated passenger per row.

Highly utilized routes will have stand-by buses available to assist with transporting passengers. As a reminder, Sun Metro is waiving fares during this health crisis to limit exposure amongst passengers and drivers alike and passengers should ride only for essential activities such as to get medications, healthcare, groceries or get to work if they are an essential worker.

Sun Metro also encourages passengers to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines:

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cover your cough or sneeze into your elbow

For more information about Sun Metro, visit sunmetro.net or call (915) 212-3333. Like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @SunMetro.

For more information about the City of El Paso's COVID-19 containment efforts, visit www.epstrong.org

***

***Walmart announces additional steps for the health and safety of Associates (3/31/2020)

As our company and country continue to deal with the spread of COVID-19, we remain focused on the health and safety of our associates.

We continue to follow and communicate the CDC's recommended guidance on behaviors like washing hands, social distancing and the cleaning of surfaces. And we have made significant operational changes in our stores, clubs, DCs and FCs this month – such as closing overnight for cleaning, starting to install sneeze guards at checkout and pharmacies, using wipes and sprayers for carts, putting in signing for social distancing and implementing a COVID-19 emergency leave policy.

Today we're sharing additional steps we're taking to promote a safe and healthy workplace.

Temperature Checks

As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, we've decided to begin taking the temperatures of our associates as they report to work in stores, clubs and facilities, as well as asking them some basic health screening questions. We are in the process of sending infrared thermometers to all locations, which could take up to three weeks.

Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary. The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.

Many associates have already been taking their own temperatures at home, and we're asking them to continue that practice as we start doing it on-site. And we'll continue to ask associates to look out for other symptoms of the virus (coughing, feeling achy, difficulty breathing) and never come to work when they don't feel well.

Our COVID-19 emergency leave policy allows associates to stay home if they have any COVID-19 related symptoms, concerns, illness or are quarantined – knowing that their jobs will be protected.

Masks and Gloves

Today we are also sharing more guidance with our associates regarding masks and gloves.

While the CDC and other health officials do not recommend masks or gloves for healthy people who don't ordinarily use them for their jobs, we will make them available — as supplies permit — for associates who want to wear them.

The masks will arrive in 1-2 weeks. They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators – which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them, while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.

6-20-100 Guidance

This week we are also sharing a new framework with associates regarding healthy behaviors at work. We're asking them to remember three numbers: 6, 20 and 100.

6 feet is the amount of space people should keep from others, when possible, to maintain social distancing.

20 seconds is the amount of time people should take to wash their hands with soap and water.

And 100 is the temperature that someone should stay home with.

We will continue to consult with health officials and experts inside and outside Walmart as this situation evolves. We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being.

John Furner, President & CEO, Walmart U.S. and Kath McLay, President & CEO, Sam's Club

***

For official info on COVID-19 click on the links provided below: 

City of El Paso Department of Public Health   |   Center for Disease Control (CDC)   |   World Health Organization

**

To read previous local information/releases, click on the dates below: 

March 3rd thru 9th   |   March 10th through 12th  |  March 13 through 15  |   March 15 thru 19th  |  March 20th thru 24th

March 25th thru 30th

Chinese government 'will spray disinfectant on an entire CITY tonight' - Daily Mail

Posted: 03 Feb 2020 04:44 PM PST

Millions of Chinese people have been ordered to stay in their homes tonight as health bosses try to disinfect an entire city ravaged by coronavirus.  

Trucks will drive around spraying disinfectant through the streets of Huangshi, a city of 2.7million in Hubei province that neighbours the outbreak's epicentre, Wuhan. 

They will target roads, shops, public parks, rubbish bins, public toilets, markets, supermarkets, hospitals, schools, buses, taxis and office buildings while the streets are empty. 

Residents have been asked to close their doors and windows by 9pm and refrain from going out while the entire city is sanitised. 

The drastic measure comes after scientists discovered the killer virus is more contagious than previously thought.

A simple cough or sneeze is enough to spread the disease and it can live on inanimate objects, such as door handles, for short periods of time.

The rapidly escalating epidemic has so far killed 362 people and infected more than 17,450 worldwide, including in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.

Coroanviruses can survive on doorknobs and bus and train handrails for more than a week, research has found. Pictured: Medics disinfect shops in Shandong province on January 28

Millions of Chinese people have been ordered to stay in their homes tonight as health bosses try to disinfect the entire city of Huangshi. Pictured: Medics disinfect shops in Shandong province on January 28

They will target roads, shops, public parks, rubbish bins, public toilets, markets, supermarkets, hospitals, schools, buses, taxis and office buildings while the streets are empty

They will target roads, shops, public parks, rubbish bins, public toilets, markets, supermarkets, hospitals, schools, buses, taxis and office buildings while the streets are empty 

More than 17,200 people have been infected worldwide, higher than the total recorded cases of the SARS virus that killed some 800 people in 2002 and 2003

More than 17,200 people have been infected worldwide, higher than the total recorded cases of the SARS virus that killed some 800 people in 2002 and 2003

According to The Times, a public notice from Huangshi's local government read: 'Please close doors and windows by 9pm, and please refrain from going out, but take proper self-protective measures and co-operate with workers who are doing the disinfection work.' 

It comes after travel restrictions were imposed on Wenzhou, the first major city outwith Hubei to see such a ban.

Wenzhou, home to more than 9million people, has seen 291 coronavirus cases so far and officials have ordered citizens to stay at home except for grocery shopping trips.

Officials are allowing only one family member to venture out to buy supplies every other day.   

Meanwhile Hong Kong announced on Monday it will shut almost all land and sea border control points to the mainland from midnight to stem the spread of the virus.

Leader Carrie Lam said only two border checkpoints - at Shenzhen Bay and the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai - will remain open. 

It comes as the epidemic's official death toll soared overnight by 57 to 361 cases in China, plus one in the Philippines

It comes as the epidemic's official death toll soared overnight by 57 to 361 cases in China, plus one in the Philippines

Chinese authorities reported 2,829 new cases over the last 24 hours, taking infections to nearly 17,500 worldwide

Chinese authorities reported 2,829 new cases over the last 24 hours, taking infections to nearly 17,500 worldwide

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

What is this virus?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?

Yes – almost 3,000 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus.

What are the symptoms?

The infection which the virus causes has been named COVID-19. Some people who catch it may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache.

Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing. 

And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.

How is it detected?

The virus's genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.

Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.  

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries all over the world have banned foreign travellers from crossing their borders if they have been to China within the past two weeks. Many airlines have cancelled or drastically reduced flights to and from mainland China.

Is it similar to anything we've ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

SCROLL DOWN OR CLICK HERE TO SEE MAILONLINE'S FULL Q&A ON THE CORONAVIRUS 

Some hospital workers went on strike on Monday and more threatened to walk out on Tuesday unless the government agrees to talks.

Hong Kong has recorded 15 cases of the virus and has cut flights and train and bus connections to the mainland, but a push is growing for it to close the border completely.

Strike organisers say about 6,000 medical staff were prepared to participate. Hong Kong was severely impacted by the Sars outbreak, which many believe was intensified by official Chinese secrecy and obfuscation.

In Beijing, officials sought to reassure the country's 1.4 billion people of adequate supplies of face masks and disinfectant, despite reported shortages in parts of the country.

The Philippines banned the entry of all non-citizens from China after two cases were confirmed there, including the only death outside China.

The country's department of health said a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan was admitted on January 25 after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat.

He developed severe pneumonia, and in his final days, 'the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement, however, the condition of the patient deteriorated within his last 24 hours resulting in his demise.'

The man's 38-year-old female companion, also from Wuhan, first tested positive for the virus and remains in hospital isolation in Manila. 

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte approved a temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China - a country which now faces increasing global isolation following the deadly outbreak. 

The US, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and the WHO's guidance that such measures were unnecessary.

About 150 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries. The total in the US rose to 11, mostly involving recent travel to Wuhan.

The US said on Sunday that Americans who had travelled in China within the last 14 days would be routed to designated airports for enhanced health screenings and most non-Americans who were recently in China would be denied entry.

Meanwhile a 1,000 bed hospital in Wuhan has opened its doors to Coronavirus patients just ten days after construction first began.

Huoshenshan Hospital includes isolation wards, specialised venting systems and infrared scanners designed to detect the virus.

The 600,000 square foot facility was built by a 7,000-member crew of carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other specialists.

Workers wore surgical masks as they cleared a riverside plot and assembled prefabricated rooms shipped to the quarantined city.

The new hospital is staffed by 1,400 doctors and nurses from the People's Liberation Army, the Communist Party's military wing.

The Chinese government previously constructed a specialised hospital in Beijing in just a week to combat the 2003 SARS epidemic.

A second 1,500-bed hospital is due to open later this week as the Coronavirus death toll rose to more than 360 this weekend.

Everything we know we know about the deadly coronavirus in China: But how worried should we be? 

Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 170 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 8,000 have been infected in at least 18 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here's what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body's normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word 'corona', which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: 'Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

'Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

'Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.' 

The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started seeing infections on December 31.

By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.

The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 4,500.

Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died. 

By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.

By January 30, the number of deaths had risen to 170 and cases were in excess of 7,500. 

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don't realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don't realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

Where does the virus come from?

Nobody knows for sure. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.

The first cases of the virus in Wuhan came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in the city, which has since been closed down for investigation.

Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.

Bats are a prime suspect – researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said in a recent statement: 'The Wuhan coronavirus' natural host could be bats… but between bats and humans there may be an unknown intermediate.'

And another scientific journal article has suggested the virus first infected snakes, which may then have transmitted it to people at the market in Wuhan.

Peking University researchers analysed the genes of the coronavirus and said they most closely matched viruses which are known to affect snakes. They said: 'Results derived from our evolutionary analysis suggest for the first time that snake is the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for the 2019-nCoV,' in the Journal of Medical Virology.

So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it? 

Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.

It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans' lungs.  

Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they've never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.

Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: 'Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.

'Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we're talking about a virus where we don't understand fully the severity spectrum but it's possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.'

If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die. 

'My feeling is it's lower,' Dr Horby added. 'We're probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that's the current circumstance we're in.

'Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.'

How does the virus spread?

The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.

It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. 

Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.

There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.

What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?

Once someone has caught the virus it may take between two and 14 days for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.

If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients – at least 97 per cent, based on available data – will recover from these without any issues or medical help.

In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people. 

What have genetic tests revealed about the virus? 

Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world. 

This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.   

Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.

However, the director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, yesterday said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.

This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.   

More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.

How dangerous is the virus?  

The virus has so far killed 170 people out of a total of at least 7,900 officially confirmed cases – a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.

However, experts say the true number of patients is likely considerably higher and therefore the death rate considerably lower. Imperial College London researchers estimate that there were 4,000 (up to 9,700) cases in Wuhan city alone up to January 18 – officially there were only 444 there to date. If cases are in fact 100 times more common than the official figures, the virus may be far less dangerous than currently believed.

Experts say it is likely only the most seriously ill patients are seeking help and are therefore recorded – the vast majority will have only mild, cold-like symptoms. For those whose conditions do become more severe, there is a risk of developing pneumonia which can destroy the lungs and kill you.  

Can the virus be cured? 

The Wuhan coronavirus cannot currently be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.

Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.

No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it's not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.

The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.

Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.

People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.

And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people's temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).

However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.

Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?   

The outbreak has not officially been confirmed as either an epidemic or a pandemic yet. This is likely because, despite the global concern, the number of people who have been confirmed to be infected is still relatively low.

A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the 'worldwide spread of a new disease'.

An epidemic is when a disease takes hold of a smaller community, such as a single country, region or continent.

 

 

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