Resources for West Texans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Marfa Public Radio is compiling resources for residents of the area. If you are offering services and would like to be included on this list, please email diana@marfapublicradio.org. (Last updated Thursday, April 2, 2020)

Resources for West Texans:

Marfa Public Radio’s latest coronavirus reporting:

Maps: Tracking COVID-19’s Spread In Texas

The public radio stations that make up The Texas Newsroom are tracking cases and deaths based on counts from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Texas was reported on March 4 in Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston. The first death from the disease was on March 15 in Matagorda County, on the Gulf Coast between Houston and Corpus Christi.


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Worshippers arrived for a service Wednesday at City on a Hill Church in Houston. Rubber gloves were handed out, and a sign on the door asked people to sit 6 feet apart. (Michael Stravato / The Texas Tribune)

Despite coronavirus risks, some Texas religious groups are worshipping in person — with the governor’s blessing

By Kiah Collier, Perla Trevizo and Vianna Davila, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica

COVID-19 has spread rapidly in Texas, and many congregations closed their doors and moved religious services online. But there are some religious groups who say it’s their right to remain open because they believe they provide an essential service to their communities.


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Dr. Ghassan Fanous tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and is now self-quarantining. ( Photo source: Facebook)

Odessa Doctor Tests Positive For COVID-19

By Mitch Borden

An Odessa Doctor says he has tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Ghassan Fanous made the announcement Thursday in a Facebook post.

Fanous is an OB-GYN that has his own personal practice in the Permian Basin and was exposed to an individual over the weekend who later tested positive for the disease. Currently, the doctor isn’t exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and is continuing to give consultations via telemedicine.


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Williamson County residents voted on Super Tuesday at Southwestern University’s Howry Center in Georgetown. (Angela Piazza / The Texas Tribune)

Texas tells locals they must delay their upcoming May elections

By Alex Ura, The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott previously paved the way for municipalities to push their May elections to November. But a handful of small towns and special districts hadn’t canceled despite fears of infection spreading at polling places.


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(Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Big Bend National Park Closes To All Visitors Out Of Coronavirus Concern

By Carlos Morales

At the entrances to Big Bend National Park, visitors will now be met with barricades, signs and park rangers telling them the sprawling 800,000-acre park is now closed to the public.

Big Bend National Park is temporarily closing to all visitors beginning April 3, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The park announced the new measure Friday morning. The park-wide closure is the latest restriction park officials are enacting—previously the park had limited services and reduced camping to day-use only.


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A sign outside a Quaker meeting house in Austin encourages people to worship at home during the coronavirus pandemic. (Julia Reihs / KUT)

Gov. Abbott Says Religious Services Are Essential — So Can Churches Still Meet? Here’s What He Says.

By Marisa Charpentier, KUT

When Gov. Greg Abbott issued his executive order Tuesday restricting nonessential activities, he made sure to note religious services are considered essential.

But in a time when people aren’t supposed to gather, what can and can’t houses of worship do? The governor’s office and the Office of the Attorney General released some guidance Wednesday.


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Pump jacks working just outside of Midland, TX. (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

Texas Companies Show Interest In The State Reducing Oil Production

By Mitch Borden

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shake global markets—and as the price war over crude oil between Russian and Saudi Arabia goes on—oil companies are trying to figure out how to survive with oil prices hovering around $20 dollars a barrel.

In Texas, that’s led some oil companies to ask the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, to limit how much oil companies can sell.


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Even without symptoms, you might have the virus and be able to spread it when out in public, say researchers who now are reconsidering the use of surgical masks. (Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Should We All Be Wearing Masks In Public? Health Experts Revisit The Question

By Huo Jingnan, Allison Aubrey, and Carmel Wroth, NPR

A few months ago, it may have seemed silly to wear a face mask during a trip to the grocery store. And in fact, the mainline public health message in the U.S. from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been that most people don’t need to wear masks.

But as cases of the coronavirus have skyrocketed, there’s new thinking about the benefits that masks could offer in slowing the spread. The CDC says it is now reviewing its policy and may be considering a recommendation to encourage broader use.


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Closed businesses in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas on March 31, 2020. (Cooper Neil / The Texas Tribune)

Texans filing for unemployment increase 1,600% over two weeks ago

By Naomi Andu, The Texas Tribune

Last week alone, 275,597 out-of-work Texans filed for unemployment relief.


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Kerbey Lane Cafe's dining room remains empty during the coronavirus pandemic. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

Thousands in Texas face delays to their unemployment relief because of busy phone lines and website outages

By Carrington Tatum and Clare Proctor, The Texas Tribune

As tens of thousands of Texans try to file unemployment insurance claims, they’re finding the Texas Workforce Commission’s phone lines jammed and website servers overloaded as the agency is swamped by the crush of sudden need.


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How Are West Texas Jails Preparing for Coronavirus?

By Mitch Borden

Over the past couple of weeks, Texas has seen confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a particularly vulnerable population — inmates. The Harris County Sheriff’s office recently confirmed that at least 1 inmate had COVID-19, while dozens more were showing symptoms consistent with the virus. Other cases have also been reported in Dallas County.

But what’s happening in West Texas? Marfa Public Radio’s Mitch Borden spoke to Carlos Morales about the issues facing West Texas law enforcement and inmates as COVID-19 continues to spread through the state.


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The Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa is quiet these days as officials are mainly conducting meetings online, in effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Presidio County Issues A Shelter-In-Place Order And Mandates Curfew For County Residents

By Carlos Morales

Presidio County officials late Tuesday joined their neighboring Big Bend counties in issuing a shelter-in-place order. The order followed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide mandate for residents to stay at home.

Expanding on a previous disaster declaration, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara is now requiring Presidio County residents to shelter in place, “to stay at home.” The order, like others across the state, allows for essential businesses and activities to continue. Presidio County’s order also includes a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for residents unless they’re conducting or traveling to or from an “essential activity.”


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A previous executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shuttered schools until midnight Friday, but his most recent order extends the shutdown until May 4. (Jordan Vonderhaar/POOL via The Texas Tribune)

Gov. Greg Abbott tells Texans to stay home except for essential activity in April

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

He also said that schools would remain closed until at least May 4 as the state increases its efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.


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The Davis Mountains Preserve near Fort Davis, TX (Cherie' King via Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Jeff Davis County Issues Shelter-In-Place Order To Prevent The Spread Of COVID-19

By Mitch Borden

In effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Texas, rural communities are establishing shelter-in-place orders following Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide mandate for residents to stay at home.

Jeff Davis County is the most recent region to issue its own shelter-in-place order. On Tuesday, the rural county expanded on a previous disaster declaration and the county is now banning all public and private gatherings outside of the home for the general public.


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On June 12, 1944 Big Bend National Park was established after the State of Texas deeded the federal government with thousands of acres of land. (National Park Service / C. A. Hoyt)

Brewster County Issues Shelter-In-Place Order And Establishes Community-Wide Curfew

By Mitch Borden

As towns across the Big Bend region prepare for the coronavirus, Brewster County Judge Commissioners are issuing a shelter-in-place order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Expanding on a previous disaster declaration, Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano is banning all public and private gatherings for the general public—and instating a curfew for communities from 10 pm to 5 am.

All of the new restrictions go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 31. News of the order came shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order requiring Texans to limit personal interactions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19.


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What Coronavirus Numbers Can And Can’t Tell Us About The Spread Of The Disease

By Mose Buchele, KUT

Every day, we hear updated COVID-19 numbers: The number of confirmed cases. The number of people hospitalized. The number of people who have died. We know the numbers are going up, and we expect them to continue to rise. But beyond that, it can be difficult to understand what they teach us about the spread of the disease and whether we’re making progress against it.


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The McLellan Lab at The University of Texas at Austin. (Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune)

Coronavirus test results in Texas are taking up to 10 days

By Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root

Though Texas has dramatically increased its testing capacity, many who have gotten one are waiting days on end, and sometimes a week or more, for the results, according to interviews with patients and health care professionals.


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Gov. Greg Abbott gestures to boxes of personal protective equipment during a press conference about the state's response to the coronavirus on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Austin. (Nick Wagner/POOL via American-Statesman)

Texas expands travel restrictions, launches pop-up hospital as coronavirus spreads

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

In Texas, Abbott said the state’s first ad hoc health care facility to respond to the pandemic will be the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, an original hotspot for the outbreak at the state level.


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Odessa Issues A Shelter-In-Place Order As The Number Of Coronavirus Cases Grows To 5

By Mitch Borden

The City of Odessa is issuing a shelter-in-place order, beginning Monday at 11:59 p.m.

Odessa’s Mayor David Turner made the announcement over the weekend on Facebook Live. Turner based Odessa’s shelter-in-place order largely on recommendations made by the Department of Homeland Security—especially when deciding which businesses are critical and would be allowed to stay open.


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The City of Marfa has issued a shelter-in-place order in response of the coronavirus pandemic. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Marfa Issues Shelter-In-Place Order To Slow Spread Of The Coronavirus

By Carlos Morales

Marfa City Council voted unanimously late Thursday to issue a shelter-in-place order, which will go into effect Friday at 11:59 p.m. and could last through April 9.

Marfa follows a growing list of cities and counties across the state that have issued similar orders as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Texas climbs.


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Nurses work at Eastland Memorial Hospital in Eastland, between Fort Worth and Abilene. (Gary Rhodes for The Texas Tribune)

Rural Texas Hospitals Should Be Staffing Up To Face Coronavirus. Many Can’t Afford To.

By Edgar Walters, Texas Tribune

At a time when most hospitals are ramping up capacity to treat a massive number of patients who may become infected with COVID-19, rural hospital administrators say financial hardships could force them to do the opposite.


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(Image by Lisa Kettyle)

How Has The Coronavirus Changed Your Daily Life? We Want To Hear From You.

By Marfa Public Radio

As part of our coverage on the coronavirus and its impact to the Big Bend region and the Permian Basin, we want to hear from you.

We’ve set up a Google voicemail line that you can call and tell us about how you’re doing. Are you’re staying at home? Are you by yourself or with family? What are you’re doing to stay busy? What you’re most concerned about? Let us know, call 432-242-1896.


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Resources for West Texans During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Marfa Public Radio is compiling resources for residents of the area. If you are offering services and would like to be included on this list, please email diana@marfapublicradio.org. (Last updated Thursday, April 2, 2020)

Resources for West Texans:

Marfa Public Radio’s latest coronavirus reporting:

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Adventures in Herpetology in the Big Bend Borderlands

The Chihuahuan Desert is the largest desert in North America, and, in terms of the richness of species, it may be the most biologically diverse desert in the world. That diversity encompasses the range of fauna and flora. There are … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:45 am and 4:45 pm.
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Thu. Apr 2 Interview: Living with Quarantine, At Home and Abroad

On this week’s West Texas Talk, we bring you a new podcast from Erica Heilman called ‘Our Show.’ The podcast is a mini-series created in response to coronavirus and comprised of recordings made by people all over the world who find themselves adjusting to a new life in isolation. Then General Manager Elise Pepple talks to Serah Mead from KZMU in Moab to see how another National Park-adjacent small town is weathering the economic fallout of the lockdown.

The second half of the show looks at the state of the quarantine closer to home. Photographer Lesley Villareal talks with Pepple about a new portrait series in which Lesley is photographing her friends and neighbors in front of their homes from a safe distance in order to capture this strange moment of time in Marfa. After that conversation, we hear from Marfa Public Radio DJ Gabriela Carballo about her experience dealing with social isolation.

Once again, the last segment of West Texas Talk this week is dedicated to our new ‘Tiny Porch’ series of concert videos. ‘Tiny Porch’ is a social isolation music series inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. We’re asking musicians in Far West Texas to record a cover song from their porch. The videos are an opportunity for listeners across Far West Texas to come together while being apart. Our second video in the series features Adam Bork singing Elton John’s ‘Where To Now St. Peter?’

You can watch Adam perform his song from between two televisions on Marfa Public Radio’s Facebook page or Instagram

If you play music and live in far West Texas, send a video of yourself playing a cover on your porch during social isolation. Please email your video to music@marfapublicradio.org. It should be a song that speaks to you at this moment, or a song that can lift spirits, or a song people know and can sing along to from their porches.

West Texas Talk is broadcast each Thursday at 6:00 PM and each Friday at 9:00 PM.
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Where Can I Get Tested for COVID-19 in West Texas?

Marfa Public Radio is compiling resources for residents of the area. If you are offering services and would like to be included on this list, please email diana@marfapublicradio.org.

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Abbott Orders Statewide Limits On Nonessential Activity, But Won’t Call It A ‘Stay-At-Home’ Order

By Marisa Charpentier, KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Tuesday requiring Texans to limit personal interactions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19. He said people can still leave their homes to access essential services, like groceries or medicine, however, and go outside for exercise.

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Texas shale producers ask state to cut oil output as demand plummets during coronavirus pandemic

By Mitchell Ferman, The Texas Tribune

Two Texas oil companies with big business in the Permian Basin wrote to state regulators requesting an emergency meeting to consider reducing oil production as demand around the world has collapsed due to the new coronavirus.

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