Since April, testing for the coronavirus in the Tri-County area has largely been provided by the state. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

West Texas Coronavirus Tracker: Data & Information

Since the pandemic reached West Texas earlier this spring, the total number of coronavirus cases has climbed into the thousands. Recently, the area’s more rural pockets have been plagued by infrequent testing and shrinking resources. Meanwhile, in the Permian Basin, Midland-Odessa hospitals are inundated with COVID-19 patients.


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photograph courtesy Rolfe Mandel.

photograph courtesy Rolfe Mandel. There’s no doubt that Native Americans inhabited the Big Bend in the Ice Age, but most of the evidence of their ancient presence is deeply buried. In the photo above, from an arroyo bank south of Alpine, all but the very bottom layers of soil were deposited during the last 11,500 years, since the end of the Ice Age.

Odyssey in Big Bend: Tracking the Continent’s First People in the Texas Desert

When it comes to understanding the deep history of human life in the Americas, our region has played a pivotal role. Sites on the plains of West Texas and eastern New Mexico yielded the first evidence of Ice-Age Americans. Indeed, … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:45 am and 4:45 pm.

During the last round of public coronavirus testing in Presidio, officials say over 550 Big Bend residents were tested. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

COVID-19 Spike Puts Tri-County Area In ‘Dire’ Situation

By Ari Snider and Carlos Morales

Coronavirus cases in the Big Bend region have reached a staggering and grim milestone. As of Tuesday, the number of current cases in the tri-county area was over 700, with Brewster and Presidio counties currently one of the nation’s top coronavirus hot spots.

Dr. John Paul Schwartz, the local health authority for Presidio County, says the region is facing a crisis. And with no statewide stay-at-home mandate coming, Dr. Schwartz urged residents to take the initiative and isolate themselves as much as possible.


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Signs in some parts of Marfa discourage tourism to the city during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Sarah Vasquez for The Texas Tribune)

Coronavirus Is Ablaze In West Texas As Tourists Flock To Big Bend And Marfa. Hospitals Are Running Out Of Overflow Options.

Presidio and Brewster counties, home to the popular tourist destinations, along with nearby Culberson County, lead the state in cases per 1,000 residents in the last two weeks. All of West Texas is dealing with increasing COVID-19 cases while low on hospital beds.


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(Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

In Midland And Odessa, City Leaders Take Two Different Approaches To Fighting The Coronavirus

By Mitch Borden

Leaders in Midland and Odessa have faced a choice for months. The question, what actions should they take to slow the spread of the COVID-19. Since March, the coronavirus has infected thousands of residents of the two Permian Basin cities—leading to hundreds of deaths.

Odessa’s mayor this week made their choice by establishing a mask mandate, requiring employees and customers in businesses to wear face coverings. Midland leaders have considered similar orders but have so far failed to take action to prevent more residents from catching the deadly virus as hospitals are pushed to the brink. 


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The StoryCorps MobileBooth on Sunday, June 24, 2018, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

StoryCorps Makes (Virtual) West Texas Stop Next Month

By Ari Snider

The oral history group StoryCorps is coming to West Texas next month, virtually, from Dec. 2 to Dec. 19, and you can sign up now to participate. The organization records and documents conversations with people from all walks of life.


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A scene outside the Presidio school board meeting last week, where school officials prompted outrage after they prevented worried residents from entering the meeting and offered no virtual options to attend. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

More Planned Cuts To Virtual Learning Spark Protests In Presidio

By Stephen Paulsen, Big Bend Sentinel and Carlos Morales

Lee esta historia en español

Like many in Presidio right now, Alondra Flores is angry at the local school district. A student at Sul Ross State University, she’s been attending classes virtually from her home in Presidio, where she hoped to safely ride out the coronavirus pandemic with her family.

But now coronavirus cases in the city are spiking, and Presidio schools look set to cut all virtual learning options for students. For Flores, who graduated from Presidio Independent School District and has three brothers there, that feels risky.


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Being transferred from small to major hospitals in parts of rural West Texas can involve hours-long drives or expensive helicopter flights. (Courthouse News photo/Travis Bubenik)

As Virus Stresses Texas Hospitals, Rural Patients Face Greater Risks

By Travis Bubenik, Courthouse News

In the rural Big Bend region of Far West Texas, there have been signs lately of life returning to some kind of normalcy despite the coronavirus pandemic’s resurgence here and across the country.

Tourists are once again flocking to the region’s friendly small towns for a breath of fresh, high-desert air, campsites are filled with travelers and locals alike seeking a break from the monotony of work-from-home routines and Netflix binges.


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Volunteers hand out food. (Sarah Vasquez / Marfa Public Radio)

Quiet And Loud: How The Pandemic Has Changed The Sounds Of West Texas

By Ari Snider

Quiet and Loud is a new series exploring the way the pandemic has changed the soundscape of West Texas.

In the second installment of the series, we go to Presidio, where the West Texas Food Bank’s monthly mobile distribution has seen a boom in demand as the economic fallout of the pandemic pushes more people into food insecurity.


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Marfa Public Radio Is Looking For A News Director

Marfa Public Radio is one of the most awarded small-market stations in the nation for excellence in journalism. MPR serves approximately 30,000 square miles of Far West Texas, plus an online streaming audience worldwide.


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West Texas Coronavirus Tracker: Data & Information

Since the pandemic reached West Texas earlier this spring, the total number of coronavirus cases has climbed into the thousands. Recently, the area’s more rural pockets have been plagued by infrequent testing and shrinking resources. Meanwhile, in the Permian Basin, Midland-Odessa hospitals are inundated with COVID-19 patients.

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Más recortes planificados al aprendizaje virtual provocan protestas en Presidio

Por Stephen Paulsen, Big Bend Sentinel y Carlos Morales

Como muchos en Presidio en este momento, Alondra Flores está enojada con el distrito escolar local. Estudiante de la Universidad Estatal de Sul Ross, ha estado asistiendo a clases virtualmente desde su casa en Presidio, donde esperaba superar de manera segura la pandemia de coronavirus con su familia.

Pero ahora los casos de coronavirus en la ciudad están aumentando, y las escuelas de Presidio parecen preparadas para eliminar todas las opciones de aprendizaje virtual para los estudiantes. Para Flores, quien se graduó del Distrito Escolar Independiente de Presidio y tiene tres hermanos allí, eso le parece arriesgado.

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“Secret, Occult and Concealed”: Unlocking the Mysteries of Underground Water in West Texas

In 1931, the Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb called windmills “the life-savers of the Plains,” one of three technologies – along with the six-shooter and barbed wire – that allowed white settlement of the arid West. Today, access to underground … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:45 am and 4:45 pm.
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For Days, The Surge Of COVID Cases In El Paso Delayed Reporting In Rural West Texas

By Carlos Morales

For several days last week, local health officials in Far West Texas say they were without crucial coronavirus data as the rampant virus spread in El Paso forced the state’s health agency to delay the release of detailed coronavirus reports.

Local officials rely on these reports to track the scope and scale of the outbreak in their region. But as El Paso approached a staggering 35,000 active cases, the regional health department—which reports on coronavirus cases to over 30 counties—itself fell victim to the virus and was briefly delayed in releasing full reports on positive cases.

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