Permian Basin Official Give Updates Concerning Their Response To The Coronavirus

By Mitch Borden

Leaders in the Midland and Odessa, the Permian Basin’s metro hubs, held two separate press conferences on Friday. The meetings outlined the precautions both communities are taking to prevent and respond to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

Both communities confirmed that no presumptive or confirmed cases of the virus have been identified yet. Public Health Officials in Odessa did confirm that there are individuals in the area who are being monitored.

A computer image created by Nexu Science Communication, together with Trinity College in Dublin, shows a model structurally representative of a betacoronavirus which is the type of virus linked to COVID-19. (NEXU SCIENCE COMMUNICATION VIA REUTERS)

Odessa and Ector County Officials, including Mayor David Turner and County Judge Debi Hays gave their first major press briefing concerning the coronavirus at Odessa City Hall. Representatives from the Ector County Independent School District, Medical Center Hospital, University of Texas Permian Basin, and the local public health department were all present.

Here are some of the big takeaways from the meeting:

  • The Ector County Public Health Department will only update the public and media concerning the spread of the coronavirus when cases are confirmed. The department has declined to give out the number of suspected cases at this time.
  • Ector County and Odessa are working with a public health lab in Lubbock to process any coronavirus tests administered to individuals. Healthcare providers have the supplies needed to conduct these assessments.
  • The City of Odessa has officially canceled two upcoming events. Its annual Spring Fling and Tap In Downtown. Ector County ISD is also canceling nonessential travel and gatherings such as PTA, community meetings and booster club meetings.
  • Medical Center Hospital will begin screening individuals coming into the hospital and canceling events and unnecessary meetings held at its facilities.
  • The University of Texas Permian Basin is extending its Spring Break for another week. This is to give professors and administrators the time to set up the tools they need to teach lessons to students remotely if the university needs to close down for a prolonged period of time.
  • Odessa College is not extending its spring break. The community college already has the infrastructure it believes is necessary to teach classes remotely if a temporary closure is required.
  • Ector County ISD is also not extending its spring break, so classes will be held on Monday. Superintendent Scott Muri stated this could change if the circumstances concerning the coronavirus change in the region.
  • Ector County ISD is currently working on plans to provide meals to impoverished students if the school does have to close. Administrators and educators are also working out how lessons could be provided to the 34,000 students that attend Ector County ISD schools if they have to close. According to Muri, over half of the district’s students live in impoverished circumstances so there is a large student population that would not have access to fast internet or the computers needed for remote learning.
  • A task force is being created so Ector County and Odessa officials can coordinate their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Odessa is currently setting up a hotline for residents to call if they believe they have the coronavirus to be screened remotely. That phone number will be posted as soon as the city releases more information.

In Midland, officials gathered at the city’s one hospital, Midland Memorial, to give an update on its response to the coronavirus. Midland’s Mayor Patrick Payton was not present because he was traveling. No cases of the coronavirus have been found in Midland.

  • Midland health officials are urging anyone in the region to self-quarantine for two weeks if they have specifically traveled to any European countries except for the UK.
  • An official from Midland Christian School stated a group of students had recently traveled to Spain and are currently en route back to Midland. The students will be screened by health officials before returning to the Permian Basin. The group will also self-quarantine no matter the results of those tests.
  • Midland College will be extending its spring break for another week due to concerns about the coronavirus.
  • In a press release, Midland ISD stated it will not extend its spring break and classes will resume on Monday. Midland ISD is canceling competitions, concerts, and performances at least until the end of March. It is also canceling nonessential meetings such as PTA meetings. District related travel has also been suspended at this time.

Marfa Public Radio will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation in the Permian Basin as evolves.

About Mitch Borden

Mitch Borden is Marfa Public Radio's Permian Basin Reporter. If you have any questions about West Texas' energy industry or the Permian Basin email him at mitch@marfapublicradio.org.
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