Gov. Greg Abbott's latest order requires Texans living in counties with more than 20 COVID-19 cases to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth while in a business or other building open to the public, as well as outdoor public spaces, whenever social distancing is not possible. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Pool/American-Statesman)

Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texans in most counties to wear masks in public

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Abbott previously resisted calls for such an order and at one point banned local governments from requiring masks. First-time violators will be issued a warning, though repeat offenders could be fined up to $250.

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Permian Basin Hospitals Concerned Over Limited Staffing As Coronavirus Case Counts Rise

By Mitch Borden

Odessa’s largest hospital is closing its doors to nearby communities as the Permian Basin’s already limited healthcare infrastructure struggles to care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients in the region. 

Midland and Odessa have seen over 1400 COVID-19 cases so far, with a sizable portion appearing in the past month. In early June, the cities had fewer than 300 cases combined.

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Beginning July 2, Big Bend National Park will close once again. The move comes as the number of coronavirus cases in Brewster County continues to grow. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Amid Growing Coronavirus Cases, Big Bend National Park Closes For The Second Time

By Carlos Morales

A month after gradually reopening Big Bend National Park, officials have decided to close until further notice, as a resident within the park’s community has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to park management. It’s unclear how long BBNP will be closed.

Across the entire Big Bend region, coronavirus cases have steadily climbed in the last several days. As of Wednesday, there is a total of 140 COVID-19 cases in Brewster County and nearly 800 results pending across the tri-county.

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A line of about 100 cars formed at Barbara Jordan Elementary School in Austin at a COVID-19 testing site. June 26, 2020. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

Want A Coronavirus Test In Texas? You May Have To Wait For Hours In A Car.

By Shannon Najmabadi, The Texas Tribune

Months into the pandemic, demand for coronavirus tests is soaring. Texans report problems with almost every facet of the testing process, starting with the glitching websites and unanswered phone lines used to schedule appointments, and extending to long lags before test results come back.

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An employee boards up a bar on Sixth Street in Austin after Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars in Texas for the second time in three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jordan Vonderhaar / The Texas Tribune)

More Than 30 Texas Bars Sue Over Gov. Greg Abbott’s Recent Shutdown Order

By Mitchell Ferman, The Texas Tribune

Abbott has said the actions of his executive order “are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

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Presidio And Brewster County Judges Issue Executive Orders Requiring Masks

By Marfa Public Radio Staff

This story has been updated to reflect Presidio County’s order.

All Presidio and Brewster County businesses will have to require employees and customers wear face coverings starting Tuesday.

County Judges Cinderela Guevara and Eleazar Cano issued executive orders on Monday mandating all employees and patrons of commercial entities to wear facial coverings while inside businesses.

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(Art by Valerie “CrowCrumbs” Howard / The Big Bend Sentinel)

Early Voting Starts Today. Here’s What West Texans Need To Know About Runoff Candidates.

By Marfa Public Radio Staff

Today, Texas voters can begin casting their ballots for the candidates that will run in the general election in November. The Texas primary runoff election will determine the candidates for a range of races, including U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Texas House and Texas Senate.

Early voting begins on Monday, June 29 and runs through Friday, July 10. Election day is Tuesday, July 14. Texans can check their voter registration status and find their nearest polling locations on the Texas Secretary of State’s website

A voters guide highlighting races for U.S. Senate, Railroad Commission, State Board of Education and Court of Appeals from the League of Women Voters of Texas can be found here.

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The Big Bend Region Sees First COVID-19 Death

By Marfa Public Radio Staff

Medical Center Health System in Odessa announced the first Big Bend death on Sunday morning, a 70-year-old man who had several pre-existing conditions.

The patient was transferred from Big Bend Regional Medical Center on June 18. At least two other patients were transferred from BBRMC to Medical Center Hospital, according to health authorities in Odessa.

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Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference at the state Capitol in Austin on Monday, June 22,2020. (Ricardo B. Brazziell / Pool / American-Statesman)

Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texas bars to close again and restaurants to reduce to 50% occupancy as coronavirus spreads

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

The moves, announced Friday morning, represent Abbott’s most dramatic action yet in response a surge in cases after he allowed businesses to reopen in the state.

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Governments Across Far West Texas Consider Requiring Masks For Businesses

By Carlos Morales

As coronavirus cases steadily climb in the Big Bend region, some local governments have taken up orders mandating businesses to require facial coverings, while others have either declined to enact them or have updated their orders after receiving public feedback.

The cities of Presidio and Marfa recently passed mask ordinances that would now fall in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s previous orders. But in Alpine, city officials earlier this week balked at passing a similar ordinance for businesses and instead decided proprietors could determine whether masks would be required in their establishments.

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The National Guard conducting coronavirus testing at Greenwood Volunteer Fire Department in Midland County. (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

Odessa Announces Free COVID-19 Testing For The Month Of July

By Mitch Borden

Odessa residents will be able to get tested for COVID-19 for free over the next month. Beginning on June 30th, the City of Odessa will set up mobile coronavirus testing units at parks and have the capacity to administer 200 tests at each location. No appointment is needed on June 30th*, but residents are asked to bring a photo I.D. and to wear a mask.

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With Limited Resources, Far West Texas Is ‘Not The Place To Get Sick.’

By Carlos Morales

For a while, it seemed the threat of COVID-19 in rural West Texas was something that would arrive from the outside, from visitors coming from places harder hit by the disease.

So when cases began cropping up in the state’s metropolitan hubs, local governments in the Big Bend region closed hotels and short-term rentals to non-essential workers, and soon the tri-county put in place ordinances that limited residents and visitors from coming and leaving the area.

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Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tri-county residents are wearing facemasks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Following Other Texas Cities And Counties, Marfa Mandates Businesses To Enforce Mask Rule

By Carlos Morales

Following the lead of other Texas governments, Marfa City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to issue an order mandating businesses to require their employees and customers wear face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible.

The order seems to be the only way for city and county officials to enact mask ordinances while falling in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s previous edicts which prevent officials from mandating mask ordinances for individuals (but not for businesses).

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McDannald Ranch Fire, as seen from McDonald Observatory Monday evening. (Photo: Katie Smither)

West Texas Faces Severe Wildfire Threat As Dry Conditions Continue

By Diana Nguyen

Fire officials in West Texas are warning of a potentially severe wildfire season as dry conditions persist across the region. 

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Pandemic Programming Schedule Changes

The health and safety of our staff, volunteers, and community members remain our first priority.  For this reason, we are still limiting access to the studio. During the summer we are making some program schedule changes to accommodate this.

Look forward to these changes Monday through Friday:

BBC: 12 am to 5 am

All Things Considered: Extended time to 6 pm

Marketplace and The Daily: 6pm to 7pm

Audio shows This American Life, Bullseye, Fresh Air Weekend, Reveal, The Moth and Snap Judgement from 7-8 pm.

Snap Judgement to replace West Texas Talk on Thursday

Music programming will begin at 8 pm Monday through Friday.

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In Ciudad Juárez, A New ‘Filter Hotel’ Offers Migrants A Safe Space To Quarantine

By Mallory Falk, KERA

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Hotel Flamingo in Ciudad Juárez has been filling up with guests.

When they arrive, they have to go through a thorough disinfection process. First, they step inside a tray filled with diluted bleach, to clean off the soles of their shoes. Then it’s on to a handwashing station, where they’re instructed to scrub with a generous amount of soap and follow up with a big squirt of hand sanitizer. Finally, they receive a fresh face mask, and the hotel coordinator sprays their shoes with an alcohol mixture.

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Big Bend National Park Moves Forward With Third Phase Of Reopening

By Carlos Morales

After being opened for two weeks now, Big Bend National Park officials are moving forward with the next step in their multi-tiered reopening plan.

Beginning Monday, limited overnight camping will be available at the Chisos Basin campground — although the campground’s capacity will be limited to 70% or 42 campsites. By Friday, the Chisos Mountains Lodge will reopen to half of its capacity. When camping or lodging inside the park is full, park officials say visitors will need to find overnight accommodations outside the park. Both the Cottonwood and the Rio Grande Village campgrounds remain closed at this time.

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State Officials Confirm Six New Coronavirus Cases In Brewster County

By Carlos Morales

*Note: this post has been updated to reflect new cases.

As Texas continues reopening, state health officials Saturday morning announced six new cases of the coronavirus in Brewster County.

At first, the state announced three new cases, but several hours later officials put out an additional press release saying there are now three more confirmed cases.

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Review Of Midland Police Records Shows Blacks And Hispanics Are Pulled Over At Higher Rates Than White Drivers

By Mitch Borden

The Midland Police Department pulled over black and Hispanic residents at consistently higher rates than whites between 2016 and 2019, a Marfa Public Radio review of police records has revealed.

Midland PD has been in hot water with residents after the controversial arrest of Tye Anders, a young black man, who was filmed last month lying on the ground as Midland police held him at gunpoint after he allegedly ran a stop sign. 

The incident immediately drew criticism from Midlanders, who claim Anders’ case is an example of discrimination and use of excessive force by local police. The case has only grown in relevance to residents as nationwide protests against police brutality continue.

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