Amid the nationwide coronavirus panic, on March 13 President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, and Texas Governor Gregg Abbott declared a state of disaster.
Both actions empowered the leaders to perform actions or impose policies they would not normally be permitted to undertake.
Then on March 17, Abbott activated the National Guard. He said if deployed, the troops could help with traffic control at drive-through testing sites and assist with organizing hospitals.
And on March 18, Brewster County Judge Eleazar Cano declared a local state of disaster that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people in the county. See page 12 for the complete declaration.
As of press time Wednesday, no COVID-19 cases had been identified in the Tri-County area, and the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reported 132 confirmed cases in Texas and two deaths, one a man in his late 90s in Matagorda County, and the other a 77-year-old man in Tarrant County.
Communities across the state were taking extraordinary precautions, and health officials here warned that anyone returning from trips outside the Tri-County should consider themselves high risk, and quarantine themselves for 14 days. They should stay away from all public places, including grocery stores, gas stations, schools, and work.
Those over 60 and those with chronic medical conditions are considered high risk for complications from the COVID-19 virus, and are urged to stay home and isolated.
At the Tri-County’s only hospital facility, Big Bend Regional Medical Center spokesperson Ruth Hucke said, “We’ve had a task force in place for several weeks now so that we would be prepared, and we have protocols in place for just such an event.”
The facility’s cafeteria is closed to the public until further notice, and health fairs, prenatal and diabetic classes, and non-essential group activities have been canceled indefinitely.
Patient visitation at the hospital is being regulated on a case-by-case basis. For questions about visitor limitations, call Hucke at 432-837-0254.
Classes at all Alpine ISD campuses have been suspended until Monday, March 23, but Superintendent Becky McCutchen said this could change as more information becomes available. All AISD facilities are closed as well.
Curbside meals for any child in the community ages 1-18 will be provided daily from noon-1 p.m. while school is closed. Meals will be delivered curbside to vehicles at the elementary school, and the children must be present in the vehicle to receive meals.
For the latest updates, visit the Alpine ISD Facebook page.
Marathon ISD will be closed through March 27, at which time the situation will be reevaluated. Superintendent Lupe Singh said remote instruction began this week. See the Marathon ISD Mustangs Facebook page for details.
Terlingua CSD has extended spring break through March 20 to allow time for the staff to develop systems to provide remote instruction. All district updates can be found at terlinguacsdcom.
Alpine Christian School was also closed this week. Executive Director Ginger Turner said classes were scheduled to resume Monday, but a definite decision would be made sometime today. For the latest updates, follow Alpine Christian School on Facebook.
Alpine Montessori School, now closed, plans to reopen on March 30, but in a statement Director Amelie Urbanczyk pointed out that the situation was rapidly changing. For updates, visit alpinemontessori.org.
On March 16, Governor Abbott announced that all STARR testing would be waived across the state.
At Sul Ross State University, all offices and buildings are closed to the public until further notice, and spring break was extended until March 22. Remote delivery of classes will start March 23, and face-to-face classes have been canceled for the remainder of the semester.
All athletic programs have been suspended for the duration, along with May 2020 commencement exercises, the Alumni Gala, the athletic director search, and many others. Visit sulross.edu for a complete rundown.
Museum of the Big Bend is closed until April 14, and Trappings of Texas has been canceled.
At the Sunshine House, Meals on Wheels deliveries will continue, but the senior center is closed. Take-out lunches are available to the public from 11 a.m.-noon at the back door. The Wild West Night fundraiser originally scheduled for Saturday has been canceled.
McDonald Observatory is closed at least through April 19, and all public programs have been canceled.
At Big Bend National Park, all visitor centers and entrance stations are closed, along with the Boquillas port of entry. All interpretive programming and special events have been canceled for the next 60 days. Visit nps.gov/bibe/index.htm for detailed information about the Park’s status.
Here in the Big Bend, just about all activities have been delayed, suspended, or canceled, so residents and visitors should check ahead.