Waiting in line

Shoppers have inundated Walmart and HEB, right photo, in recent days buying everything off the shelves in preparation for whatever the coronavirus might bring. It is a scene being carried out across the country, but is absolutely unnecessary, according to state and local officials. HEB’s Unit Director Thomas Haegg said the volume has been heavy, and people are showing obvious concern. “I encourage everyone to treat each other with kindness while shopping, just like they did after Hurricane Harvey,” he said. Signs at entrances to government buildings, left, asks anyone who might be ill not to enter.

The Rockport Pilot will continue to post pertinent Coronavirus (COVID-19) information on its website (www.rockportpilot.com) and Facebook page as it is received. The following is a wide range of information, which has already been posted on the Pilot’s website or Facebook page, or on other social media sites since Friday, March 13.

(Editor’s note: If one has information her or she feels should be published, please email that information to Pilot Editor & Publisher Mike Probst at publisher@rockportpilot.com.)

••••

Governor Abbott’s press conference (Friday, March 13)

Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference Friday, March 13 at the State Capitol to update the public on the status of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Texas and what the state is doing to protect public health. The Governor also announced several new actions Texas is taking to mitigate the spread of the virus, including declaring a State of Disaster in all Texas counties.

“From the very beginning, our number one objective has been to implement preventative strategies that build on our state’s existing public health capabilities so no matter how this situation unfolds, Texas will be ready,” said Gov. Abbott. “That is exactly what our state agencies have done. The State of Texas is prepared, and we continue to take proactive measures along with the support of our federal and local partners to contain this virus and keep Texans safe. Declaring a State of Disaster is a key component of these efforts because it allows the state to effectively serve the people of Texas without hindrance or delay. When Texans come together, there is nothing we can’t overcome - and it is up to all of us to work proactively and collaboratively to respond to this challenge and protect public health.”

By declaring a State of Disaster, a number of actions are triggered by the Governor, including:

• Authorizing the use of all available and necessary state government resources to help manage this situation.

• Activating the state emergency management plan and the State Operations Center to enhance the state’s planning and response capabilities.

• Giving the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) the ability to reassign and fully utilize appropriate personnel where they are needed most.

• Providing the immediate ability to move resources around the state, including resources obtained through the Strategic National Stockpile.

• Empowering the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) to pursue cases of price gouging and ensure that offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

To protect the most vulnerable population, the Governor also directed state agencies to restrict visitations at certain facilities. This directive allows limited exceptions for situations like end-of-life visitations and requires all individuals to go through proper screening.

Agencies will be restricting visitation at the following facilities:

• Nursing homes

• State-supported living centers

• Hospitals

• Daycare facilities

• Prisons, jails, and juvenile justice facilities

Governor Abbott is also directing state agencies to take any action necessary to facilitate telemedicine. In addition, he is directing state agencies to provide flexible work and tele-work policies to employees to give them the ability to care for their families, while ensuring the state government continues function at full capacity and provide all necessary services.

The Governor reassured the public that stockpiling supplies is not necessary. The State has been working closely with grocers and retailers to ensure shelves are replenished and that Texans have access to the goods and supplies they need.

Updates about testing capabilities were also announced during the press conference.

Gov. Abbott said Texas Public Health Labs now have the capacity to test more than 270 people per day, with more private labs coming online every day. Additionally, the City of San Antonio has announced the opening of the first drive-through testing facility in Texas. This facility will serve first responders, healthcare workers, operators of critical infrastructure and key resources, and certain high-risk patients. Other major cities are working to implement drive-through testing sites that will be run and managed at the local level.

Gov. Abbott also addressed the actions being taken by the Texas Education Agency to prepare a proper response within school districts.

The Governor also reminded the public that the state has asked health insurers and health maintenance organizations operating in Texas to waive costs associated with testing and telemedicine visits for the coronavirus. Additionally, the Texas Department of Insurance is requesting insurers report their actions related to consumer cost-sharing and access to services so that the department can ensure consumers are aware of their available benefits.

Texans who suspect a case of price-gouging in connection to the potential coronavirus threat should file a consumer complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the OAG. Texans can also call the hotline at 1-800-621-0508

Since his March 13 press conference, Gov. Abbott has also highlighted a number of actions taken by the State of Texas since his Disaster Declaration to mitigate the spread of the virus, which include:

• Fast-tracking temporary licensing for out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, retired physicians and nurses to assist with in-person and telemedicine services.

• Distributing an allotment of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, which includes surgical masks, respirators, face shields, etc., throughout the state.

• Waiving certain trucking regulations to streamline the flow of goods and supplies to grocery and retail stores throughout Texas.

• Waiving laws that prohibit trucks from the alcohol industry from delivering supplies to grocery stores.

• Waiving regulations to ensure students enrolled in work-study programs will continue to receive critical funding while campuses close due to their response to COVID-19.

• Waiving STAAR testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year.

•••

Letter from Aransas County Long Term Recovery Team (Friday, March 13)

Two days ago, the World Health Organization characterized COVID-19 (the current novel coronavirus) as a pandemic for two reasons: 1) the speed and scale of transmission, and 2) the concern that some countries are not approaching the threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it.

While there are currently no known cases of the COVID-19 in Aransas County, all five local governmental entities are monitoring the outbreak closely and are working with state and national health authorities on the best ways to contain the spread of the virus.

We urge you to work with us.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:

• Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet), and

• Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might also be possible before people show symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

The best steps our community can take reduce the threat and spread of COVID-19 is for everyone to practice these important public health measures:

• Stay home if you feel sick, except to get medical care.

• If you think you might have COVID-19, call and inform your doctor before your visit so they can take steps to keep other people from getting exposed or infected. Wear a facemask before entering the facility.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds - especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Sneeze or cough into your elbow away from people.

• Practice social distancing. If you are over 65 and/or have a chronic disease, avoid large gatherings.

• Avoid sharing personal household items (drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels, etc.).

• Clean and disinfect all “high-touch” surfaces daily (counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards, etc.).

• If you are confirmed with COVID-19, remain under home isolation until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low by your healthcare provider and state health department.

Please also refer to and follow the continuously updated critical COVID-19 advice and guidelines from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and DSHS (Texas Department of State Health Services) https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/.

You have our promise to continue our efforts and preparation for COVID-19. We ask that each of our community members also do their part to help keep everyone here healthy and safe.

•••

Message from Rockport Mayor Pat Rios

(Saturday, March 14)

Currently our community, like other parts of the world, is facing threats from the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not just the coronavirus, but the misinformation, fear, and hoarding that have overshadowed the reality of the situation.

At the City of Rockport, our primary mission is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents and visitors. This is something we don’t take lightly.

Long before the travel bans, cancelled sporting and cultural events, and spring break extensions throughout the country, the City was posting educational items and important links about the coronavirus in the News Flash section on its web site – and sharing its availability through the local social media pages. This is something we’ll continue to do as more information becomes available.

Many of the precautions now being urged have been standard practice at the City for years – having employees stay home when ill, availability of hand sanitizer in our facilities, and thorough cleaning of public areas. We have stepped up efforts with social spacing at meetings, and aggressive disinfecting of touch points. It’s important to note there is no threat to our water system.

The Director General of the World Health Organization has stated, “all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.” That’s exactly what we’re doing through action and education.

It all begins with stopping the spread of germs. There is no need for those who are not ill to start wearing a mask, which is ineffective anyway. Simply avoid people who are sick and stay home if you’re not feeling well. Follow the advice you were taught as a child - wash your hands thoroughly, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Know the symptoms. Many of the symptoms mirror those of allergies and colds (i.e. fever and coughing), but shortness of breath may also be a signal.

If you feel sick, stay at home and limit your exposure to family members, especially those who have compromised immune or respiratory systems, young children and the elderly. Keep yourself hydrated and fed and try using over-the-counter medication to alleviate the discomfort. There are currently no tests available for the coronavirus in our immediate area however they’re expected to arrive in Corpus Christi by late March. Even so, these tests have a 2-3 day turn-around for results.

If at any time you experience shortness of breath, without having exerted one’s self, or are experiencing severe problems, present yourself at an emergency facility, not a doctor’s office. If possible, call ahead or have the person taking you enter before you to alert the front desk. The facility may have a special entrance to bypass the waiting room.

On Friday, March 13, President Trump and Governor Abbot both declared states of disaster, opening up emergency funding. I continue to monitor the situation and will issue a disaster declaration when, and if, that becomes necessary. At this time, we do not feel circumstances require the City to cancel any events or close down public areas. As of Saturday, March 14, there have only been 50 confirmed cases in Texas and none in our area.

We are in daily contact with the Governor’s Office, as well as state and federal health services, emergency management, and homeland security entities.

As with Hurricane Harvey, the Mayor’s Message and the City’s web site will be the focal point of communication for the area. We encourage you to visit it regularly or sign up for alerts. We will include updated information and links to state and federal agencies.

Most of us have never lived through a major, national health scare like the 1918 influenza pandemic and polio in the late 1940s. But, through facts, not fear we’ll come through it.

•••

City of Rockport declares State of Disaster

(Monday, March 16)

Mayor Rios signed a Disaster Declaration Proclamation March 16. While there are no confirmed cases in the area, the City felt it was critical to take this step in response to the closing of schools and some business and to prepare and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

“Having declared a state of disaster, we feel this will facilitate and expedite the use and deployment of state and national resources to enhance preparedness and response,” said Mayor Rios. “We encourage residents to take precautions by social distancing, limiting social interaction and utilizing sanitary measures in their homes and businesses.

“The City’s approach is facts, not fear. As a reminder, the City is posting updated information in the ‘News Flash’ section of its web site -this includes the Mayor’s Message and links to reputable sources on the coronavirus, including protection measures, impact and confirmed cases – as well as on local, social media.”

Residents are also reminded there is no need for panic buying or hoarding of supplies.

•••

General local information

• The Bay Education Center near the entrance to Rockport Beach is closed until further notice.

• The Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA) galleries and gift shop at Estelle Stair remain open during usual business hours – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday - until advised or mandated otherwise by local, state, or national authorities.

• The RCA is suspending Free Family Saturdays until further notice.

• The RCA’s Kick-off Party and the Rockport Studio Tour, originally scheduled for April 3–5, will be postponed to a later date. Underwriters, sponsors and individuals who have already purchased tickets will be informed of the reschedule date as soon as it is known.

• The Aransas County Historical Society and RCA are postponing the presentation “Art in the Texas Governor’s Mansion” by Erika Herndon.  The member’s only event was scheduled March 26.

• Spring break for Aransas County ISD students is extended through the week of March 16. If you have questions that you would like for the ACISD to consider, please use the email address proudpirateparent@acisd.org. While the district will not be able to answer individual emails, it will use the topics raised to update FAQ.  If ACISD employees have specific personnel questions, please email hr@acisd.org. Campus and department-related procedural questions should be directed to the department director or principal.

• In following with state and the Texas Historical Commission’s directives of supporting the health and safety of the community, The Fulton Mansion State Historic Site is suspending all public programs, group tours, and field trips through April 30. The site itself remains open as of Friday, March 13.

• HEB, to better serve its customers and increase product availability, will open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. until further notice. This temporary change in store hours gives HEB Partners extra time to work diligently overnight to better stock its shelves.

• Walmart stores will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice.

• Rockport-Fulton Good Samaritans – Phase I, Monday, Wednesday, Friday hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and no Saturday Produce Giveaways; Phase II (Anyone with virus within 100 miles) During Monday, Wednesday, and Friday hours clients will call in their request and groceries will be placed outside the door with their name on the bags; Phase III (Any volunteer gets the virus). The facility will be closed.

• History Center for Aransas County closed until April 1 or until further notice.

• Castaways Thrift Shop closed until further notice.

• Taste of Rockport-Fulton, LAC Class XXIII fish fry (March 21), Aransas Pathways Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, and Pirate Festival (April 18) have all been postponed.

• AARP Tax-Aide suspended until further notice.

• Rotary Club weekly meetings cancelled until further notice.

• Rockport Warriors United Coast to Capital Bike Ride 2020 is still scheduled for March 21-23.

• The Aransas County Republican Party, at the direction of the Republican Party of Texas, has postponed its County Convention for a minimum of eight weeks. The State Convention is postponed until July.

• For additional information about local business closures, or new hours, visit https://www.rockport-fulton.org/Corona_Virus_COVID19_Update.

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