The following is a compilation of pertinent information (not used in separate stories) received from Federal, state and local authorities, as well as other sources, to inform the public about issues regarding the local impact from Coronavirus (COVID-19). Information received since the previous edition will be published in chronological order in this space in each edition.

The Rockport Pilot began this process with the Wednesday, March 18 edition. One may access previous publications via the Pilot’s e-Edition through its website (www.rockportpilot.com) or Facebook page, or from hard copies of the newspaper.

The Pilot will post important information on its website (www.rockportpilot.com) and Facebook page as it is received.

A Facebook Live presentation, at 9 a.m. every day through April 1, is available on The Rockport Pilot’s and Chamber’s Facebook pages, as well as on YouTube. They have been posted since Wednesday, March 18).

•••

McConaughey provides

voice-over for

social distancing PSA

(Friday, March 20)

Gov. Greg Abbott released a public service announcement (PSA) encouraging Texans to practice social distancing by staying home in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Matthew McConaughey provided the voice-over.

•••

Health care fees waived for incarcerated Texans In TDCJ facilities

(Friday, March 20)

Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to temporarily suspend inmate fees for health care services related to COVID-19. While incarcerated Texans housed within TDCJ facilities are never denied access to health care due to an inability to pay, this temporary waiver will encourage timely reporting of COVID-19 symptoms so that offenders are given the treatment they need. 

•••

Texas Supreme Court issues temporary suspension of

residential evictions

(Friday, March 20)

Gov. Greg Abbott issued the following statement after the Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order suspending residential eviction proceedings through April 19, 2020, unless there is a threat of physical harm or criminal activity:

“This decision by the Texas Supreme Court offers a lifeline to many Texans who are beginning to feel the economic impact of COVID-19,” said Gov. Abbott. “Temporarily suspending residential eviction proceedings will provide Texans whose personal income has been affected by the spread of this virus with greater flexibility to meet their housing needs and provide for their families. I thank the Texas Supreme Court for its swift action on this matter.”

•••

Emergency designation paves way for SBA Disaster Loans

(Friday, March 20)

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has included the entire state of Texas in its Economic Injury Disaster Declaration and granted access to its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which will provide long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying businesses across the state.

“Small businesses are the foundation of our state’s economy and they need all the help they can get as the ripple effects of COVID-19 impact their everyday operations,” said Gov. Abbott. “This decision by the U.S. Small Business Administration to make Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to qualifying small businesses across Texas is a vital lifeline for Texas small business owners who are doing their best to adapt to these trying times.”

Gov. Abbott also commented on the SBA’s rapid turnaround to a request he made by letter just three days ago.

“The overriding message of this time in history is we are all in this together,” he said. “From people responsibly remaining at home to protect themselves and their communities to the small businesses adapting to serve them, Texans are showing their willingness to serve the greater good and that’s why we’ll overcome this together. That’s what Texans do. We are not only Texas Strong, we are #TexasBizStrong.”

Texas small businesses that believe they may be eligible for an SBA EIDL should visit www.sba.gov/disaster where they can directly apply for assistance. The online application is the fastest method to receive a decision about loan eligibility.

•••

Event permit refunds allowed for businesses affected by COVID-19 cancellations

(Friday, March 20)

Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is temporarily suspending certain provisions of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code to help businesses whose events were cancelled due to COVID-19. Suspending these provisions will allow for refunds of application fees paid to obtain a temporary event permit for an event that was later cancelled.

“With events and festivals across Texas cancelled, it is essential we find ways to reduce the financial burden on event organizers and the hospitality industry as a whole,” said Gov. Abbott.

•••

Petition requests PUC

to halt utility shutoffs

(Friday, March 20)

Texas Legal Services Center (and other non-profit legal groups) submitted a joint petition to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas requesting there be no utility shutoffs for nonpayment during the COVID-19 crisis. The PUC of Texas regulates the state’s electric, telecommunication, and water and sewer utilities.

“Shutting off utilities is a public health concern,” said Texas Legal Services Center Executive Director Karen Miller. “It would mean people can’t wash their hands, bathe, or cook with clean water.”

•••

Regulations waived to

support pharmacy

operations, allow

telephonic consultations

(Friday, March 20)

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he is temporarily suspending certain regulations to ensure Texans will have continued access to their pharmacists as the state responds to COVID-19. The Governor’s actions will allow pharmacists to conduct telephonic consultations, and remove regulatory barriers so that pharmacies can operate at full strength.

“Pharmacists are vital, and suspending these regulations will allow them to focus on serving their patients,” said Gov. Abbott.

•••

Governor takes action to expand nursing workforce

(Saturday, March 21)

Gov. Greg Abbott waived several regulations to help meet Texas’ growing need for nurses as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. His actions will expand Texas’ active nursing workforce by doing the following:

• Allowing temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses who have yet to take the licensing exam.

• Allowing students in their final year of nursing school to meet their clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences.

• Allowing nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses.

“In the coming weeks and months, Texas will continue to see a growing need for medical professionals to help us respond to these unique and challenging times,” said Gov. Abbott. “With these actions, Texas is taking an important step to meet that need. Nurses are essential to our ability to test for this virus, provide care for COVID-19 patients, and to continue providing other essential health care services. Suspending these regulations will allow us to bring additional skilled nurses into the workforce to assist with our efforts and enhance our COVID-19 response.”

•••

Message from

Rockport Mayor Pat Rios

(Saturday, March 21)

Governor Abbott’s Executive Orders are now in force throughout the State. Additionally, officials have confirmed the first COVID-19 case in Nueces County.

According to a local news report, Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb said in a Saturday press conference the patient is a Corpus Christi man between the ages of 45 and 55. The patient is quarantined and is being closely monitored. People who have made contact with the patient have been notified and are also being monitored closely. Officials say the case is travel related.

Key components of the Executive Order include:

• Limiting social gatherings to 10 people

• Prohibition on eating and drinking at restaurants and bars – although takeout and delivery orders of food and alcoholic beverages (with food purchase) are still available

• Closing of gyms

• Banning visitors at nursing homes, long term care, facilities, skilled nursing facilities, etc., except for critical care

• Closing of schools

We strongly believe we can “flatten the curve” in our community through awareness, proper sanitary practices, minimizing social interaction, and adhering to the Executive Orders.

As an added precaution, the City is closing the lobby at its facilities. This means we will no longer be accepting payments at the Utility Customer Service office. Individuals may sign up for bank drafts (https://cityofrockport.com/DocumentCenter/View/12521/Bank-Draft-Form?bidId=), pay by credit card through the online payment system (https://www.municipalonlinepayments.com/rockporttx), mail in their payments, or use the drop box, which is located to the right of the front door in front of the window.

What are some of the other things we can do locally?

• Stop hoarding - Do you truly need a year’s worth of toilet paper? Remember there are others who may not be able to get goods they need on a day-to-day basis due to overbuying.

• Help those in need - Check on family, friends and neighbors who may not be able to go to the store due to working hours, lack of transportation, and illness. While several stores are offering pre-opening shopping for elders, they may still need assistance.

• Set up a “Co-op” System - Put together a group of friends/family/neighbors to share resources and shopping duties. Some folks may have stocked up on food and household items at a sale before the pandemic was announced. Plus, there’s no need for five people to go to the store – and you will be reducing your carbon footprint.

• Put wipes in the trash - Even if they say “flushable,” throw them out. We do not want to put a strain on the sanitary system and wipes have been known to cause pipe clogs.

• Keep yourself engaged - Catch up on reading, start your Spring cleaning early, work in the yard, get your taxes done, binge watch a new series, fill out the Census form, etc. There is no reason to become overwhelmed or anxious. If you start to feel antsy, call a friend, take a walk or explore your artistic side.

• Support local businesses - This is a critical time for them and their employees. Most of the restaurants in our area are offering take-out and curbside pickup. Some now have delivery and full meal packages.

If the Governor’s Executive Order will affect your current employment status, please visit https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services.

Walmart and HEB are hiring stockers.

Federal and State web links are located on the City’s web site (www.cityofrockport.com) or the Chamber’s web site (https://www.rockport-fulton.org/Coronavirus_COVID_19_Update).

Remember – Through Facts, not Fear, we’ll come through it.

•••

Gov. Abbott issues Executive Order increasing hospital capacity, announces Supply Chain Strike Force for COVID-19 response

(Sunday, March 22)

Gov. Greg Abbott signed an Executive Order to expand hospital bed capacity as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. These actions will reinforce Texas’ health care capabilities and provide additional space for hospitals to provide care to COVID-19 patients. Under this order, the Governor directed all licensed health care professionals and facilities to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.

This does not apply to any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.

The Governor also suspended certain regulations as requested by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to allow for increased occupancy of hospital rooms - meaning hospitals will be able to treat more than one patient in a patient room, thus increasing their ability to care for the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

Additionally, the Governor announced the creation of a temporary Supply Chain Strike Force - immediately naming Keith Miears, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Procurement at Dell Technologies, to serve as Supply Chain Director for the state of Texas.

The Supply Chain Strike Force will be tasked with guiding collaboration between the public and private sectors to ensure health care facilities have the supplies and resources they need to respond to COVID-19. In addition to working with the federal government and businesses to secure necessary personal protective equipment, the team will work to ensure day-to-day resources (including food) are available for Texas’ medical personnel, first responders and those who have contracted COVID-19.

“We have seen how this virus has progressed in other states and nations, and it is vital that Texas stays ahead of the curve as the situation develops here,” said Gov. Abbott. “Patient care capacity is essential during this time, which is why the state of Texas is taking action to increase hospital bed capacity, provide additional space for medical personnel to care for patients, and ensure that healthcare facilities have the supplies needed to respond to COVID-19. Along with this Executive Order, the Supply Chain Strike Force will play a crucial role in addressing these needs by helping to secure and expedite the distribution of resources across the state. These are unprecedented times, and Texas will continue to take robust action to protect our communities and support those serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.”

•••

Message from

Rockport Mayor Pat Rios

(Monday, March 23)

On Sunday, March 22 Governor Abbott held a press conference to discuss the COVID-19 situation in Texas, steps that will be implemented and new Executive Orders (posted on the City’s web site). Here is an overview:

• The State has limited testing facilities due to the lack of available testing materials. Only 43 of the 250+ counties have the capability right now. Like other states, Texas is pushing the federal government to ramp up the production and get materials distributed. Additionally, there is also a lack of personal protection equipment for those individuals who are performing tests and the health care professionals treating COVID-19 positive patients. A special Strike Force has been established that will look at global resources to meet our needs.

• To increase the number of nurses, certain permitting and licensing requirements are being relaxed.

• All licensed health care facilities will postpone non-necessary medical surgeries to increased bed capacity. Additionally, hospitals are encouraged to suspend private rooms if said rooms are capable of housing two patients.

• The State is NOT issuing a “shelter in place” mandate right now. It’s important to see how compliance with the original Executive Order is affecting the spread. Even so, what may be needed in larger urban communities may not be right for the less populous counties. Local governments have the authority to implement more stringent actions.

• Residents (and visitors) are expected to comply with the first Executive Order regarding social distancing, gatherings of 10 or less people, limiting visits to healthcare and fitness facilities, and no inside serving of food and beverages. Gov. Abbott stressed there are penalties for non-compliance, including fines, jail time and mandatory quarantine. Any crimes committed in a disaster area are automatically enhanced to the next higher level. So far, the Rockport Police Department and the Aransas County Sheriff’s office have not had any enforcement issues.

• As more testing becomes available, we expect to see the number of confirmed cases expand. Even so, it is not a reason to panic. Keep in mind the world population is 7.8 billion. Additionally, the difference in numbers between the Texas Department of Health and the Johns Hopkins reports are due to different reporting methodologies. The Johns Hopkins figures include former cruise ship passengers, currently in quarantine at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, as well as “presumed positive cases” that have not been confirmed.

• It is too early to discuss resuming in-classroom schooling.

The most important thing is for all of us to do our part in containing/reducing the spread. If you don’t have a reason to leave your home, don’t do it.

We ask that businesses and retailers do their part by allowing telecommuting when possible, practicing social distancing, limiting the number of people in a building/store, and also placing limits on the purchase of certain goods.

As mentioned in an earlier letter, the City is taking the precaution of closing the lobby at its facilities. This means we will no longer be accepting payments at the Building and Development, Municipal Court, and Utility Customer Service departments.

For your convenience in paying your electrical, plumbing, and mechanical permits, please go to the Building and Development page.

For Municipal Court, you may mail in a check or money order. For credit cards, you may access the site directly from the Municipal Court page or go to https://www.municipalonlinepayments.com/rockporttx.

For Utility Bill payments, Individuals may sign up for bank drafts (https://cityofrockport.com/DocumentCenter/View/12521/Bank-Draft-Form?bidId=), pay by credit card through the online payment system (https://www.municipalonlinepayments.com/rockporttx), mail in their payments, or use the drop box, which is located to the right of the front door in front of the window.

We also want to remind you unscrupulous people always find a way to take advantage and to beware of scams (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/ftc-coronavirus-scams-part-2).

Other federal and State web links are also on the City’s web site - www.cityofrockport.com.

Remember - through facts, not fear we’ll come through it.

•••

Gov. Abbott announces distribution of Federal funding for COVID-19 response

(Monday, March 23)

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas has received $36.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of the state’s initial allotment of funding from the first emergency coronavirus bill passed by Congress. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will distribute $19.5 million to 43 local health departments to aid in their COVID-19 response. This includes $1.75 million for Dallas County, Tarrant County, and the San Antonio Metro Health District where operations have been impacted by federal activities. The remaining funds will be used by DSHS to support operations in areas of the state not covered by local health departments and for statewide response activities.

These funds will be used to strengthen Texas’ community intervention efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and preserve critical healthcare, workforce, and infrastructure functions, while minimizing social and economic impact. In addition, these funds will be used to scale up Texas’ surveillance, lab testing, and reporting capabilities.

“The State of Texas is at a crucial stage in its COVID-19 response, and these funds are essential to supporting health authorities throughout the state to scale-up testing and community intervention efforts,” said Gov. Abbott. “To ensure these resources are used swiftly and effectively, a majority of the funds will go directly to our local health departments which understand best the needs of their communities. I thank President Trump, the Texas delegation, and leaders in Congress for quickly passing this aid package. The State of Texas continues to work with federal and local partners to give our communities the resources and support they need as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

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