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The coronavirus is now characterized as a pandemic as the WHO director general announces more than 100,000 cases in over 100 countries.

USA TODAY

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the state and country, the El Paso Times wants to keep readers updated on the latest news in the community and Texas. 

Here’s what to know about COVID-19.

The latest updates in El Paso

Here’s the latest on what’s happening in El Paso: 

The Borderplex Alliance comments on COVID-19, travel ban

7:45 a.m. March 12:  The Borderplex Alliance commented late Wednesday on news of a ban on travel to the U.S. from continental Europe. 

“Overcoming this unique challenge will require swift bipartisan action in Washington and historic international cooperation,” Jon Barela, CEO of the group said in a statement. 

“I urge lawmakers, business leaders and citizens to heed the warnings of health care professionals and make rational, fact-based decisions from the best science available. In our interdependent world, I expect the economic fallout from this virus to reach every part of the country, including the Borderplex region. Business sectors ranging from tourism to manufacturing can expect adverse consequences. The faster we all work together, the quicker we can contain this virus, save lives and keep the economy moving.”

More: Q&A: What you need to know about Trump’s travel ban from Europe due to coronavirus

El Paso officials hold news conference for COVID-19 update

March 10: Officials held a news conference Tuesday where they said there are no active cases of coronavirus in the region, including in Juárez where tests were returned negative. The city’s health department at the time was in possession of 400 test kits for the virus. 

They also cautioned against “knee-jerk” reactions and said precautions are being taken should the illness be detected in the region.

As of Tuesday, the county was not considering declaring a public health emergency, but County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said he could if he felt it was necessary.

Community members with concerns or questions can dial 211 for information.  

Closures and cancellations in El Paso 

Here are the latest updates on closures: 

EPISD, SISD suspend district-related travel

11:30 a.m. March 12: The El Paso Independent School District announced it is canceling all student and staff district-related travel “out of an abundance of caution.” Any student groups currently out of town will be brought back to El Paso as soon as possible, EPISD said.

The Socorro Independent School District has also canceled all out-of-town student and employee travel until further notice.

El Paso Locomotive league USL suspends all play

10:55 a.m. March 12: United Soccer League, which includes the El Paso Locomotive, announced that it will suspend all play a minimum of 30 days. 

El Paso Locomotive will play all its games later this season, according to the team’s Twitter page and will give updates shortly.  

The team was set to play the Portland Timbers on this Saturday. 

C-USA Basketball Tournament canceled

10:30 a.m. March 12: Conference USA has canceled its basketball tournaments, the league announced in a one-sentence press release Thursday morning.

In a reply to a follow-up, the league said “Yet TBD” when asked how C-USA will allocate it’s automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, if there is one.

The UTEP women were scheduled to play Old Dominion at 12:30 p.m. MDT, two and a half hours before the league sent the email (10 a.m. MDT).

UIL Basketball tournament limiting audience

9:12 a.m. March 12: The University Interscholastic League will limit attendance to its annual event at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Games will continue as scheduled and the UIL will honor any pre-sold tickets but will not sell any new tickets. Also the winner of each semifinal will receive an allotment of 500 tickets for Saturday’s championship games. 

“The health and safety of our student-athletics and patrons is our number one priority,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said in a release. “While we are saddended to limit the fans that can be inside the arena supporting their teams, it is crucial we take every possible precaution to keep participants safe.”

UTEP says Wednesday no plans to change schedule at this time

March 11, 5:45 p.m.: UTEP said Wednesday afternoon it is NOT changing the university schedule or shifting to online instruction at this time.

“We are prudently planning in the event that we have to change our operations,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said in a memo sent to faculty, staff and students. “If we have to change our operations for public health reasons, our goals will be to keep people healthy and complete the semester without disrupting the educational progress of our students.”

UTEP has organized remote teaching webinars for faculty beginning Thursday, according to an email the UTEP Office of the Provost sent faculty.

UTEP will be on spring break from March 16-20. Students, faculty and staff that plan to travel to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran – all countries with a CDC Level 2 or higher alert – must report their travel to UTEP’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety. Upon return from travel to these countries, they must self-quarantine for 14 days before coming back to school or work, UTEP said.

Dance conference canceled 

March 10: The University of Texas at El Paso Department of Theatre and Dance canceled a dance conference scheduled for Thursday through Sunday because of the coronavirus. 

Hear of a cancellation in the community? Email borderland@elpasotimes.com.

The latest updates in Texas

How many cases were there as of Thursday?

9:40 a.m.: As of Thursday, there were at least 23 cases of COVID-19 in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz temporarily closes his capitol office

7:55 a.m.: Amid reports that a staffer from another Senate office tested positive for COVID-19, Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s office on Thursday morning announced that his D.C. office would be temporarily closed “out of an abundance of caution.” 

Cruz’s staff is equipped to work remotely, according to a statement from Cruz’s press office. Cruz is on his finishing his self-quarantine following a brief interaction with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. 

How many cases were there as of Wednesday? 

March 11: As of Wednesday, there were at least 21 cases of COVID-19 in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

According to Wednesday news reports, a Montgomery County man may have contracted the virus through community spread, not through travel. 

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday also urged Texans to take preventative measures against coronavirus. 

“Actions like washing your hands with soap and water, staying home when you are sick, avoiding shaking hands, and covering a cough or sneeze may seem like simple tasks, but they can have a tremendous impact to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health,” Abbott said in a statement. “We urge all Texans to adopt these preventative measures into their daily routines and to follow the guidance of their health care providers as well as state, federal, and local public health entities.”

Lawmakers hold committee hearing on coronavirus 

March 10: In a Texas House of Representatives committee hearing Tuesday, lawmakers heard invited testimony from a number of officials, including Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

 “When I say that right now I don’t see that need (to declare a disaster), I can’t tell you tomorrow, it won’t be a different circumstance,” he told the panel of lawmakers. 

Other House and Senate committees have canceled upcoming committee hearings as a precaution. Such hearings often include testimony from members of the public. 

Texas coronavirus coverage

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of the coronavirus include a fever, cough and shortness of breath that may appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MORE: Coronavirus is spreading in the US. Here’s everything to know, from symptoms to how to protect yourself

Safety tips 

Here are some safety tips from the CDC:

  • Wash your hands often: Make sure to clean your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap regularly, especially if you’ve been out in public. Also avoid touching your face if you’re hands aren’t washed. If soap isn’t available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used. 
  • Stay home if you are sick: Try to avoid close contact with those who are sick and stay home if you are sick yourself. 
  • Use a tissue: Use tissues when you cough or sneeze or use the elbow technique. Then, be sure to dispose of said tissue and wash your hands. 
  • When to use a facemask: Facemasks should be worn by those who are sick when they are around other people. They should also be used by caregivers. But if you aren’t sick or caring for someone who is, there’s no need for a facemask. According to the center, they could be in short supply and should be preserved for caregivers. 
  • Clean and disinfect often:  Be sure to clean and disinfect the frequently touched objects like tables keyboards and doorknobs each day. The center has information available on disinfectants. 

Eleanor Dearman may be reached at 361-244-0047; edearman@elpasotimes.com; @EllyDearman on Twitter.

El Paso coronavirus coverage

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