Latest COVID-19 updates for UTEP, El Paso: UTEP employee among four new COVID-19 cases in the county, total 25

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Claudia Hernandez

As the coronavirus pandemic alters everyday life throughout the world, here are updates on how UTEP is adjusting to this public health crisis.

For more coverage on COVID-19 and its impact on UTEP, El Paso, the state and the nation, visit The Prospector’s Coronavirus page.

(UTEP) March 26: UTEP employee among four new COVID-19 cases in the county

[ 6 p.m.] El Paso County has four new confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Thursday evening, totaling 25 cases — among them a UTEP employee. Local officials say all patients are in self-isolation. UTEP sent out an university-wide email alerting students, staff and faculty that the patient is another employee that went on the same trip on March 12 with the other two employees that previously tested positive for the virus.

“The employee had limited access to the Foster Stevens Center on March 13,” the email reads. “The facility has been isolated and cleaned regularly with disinfectant. It was also closed and disinfected again March 24.”

(El Paso) March 25: Coronavirus cases in El Paso County now at 21

[3:30 p.m.] Hector Ocaranza, the city’s public health authority, announced in a live-streamed news conference that El Paso County now has 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — a sharp increase from 11 cases reported the day before. The figure does not include the four cases reported for Fort Bliss and the other four cases reported in Ciudad Juárez. City officials urged the public to continue following social distancing practices.

(UTEP) March 25: University shuts down all dining services except one venue

[2 p.m.] UTEP sent a university-wide email informing its community that only the Texas Western Café in the University Library will remain open March 25-27. Previously, Jamba Juice and a handful of other venues remained in operation. UTEP’s Union recently shut down all operations as well. All employees who have office space in the Union are currently working remotely until further notice.

(UTEP) March 24: Two UTEP employees test positive for COVID-19
[7:20 p.m.] The University of Texas at El Paso announced two male employees of the university tested positive for COVID-19, or coronavirus, through an email Tuesday. The employees had traveled out of town for an event, later returning March 12, according to the email. One of the two men was in the Foster Stevens Basketball Center and the Larry K. Durham Sports Center on March 13.
According to the email the facilities are currently isolated and being disinfected regularly.
The two are currently in self isolation at their respective homes.

(UTEP) March 24: Office for Business Affairs urges supervisors to allow student workers to work remotely

[4:20 p.m.] Mark McGurk, UTEP Vice President for Business Affairs, sent out a university-wide email urging supervisors that oversee students workers to allow student workers to work remotely. McGurk said in the email that students workers “must have a Temporary Remote Work Agreement Form on file with their supervisor.” Students who have “gaps” in completing remote work are encouraged to access UTEP’s Online Professional Development Resources.

(El Paso) March 24: City, county issue “Stay Home, Work safe” order

[10:30 a.m.] El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego both issued stay-at-home orders for the city and the county during a live-streamed news conference, effective at 11:59 p.m. March 24. The directive is aimed at shutting down all nonessential businesses, with exemptions for the health care industry, the media, grocery stores, gas stations, construction operations, and residences. The order will last until further notice and any individual found in violation of the order may face either jai time or a fine of up to no more than $1,000. Residents are allowed to exercise at local parks, provided that they respect Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for social distancing.

(UTEP) March 23: UTEP assures students that ‘public seems to be acting responsibly’

[11:45 a.m.] In a recent email to students, UTEP President Heather Wilson described the coronavirus situation throughout the State of Texas explaining that cases vary greatly by county, with Dallas seeing several cases but “over 200 counties in Texas” with no cases of COVID-19. Wilson also highlighted the state’s support of local decision making and that she continues to engage in talks with local leaders on COVID-19 in El Paso County. The email further states that “there is no evidence of community spread in El Paso, and the public seems to be acting responsibly with respect to congregation and social distancing” and that classes will resume online in the following week as previously planned. The email also encourages best practices laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention like social distancing, hand washing and staying home if sick.

(UTEP) March 20: UTEP issues guidance on border restrictions

[12 p.m.] UTEP alerted its students, staff and faculty via email about an agreement the United States and Mexico made on travel restriction through the U.S.-Mexico border to mitigate the spread coronavirus, effective by midnight March 21.  The restrictions do not limit travel for educational purposes, cross-border trade or for public health services. The email further states that students unable to cross the border should seek suitable living arrangements and that they should communicate with their professors if they have trouble completing coursework down the line. “The UTEP community is working together to support our students, staff and faculty impacted by recent developments at the border,” the email reads. “We will continue to update the community as we receive new information.” Story to come.

(El Paso) March 19: Three more reported cases of coronavirus in the county, total now six

[3:30 p.m.] El Paso Mayor Dee Margo announced in a news conference three new positive test results of COVID-19, increasing the county’s total to six cases of coronavirus. Margo said he met with Ciudad Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada earlier in the week to discuss a regional strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus. Margo said he was concerned over Cabada’s lack of authority on social distancing directives, like the limit on how many people can gather in one place at the same time. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that bars, restaurants will stop serving customers in-house, but encouraged them to continue operations for to-go orders.

(UTEP) March 19: UTEP President Heather Wilson takes questions via Twitter

[1 p.m.] UTEP President Heather Wilson took over UTEP’s official Twitter account (@utep) for a Q&A session about the university’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Several students asked Wilson about the fate of student employees and if they are required to still come into work. Wilson said “they should talk to their supervisors to make arrangements” to work remotely from home. Wilson said students will be refunded or credited fees for benefits they are not using like parking and housing. The Prospector inquired on how the UT system is able to evict residents in student housing despite the city’s moratorium on evictions to which Wilson only said that each case is different. Visit UTEP’s Twitter page for the full Q&A.

(UTEP) March 17: UTEP students directed to move out of dorms

[5 p.m.] UTEP Housing and Residence Life (HRL) is directing students living in campus housing to move out by 5 p.m. Sunday, March 29, as institutions throughout El Paso County put in place procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Exceptions to remain in the dorms will be made on a case-by-case basis, the email states. HRL staff are currently working with the University of Texas System and UTEP officials toward a “credit or prorated refund of housing expenses.” Read The Prospector’s story on students’ reactions here.

(UTEP) March 17: UTEP spring graduation ceremonies postponed to fall

[4 p.m.] James Milliken, chancellor of the University of Texas System, instructed all university presidents in a letter to postpone commencement ceremonies until the fall in accordance with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on large gatherings. Milliken also outlined procedures for student residence halls and how instruction for the rest of the semester will be online.

(UTEP) March 16: UTEP student tests positive for COVID-19 after travel

[7 p.m.] UTEP’s President’s Office announced in an email Monday, March 16, that a female UTEP student tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from “extended overseas travel” Saturday, March 14 — El Paso County’s third case of COVID-19 at the time. According to the email, the student has not been on UTEP’s campus since her return and is currently self-quarantined while university officials remain in contact with her. Read The Prospector’s full story here.

(UTEP) March 16: All March events at Don Haskins Center postponed, officials monitor situation

[12 p.m.] The three remaining events at UTEP’s Don Haskins Center for March have been postponed until further notice amidst two positive test results for COVID-19 in El Paso County as of Monday afternoon. Tickets purchased for any of those events will be still be valid for rescheduled dates. The four events at the Don Haskins in April have not yet been affected by local developments on COVID-19. Venue officials and promoters said they will be monitoring the situation for any necessary adjustments for events scheduled after March. Read The Prospector’s full story here.

(El Paso) March 15: Officials report second positive case of coronavirus in El Paso County

[1:30 p.m.] Public health officials reported on a second presumptive positive test result for COVID-19 in El Paso County on Sunday, March 15, only a few days since the county’s first case was reported on Friday. The second patient is another man in his 40s and his travel history, along with places he has come in contact with, is currently under investigation, health officials announced. Read The Prospector’s full story here.

(El Paso) March 13: Officials confirm first positive test results for COVID-19 in the county

[8:30] Public health officials announced in a news conference the county’s first case of COVID-19 — a man in his 40s with recent travel history from California. Officials said three patients were tested for the virus with only one testing positive. After a patient tests positive for the virus, health authorities conduct an investigation as to what people and what places the patient previously came in contact with, officials said.

(UTEP) March 13: UTEP to prolong spring break, shift to online classes

[4 p.m.] UTEP President Heather Wilson announced the university will prolong spring break for a week and shift classes to online starting March 30. The entire campus will remain open while observing social distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wilson said in a news conference. Read The Prospector’s full story here.

(UTEP) March 12: UTEP spring sports suspended due to COVD-19 pandemic

[12 p.m.] All spring sport competition for Conference-USA (C-USA) institutions are suspended until further notice in statement released by C-USA. UTEP athletics competes in C-USA. UTEP softball, men’s and women’s track and field, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf and softball were currently in season. Read The Prospector’s full story here.