Supplies for coronavirus field hospital held up at U.S.-Mexico border

REUTERS: Red tape and rules on exporting medical gear have delayed work on a field hospital for migrants in an asylum camp near Mexico’s border with Texas, undercutting efforts to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, according to organizers of the project.

Mexican authorities approved construction of the 20-bed field hospital on April 2. But since then, a trailer laden with supplies for the project has been parked in Brownsville, Texas, less than a block from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Global Response Management, the nonprofit sprearheading the project, said the trailer contains an X-ray machine, cots, heart monitors, medical tents, generators and other equipment. Its staff fear time is running out to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak.

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Civil rights groups suing ICE over COVID-19 safety in Texas detention centers

KVUE-TV: Multiple civil rights groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the federal government asking for the release of immigrants currently being held at three Texas detention centers.

Together, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Texas Civil Rights Project, Carlos Moctezuma Garcia of Garcia & Garcia Attorneys at Law, P.L.L.C., and attorney Javier Maldonado, filed a writ of habeas corpus petition and complaint on behalf of three people currently detained at immigration facilities in South Texas. 

According to the Texas Civil Rights Project, each plaintiff is suffering from health issues that make them “especially vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19.”

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U.S. and Mexico are blocking kids from asking for asylum because of Coronavirus

THE INTERCEPT: “If one of you gets infected, you could all die,” Pablo recalled a doctor telling hundreds of asylum-seekers at a tent city in Matamoros, Mexico, as the novel coronavirus spread around the world.

Pablo, who is from Ecuador, has been living in the overpacked camp with his 7-year-old daughter since December, waiting for a U.S. judge to decide their case. The conditions were already perilous — a few dozen toilets shared by around 2,000 people, constant sickness, scarce drinking water — but the global pandemic hit like a death sentence.

Two days after the doctor’s warning, in mid-March, Pablo sent his daughter, Heidy, to cross the border without him, in a frantic attempt to get her to safety before the virus struck the tent camp. Heidy and three other girls — who had also been sent by their parents — walked by themselves up the bridge that separates Matamoros from Brownsville, Texas. The youngest was three; the oldest just eight.

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U.S. industry lobbies Mexico to protect supply chains during pandemic

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS: A group representing U.S. manufacturers on Wednesday told Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that an economic shutdown due to the novel coronavirus could weaken North America’s response to the pandemic.

U.S. business lobbies have been pressuring Lopez Obrador to label certain industries “essential” so that health emergency measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus in Mexico do not halt key operations on both sides of the border.

“At a time when we need to ramp up the production of personal protective equipment, lifesaving equipment and medicines, we cannot afford to have any of these critical supply chains shut down,” the National Association of Manufacturers, the group representing U.S. companies, said in a letter to the president.

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Coronavirus deaths are rising at border factories in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Health and business leaders in this industrial city expressed concern Wednesday about the rising number of coronavirus victims at U.S.-owned assembly plants, which may indicate that the deadly outbreak has been spreading undetected for weeks.

On Wednesday, Juarez health officials confirmed 63 COVID-19 cases; 16 resulting in deaths. Eleven fatalities were employees at maquiladoras, the border factories whose industry is crucial to the city’s economy and is a key component of U.S.-Mexico trade.

Across the border in El Paso, nearly 400 cases have been reported with six deaths.

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All I want is a tranquil life:’ Asylum claims skyrocket in Mexico as Haitians flee to U.S. border

EL PASO TIMES: In an apartment courtyard shaded by banana trees and bougainvillea, dozens of Haitian migrants worried away the hours waiting for word from the Mexican government on their asylum claims.

They chatted in Haitian Creole, sharing what each knew about their ultimate destination 2,327 miles to the north: Mexicali, a border town that promised jobs at the doorstep to the U.S.

They had come thousands of miles already in an exodus from Chile, as that country’s economy collapsed. They had no intention of staying in southern Mexico, they said.

With a decent hold on Spanish from his time in Chile and two months waiting on his asylum application in Tapachula, 30-year-old Williamson Simon said he planned to head north for Mexicali. A friend had told him he could make between 6,000 and 9,000 pesos — $250 to $400 — a month working in construction.

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Fitch Downgrades Mexico to ‘BBB-‘; Outlook Stable

FITCH RATINGS: The economic shock represented by the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a severe recession in Mexico in 2020. 

A recovery starting in 2H20 will likely be held back by the same factors that have hampered recent economic performance, which has lagged rating and income level peers. These include a previously noted deterioration in the business climate in certain sectors – notwithstanding examples of cooperation with the private sector in areas such as developing infrastructure – and a perceived erosion of institutional strength in the regulatory framework. 

Even in the absence of a debt-financed fiscal response to the economic recession, general government debt/GDP is likely to jump by at least 6pp of GDP to almost 50%, the highest since the 1980s. 

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5.2 million more seek unemployment aid amid coronavirus

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The wave of layoffs that has engulfed the U.S. economy since the coronavirus struck forced 5.2 million more people to seek unemployment benefits last week, the government reported Thursday.

Roughly 22 million have sought jobless benefits in the past month — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. All told, nearly 12 million people are now receiving unemployment checks, roughly matching the peak reached in January 2010, shortly after the Great Recession officially ended.

All businesses deemed nonessential have been closed in nearly every state as the economy has virtually shut down. Deep job losses have been inflicted across nearly every industry. 

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Trump’s attempt to enlist businesses in reopening push gets off to rocky start

WASHINGTON POST: President Trump’s attempt to enlist corporate executives in a push to reopen parts of society amid the coronavirus pandemic got off to a rocky start Wednesday, with some business leaders complaining the effort was haphazard and warning that more testing needs to be in place before restrictions are lifted.

The president spent much of his day hosting conference calls with company executives, industry groups and others that he announced Tuesday as part of a hastily formed outside advisory council devoted to the issue.

Advisers said the effort was aimed at building national momentum to reopen much of the country’s economy by next month. Trump said guidelines for such an effort will be announced Thursday.

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Chanting ‘lock her up,’ Michigan protesters waving Trump flags mass against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions

WASHINGTON POST: If all roads in Michigan lead to the state capitol, conservative protesters on Wednesday made sure they were closed.

For miles, thousands of drivers clogged the streets to demand Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) ease restrictions and allow them to go back to work. They drowned downtown Lansing, Mich., in a cacophony of honking. They blared patriotic songs from car radios, waving all sorts of flags from the windows — President Trump flags, American flags and the occasional Confederate flag.

But in the massive demonstration against Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order — which they have argued is excessive and beyond her authority — the pleas from organizers that protesters to stay in their vehicles went unheeded. Many got out of their cars and crashed the front lawn of the capitol building, with some chanting, “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!”

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Facebook will alert people who have interacted with coronavirus misinformation

WASHINGTON POST: Facebook said Thursday it will begin alerting users if they have interacted with harmful misinformation about the coronavirus, part of a series of new, aggressive steps to combat what health authorities have described as a global “infodemic.”

The messages — which will appear in users’ News Feeds — will direct people to official, credible information from the World Health Organization in an attempt to ensure dangerous myths about the disease, its origins and how it is treated don’t continue to proliferate, either on the social-networking site or in the real world.

“We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook,” Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president for integrity, said in a blog post. He said the warnings would appear for those who have “liked, reacted or commented” on such content.

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Testing Falls Woefully Short as Trump Seeks an End to Stay-at-Home Orders

NEW YORK TIMES: As President Trump pushes to reopen the economy, most of the country is not conducting nearly enough testing to track the path and penetration of the coronavirus in a way that would allow Americans to safely return to work, public health officials and political leaders say.

Although capacity has improved in recent weeks, supply shortages remain crippling, and many regions are still restricting tests to people who meet specific criteria. Antibody tests, which reveal whether someone has ever been infected with the coronavirus, are just starting to be rolled out, and most have not been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration.

Concerns intensified on Wednesday as Senate Democrats released a $30 billion plan for building up what they called “fast, free testing in every community,” saying they would push to include it in the next pandemic relief package. Business leaders, who participated in the first conference call of Mr. Trump’s advisory council on restarting the economy, warned that it would not rebound until people felt safe to re-emerge, which would require more screening.

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It’s the End of the World Economy as We Know It

NEW YORK TIMES: When big convulsive economic events happen, the implications tend to take years to play out, and spiral in unpredictable directions.

Who would have thought that a crisis that began with mortgage defaults in American suburbs in 2007 would lead to a fiscal crisis in Greece in 2010? Or that a stock market crash in New York in 1929 would contribute to the rise of fascists in Europe in the 1930s?

The world economy is an infinitely complicated web of interconnections. We each have a series of direct economic relationships we can see: the stores we buy from, the employer that pays our salary, the bank that makes us a home loan. But once you get two or three levels out, it’s really impossible to know with any confidence how those connections work.

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More than 1 million people in Texas filed for unemployment relief in the last month

TEXAS TRIBUNE: For the first time since Gov. Greg Abbott declared the new coronavirus a public health disaster, the number of Texans who filed for unemployment relief last week declined from the previous week, but only slightly.

Yet more than 1 million Texans have applied for unemployment insurance since mid-March, including 273,567 just last week, and countless more people are still struggling to file claims as they wait to feel the impact after the Texas Workforce Commission expanded its staff, added call centers and increased its number of servers.

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Coronavirus in Texas: Scholars at Texas A&M warned years ago that U.S. was not prepared for the next pandemic

TEXAS TRIBUNE: Three Texas A&M University pandemic scholars warned years ago that the United States was not ready for the next pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“It is not a matter of if, but when, the next disease will sweep through the world with deadly and costly consequences,” Christine Blackburn, Andrew Natsios and Gerald Parker wrote in an article in 2018 published on an academic website called The Conversation.

The article pointed to vulnerabilities in global supply chains — and warned of a possible shortage of N95 masks if an epidemic hit a certain spot in Asia.

“This interconnectedness of the global economy and the expansiveness of medical supply chains means that a disruption anywhere along the line could spell disaster worldwide,” the article said.

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Texas judge will issue order that could greatly expand mail-in voting

TEXAS TRIBUNE: A state district judge said Wednesday that he will move forward with an order easing restrictions for voting by mail in Texas in light of the new coronavirus pandemic.

After conducting a video conference hearing in a lawsuit filed by state Democrats and civic organizations, Judge Tim Sulak told the attorneys he will issue a temporary injunction allowing all voters who risk exposure to the coronavirus if they vote in person to ask for a mail-in ballot under a portion of the Texas election code allowing absentee ballots for voters who cite a disability. His ruling, which is almost certain to be appealed by the state, could greatly expand the number of voters casting ballots by mail in the upcoming July primary runoff elections.

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Cameron County COVID-19 cases reach 254; 84 recoveries

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: Cameron County health officials continue to urge residents to take precautions aimed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 as 15 additional cases were confirmed late Wednesday, bringing the county’s total confirmed infections to 254.

According to county health officials, 84 residents have recovered and been confirmed as cleared.

The ages of those included in Wednesday’s report of new cases ranged from 25 to 89.

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Limited Services: Virus fears affect migrant camp

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: In Matamoros, efforts to sustain the camp of an estimated 2,500 asylum seekers living past the Gateway International Bridge are ongoing after a plan to relocate residents fell through over the weekend, according to aid workers coordinating with officials from Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM, Instituto Nacional de Migración).

An organizer who spoke with the agency said construction on the new site in an abandoned stadium four miles into the city came to a halt when the state of Tamaulipas issued a stay at home order barring gatherings of more than 10 people.

Instead, all but one entrance to the camp will be cordoned off as a preventive measure against COVID-19. 

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Town hall addresses testing; McCormick: Don’t think about reopening without it

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: The volume of testing for coronavirus remains far short of where it should be in Cameron County and elsewhere, rendering moot any talk of easing lock-down measures until the situation is addressed.

That’s according to Dr. Joseph McCormick, epidemiology professor, founder of the UTHealth School of Public Health Brownsville Regional Campus and director of the Hispanic Health Research Center, who was among the guest speakers at a Wednesday “telephone town hall” hosted by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville.

“The testing issue continues to be a problem, and it is a major obstacle even to reopening businesses to a large degree, because we don’t have adequate testing,” he said.

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Willacy reports seventh COVID-19 case

VALLEY MORNING STAR: A woman in her 60s has become Willacy County’s seventh confirmed case of the coronavirus — and the second reported in two days.

The woman has been isolated, Dr. Emilie Prot, Region 11’s regional medical director, stated Wednesday in a press release.

Officials are trying to determine whether the woman’s case is linked to a previous case, Frank Torres, Willacy County’s emergency management coordinator, said.

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Valley Baptist Health System announces temporary furloughs

VALLEY MORNING STAR: Valley Baptist Health System has announced it will implement temporary furloughs at its hospitals in Brownsville, Harlingen and Weslaco.

The furloughs are in response to measures the health system is dealing with because of COVID-19.

According to VBMC Health System officials, the furloughs will be for certain jobs “where we need, or are required to, limit acitvity due to the current environment.”

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Hidalgo County reports 2nd death tied to COVID-19

MCALLEN MONITOR: Hidalgo County officials reported the second COVID-19 related death Wednesday night.

According to a county news release, a 66-year-old McAllen man whose identity has not been release succumbed to the illness.

”We should all feel a sense of sadness that another member of our community has died,” Judge Richard F. Cortez said in the release. “My sincere condolences go out to this man’s family.”

County officials reported the man had underlying medical conditions.

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More wall waivers filed for Starr Co. construction

MCALLEN MONITOR: The Trump administration has registered new border wall waivers for Starr County in its efforts to make good on a campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Filed Wednesday, the new waivers would allow for construction of physical barriers and walls without the formal environmental studies and other procedural steps typical of this type of construction along the border.

The “project areas” are the following: west boundary of Salineno, Texas, along the Rio Grande, south and east to the southern boundary of Salineno, west of the Los Negros Creek Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge following along the river, west of Rio Grande City extending east approximately 215 feet southeast of the international bridge.

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Laredo EMS responds to call for woman who died of coronavirus en route to hospital

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: At 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday Laredo Fire and EMS responded to an emergency call regarding a confirmed COVID-19 patient, a woman in her 60s.

When EMS arrived she had a pulse but was in respiratory distress, according to the incident report. Personnel initiated life support using high-level protective equipment and transferred her to the hospital, where they determined she could not be revived.

Fire Chief Steve Landin said first responders took all precautions available to them and communicated with Doctors Hospital to advise them that a coronavirus patient was being transported so they could also use all precautions available to them as well.

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Two more dead in Laredo of coronavirus-related complications, 239 cases total

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Two more deaths due to coronavirus-related complications have been confirmed in Laredo, according to the city and Webb County.

According to City of Laredo Health Department Director Dr. Hector Gonzalez, one of the deaths was a female patient at Laredo Medical Center in their 90s. The other was a female patient at Doctor’s Hospital who was in her 60s. Both patients had underlying health conditions.

According to the health department, the Doctor’s Hospital patient was dead on arrival to the hospital.

According to fire chief Steve Landin, EMS responded to a distress call at the patient’s residence at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The patient had a pulse, but was judged to be in respiratory distress.

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Coronavirus deaths in El Paso rise to 6 as positive cases increase by 47 to 393

EL PASO TIMES: El Paso public health officials on Wednesday reported 47 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 393.

Two additional COVID-19 deaths were reported, bringing the total to six. The 85-year-old man and 51-year-old man both had underlying health conditions, officials said.

Positive cases in El Paso County are 203 females and 190 males.

“People need to realize that things will continue getting worse in El Paso if they don’t adhere to the Stay Home, Work Safe orders,” said Dr. Hector Ocaranza, city/county health authority.

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Two Downtown El Paso hotels among several temporarily closed due to coronavirus pandemic

EL PASO TIMES: The coronavirus pandemic has led a handful of El Paso hotels to temporarily close, including two in Downtown.

The 151-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel and the 200-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Downtown, both owned by El Paso lawyer Jim Scherr, are two recent closures, shutting down April 9.

“By temporarily shuttering, we are able to protect our people and reopen our doors when safe to do so,” Scherr said in an email. ”Our hotel employees and guests safety are paramount.”

The El Paso hotel industry has been battered by a loss of customers due to a decrease in travel and business sparked by COVID-19 restrictions and stay-at-home orders, as has the hotel industry nationwide. Many El Paso hotels are open but nearly empty.

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El Paso hospitals furlough hundreds of employees, cut pay in midst of COVID-19 outbreak

EL PASO MATTERS: The parent companies of El Paso’s private hospitals, faced with increasing financial concerns due to the COVID-19 outbreak, have started furloughing employees and cutting back hours and pay.

The Hospitals of Providence, El Paso’s largest private hospital organization, furloughed at least 200 employees — including 40 percent of physician staffing — last week, a source told El Paso Matters. The Hospitals of Providence is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Health.

The El Paso Times reported that HCA Healthcare, parent company of Las Palmas and Del Sol medical centers and a variety of other health-care facilities in El Paso, implemented reduced hours and a 30 percent pay cut in base pay for employees for up to seven weeks if they could not be deployed to other hospital operations.

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11 Juárez maquiladora workers have died of COVID-19, officials say

EL PASO MATTERS: Chihuahua State health authorities confirmed 11 of the 16 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Ciudad Juárez  are maquiladora factory workers.

“We are in constant communication with the maquiladora industry,” said said Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, Chihuahua state health authority for the northern zone which includes Ciudad Juárez.  Valenzuela said the goal is to prevent “explosive outbreaks” of COVID-19 cases.

“Several” of the deaths were employees at a Lear plant in Ciudad Juárez  that makes auto parts, according to a statement from the company.

“We are saddened that several employees at our Juárez  operations, who were receiving medical treatment for presumed cases of COVID-19, have passed away, officially due to complications of respiratory illness,” according to the statement.

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El Paso’s COVID-19 growth rate slows in sign safety rules are working. But uncertainty abounds.

EL PASO MATTERS: As the number of COVID-19 cases approaches 400, evidence is emerging that compliance with strict government mandates and safety suggestions is slowing the spread of the disease in El Paso County.

The number of new El Paso cases are now doubling every seven days. That’s, a sharp improvement over the three- to four-day doubling rate seen over the first four weeks after the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was first detected in El Paso, an El Paso Matters analysis of public health reports shows.

Despite improving trends, some unknowns make it hard to predict with any certainty that the declining growth of new cases will continue in the coming weeks. El Pasoans continue to flood the city with complaints about noncompliance with stay home orders.

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