Tally of Unemployed Workers Surges by 6.6 Million

NEW YORK TIMES: Another 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus outbreak continued its devastating march through the American economy, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

The release came as the Federal Reserve said it could pump $2.3 trillion into the economy through new and expanded programs it announced on Monday, ramping up efforts to help companies and state and local governments suffering financially amid the coronavirus.

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Fed Expands Corporate-Debt Backstops, Unveils New Programs to Aid States, Cities and Small Businesses

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Federal Reserve unveiled an array of programs Thursday that it said would provide $2.3 trillion in loans, expanding the Fed’s operations to reach small and midsize businesses and U.S. cities and states.

The Fed also said it would expand previously announced corporate lending programs to include some classes of riskier debt that had been excluded, including allowing firms that until recently had been rated as investment-grade to participate in those facilities.

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Most New York Coronavirus Cases Came From Europe, Genomes Show

NEW YORK TIMES: New research indicates that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that travelers brought in the virus mainly from Europe, not Asia.

“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

A separate team at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases. 

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ICE says it will review cases for release nationwide as the coronavirus spreads at San Diego detention center

LOS ANGELES TIMES: As the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus creeps up at Otay Mesa Detention Center, the agency responsible for immigration detention has announced that it will review detainees for release because of health conditions believed to place people at higher risk.

But for some high-risk detainees, that may be too late because of the way people in custody are grouped under quarantine.

The facility holds detainees in immigration custody for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as inmates for federal criminal cases for the U.S. Marshals Service.

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Coronavirus death rate among Latinos appears low, but experts say the data are thin

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Preliminary data released this week by Los Angeles County appeared to offer a glimmer of hope for the county’s largest ethnic group: Latinos, who make up nearly half the county’s population, represent just over a quarter of its coronavirus deaths.

But experts warn that the early, and incomplete, information may paint a murkier picture.

Latinos are typically younger than other demographic groups, an advantage against a virus that ravages older patients. 

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Trump quietly shuts down asylum at US borders to fight virus

ASSOCIATED PRESS: A U.S. Border Patrol agent wouldn’t let Jackeline Reyes explain why she and her 15-year-old daughter needed asylum, pointing to the coronavirus. That confrontation in Texas came just days after the Trump administration quietly shut down the nation’s asylum system for the first time in decades in the name of public health.

“The agent told us about the virus and that we couldn’t go further, but she didn’t let us speak or anything,” said Reyes, 35, who was shuttled to a crossing March 24 in Reynosa, Mexico, a violent border city.

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A congregation that spans the US-Mexico border

CHRISTIAN CENTURY: For the better part of a decade Christians have met to share a communion meal across the US-Mexico divide south of San Diego. This meeting has gone through many permutations through the years, and I was curious to see it up close. The only route to the border site begins at a state park that was off the beaten path, several turns down dirt roads into what seemed like wilder and wilder country.

When a friend and I pulled into the sandy parking lot that the internet had told us was the meeting place for the border church, our Uber driver was reluctant to leave us. There was no sign of church or church people. 

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Mexico Loses Almost 350,000 Jobs Because of Coronavirus

U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Mexico’s Labor Department said Wednesday the country has lost 346,748 jobs since mid-March due to the economic impact of the new coronavirus and distancing measures imposed to fights its spread.

The biggest job losses occurred in the heavily tourism-dependent Caribbean coastal state of Quintana Roo, which lost almost 64,000 jobs. The state is home to resorts like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, which have been hit hard by recommendations that people limit travel.

The department said the largest share of the job losses during the period from March 13 to April 6 — almost 250,000 — came at firms with 50 workers or more, rather than the smaller businesses that dominate Mexico’s economic landscape.

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Mexico reports 108 COVID-19 deaths in US, most in New York

ASSOCIATED PRESS: The Mexican government said Wednesday that at least 108 Mexicans have died of complications related to COVID-19 in the United States, more than half of those in New York.

The actual number could be higher, because Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the figures only include deaths reported to its consulates.

Some 11 million Mexicans live in the United States, about 4.5 million without legal status.

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The first Texas prisoner has died after testing positive for the new coronavirus

TEXAS TRIBUNE: The first Texas prisoner has died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported Wednesday. Shortly after announcing the death, the prison system said it was locking down 15 prisons where there have been positive cases.

Bartolo Infante, 72, was an inmate at the Telford Unit near Texarkana, TDCJ said in a statement. He tested positive for the virus Friday after being hospitalized for viral pneumonia. He died Tuesday. TDCJ said Infante was in medical isolation when he died and had preexisting medical conditions.

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El Paso County positive COVID-19 cases approaching 200 as number climbs by 39

EL PASO TIMES: Surpassing Tuesday’s then largest spike in cases, there were 39 new cases of positive COVID-19 cases in El Paso County on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 192.

Forty people have been hospitalized with novel coronavirus, with 12 people in the ICU. Three people remain on ventilators. Twenty patients have recovered. Of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, there are 101 females and 91 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,” Dr. Hector Ocaranza, City/County Health Authority, said in a city news release.

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Texas health official: Acceleration of coronavirus spread slowing, unclear when peak will hit

EL PASO TIMES: More data is needed before one of the state’s top health officials is ready to say when COIVD-19 will peak in Texas. 

“I don’t think anybody wants us to act irrationally or prematurely and have a resurgence in cases, only to have to reapply, if you will, more stringent standards,” Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt said.

The remarks came at a Wednesday news conference, where Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders gave an update on the coronavirus in Texas, as the number of cases continues to climb. 

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El Paso parents, teachers, students face challenges adapting to at-home learning

EL PASO MATTERS: El Paso parents, teachers, students face challenges adapting to at-home learning

Be flexible, be forgiving, be patient, and when all else fails – forget it and try again tomorrow. That’s the universal advice that teachers and parents have shared with one another as they began navigating online at home instruction since it began three weeks ago.

The Socorro Independent School District was the first district in the El Paso area to launch online courses, with just two days to ready their classes for online learning and prepare paper packets with three weeks’ worth of work for families who may not have the materials to conduct class online.

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National Guard assisting El Paso’s food bank in COVID-19 relief efforts

EL PASO MATTERS: National Guard soldiers have been assigned to help El Paso’s food bank in the face of overwhelming demand caused by job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been awarded 109 Guardsmen assigned to us as of yesterday. They are a godsend!” El Pasoans Fighting Hunger CEO Susan Goodell said Wednesday.

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Laredo residents must cover nose, mouth anytime they go outside or face fine up to $1,000

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Acknowledging the severity of these heightened measures and the sacrifices they may involve, Mayor Pete Saenz signed off on an amended emergency order on Wednesday that mandates all Laredoans wear something to cover their nose and mouth whenever they leave the house.

People are excepted from wearing a mask, bandana, scarf or some kind of covering only when they are in their home or backyard, in the car alone, in their office alone, eating or while experiencing an emergency. Now children 2 years and older must wear masks as well.

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20 Laredo COVID-19 cases confirmed in single day, setting new record high

LAREDO MORNING TIMES: Fourteen additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed by the City of Laredo and Webb County in their 5 p.m. update. The 14 confirmations bring today’s total number of recognized cases to 20, with 155 confirmed throughout all of Laredo.

he mark sets a new record high for the number of Laredo coronavirus cases announced in one day, which previously stood at 18.

Information on the patients was not available due to the city’s policy of not releasing identifying information on coronavirus cases.

Earlier today, the city announced six new COVID-19 cases in their 12 p.m. update. At that time, the city revealed a 4-month-old child had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

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Church backs away from parking lot services for now

VALLEY MORNING TIMES: A local church criticized this week during the county judge’s press conference has announced it will forgo repeating its drive-in church until cleared to do so by the county.

Treasure Hills Presbyterian Church’s board of directors issued a statement Wednesday saying for the good of the community it would end its parking lot services.

“We are in this together and what we sacrifice in the short term is for the collective safety of all for the long term,” the board’s statement reads.

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Local church seeks clarification after criticism from judge

VALLEY MORNING STAR: The board of Treasure Hills Presbyterian Church is weighing whether to continue holding drive-in church this Easter Sunday in the wake of apparent criticism from the county’s top official.

On Monday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. referenced “drive-thru services” held Palm Sunday but did not mention any specific congregation.

“I will advise everyone, in spite of the fact that this is Easter, that we will not be allowing those type of services because of the danger and the risks associated with them,” Treviño said.

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New cases of virus tied to nursing homes; 23 patients cleared of virus

VALLEY MORNING STAR: Cameron County Public Health is reporting 10 new cases of COVID-19, including three tied to Harlingen nursing facilities. But at the same time, the county says nearly two dozen have been cleared of the virus.

The three are employees of Windsor Atrium and Veranda Nursing Home. Cameron County Public Health continues its investigation and will provide updates as they are received.

Five of the cases are from Brownsville and include three men and two women. Some of those cases are travel related, one is community and the fifth is tied to a previous case.

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Plastics firm donates thousands of face shields

THE MONITOR: Amid a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals on the front line of the fight against COVID-19, a Brownsville manufacturer has stepped into the breach, donating large quantities of clear plastic face shields to local hospitals and, in the process, stumbling across a new business opportunity at a time normal regular business has plummeted due to the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Vicente Sanchez, director of Portage Plastics plant in Brownsville, said the company saw the need for PPE rising as its usual business dwindled. 

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Hidalgo Co. response rate to Census lagging amid pandemic

THE MONITOR: For three years, a large coalition in Hidalgo County planned to get out in the community for the 2020 Census.

There were events planned across the community. Plans were made to get out into the community in person to make sure people got counted. The U.S. Census Bureau even opened its first office in Hidalgo County, rather than rely on the San Antonio Regional Office.

Then the unexpected happened: a pandemic.

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City issues amended declaration of disaster

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: The Brownsville City Commission on Tuesday approved an amended declaration of local disaster for public health emergency which includes new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 such as limiting restaurants and bars, closing school campuses for the remainder of the school year and wearing mandatory facial covering starting Monday.

The declaration’s purpose is to give the city the ability to reduce the possibility of exposure to disease, control the risk, promote health, compel persons to undergo additional health measures that prevent or control the spread of disease, including the provision of temporary housing or emergency shelters for persons misplaced or evacuated, and request assistance from the governor of state resources, the declaration reads.

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County: Worker carried COVID-19 from nursing home to rehab center

BROWNSVILLE HERALD: A health care worker carried the coronavirus from a Harlingen nursing home to a rehabilitation center here, Cameron County’s health administrator said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño issued an emergency management order aimed nursing homes and “other long-term care facilities.”

Officials are trying to determine the identify of the health care worker who carried the COVID-19 virus from the Veranda Healthcare & Rehabilitation to Windsor Atrium, Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said.

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