Originally published on April 14, 2020.
Whether on the fields of San Jacinto or floods of Hurricane Harvey, Texans are resilient in the face of a challenge. Together we are strong and together we can overcome anything––including this coronavirus outbreak.
A quick review of the present situation: we officially remain in a statewide public health disaster, recently continued by Governor Greg Abbott indefinitely. Many cities and counties have issued various shelter-in-place orders, which remain a local government imperative. The Governor has no plans for a statewide order given Texas is too geographically diverse: what works for San Antonio will not work for Ft. Stockton.
Millions of Personal Protection Equipment (masks, gowns, gloves) have been delivered to the state and distributed to health care centers; more are on the way as Texas businesses step up to produce more equipment. The Governor has signed dozens of executive orders, waiving laws and regulations that slow public health response. Testing centers are up and running––through private and public labs, the state has tested almost 125,000 Texans thus far. Our testing ability will continue to increase.
The hardest part: at least 271 Texans have died from coronavirus at the time of writing. Among those hardest hit are our nursing homes, where elderly Texans fight the coronavirus disadvantaged by age and preexisting conditions. My heart breaks for every Texan we have lost and those who currently lie sick. The State of Texas, working in conjunction with local leaders, is doing everything it can to prevent further loss of life from coronavirus.
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has a hotline Texans should call for more information on coronavirus and local testing: 2-1-1. If you’re feeling sick, self-quarantine and contact your doctor––Governor Abbott has allowed increased use of telemedicine by healthcare professionals. Do not go to the hospital unless you cannot breathe or otherwise in critical condition. Of course, I am a former Game Warden and not a doctor––please contact your doctor for in-depth medical information, visit DSHS and Center for Diseases Control and Prevention websites, and continue to use 9-1-1 for any emergencies.
Schools remain closed by Governor Abbott until May 4 at the earliest. All schools are still offering continued instruction, though it looks different––it is times like this when we realize how truly grateful we are for Texas teachers. Given the instability of our present situation, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements are waived for the 2019-2020 school year.
Many schools continue to provide food for students that rely on those meals––the Texas Education Agency (TEA) created a webpage where families can find food pick-up locations: www.txschools.gov. Any specific question on education should be made to your local school district or TEA, which can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (512) 463-9734. TEA also has a dedicated webpage providing administrators, educators, and parents with updated information, announcements, operating procedures, and more: www.tea.texas.gov/coronavirus.
With businesses closed around the state, many Texans are suffering financially. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has experienced an unprecedented number of inquiries––more people have opened claims in the last five weeks than all of 2019. To handle this heavy load and help as many Texans as possible, government employees from other departments, including my office, are beginning to volunteer their time to help TWC claims. Additionally, TWC is asking Texans to call at staggered times assigned by the first digit in a phone’s area code. More information can be found at the following TWC webpage: www.twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-job-seekers.
In an effort to help fellow Texans newly out of work for no fault of their own, I encourage all able Senate District 19 constituents to donate food or funds to a local food bank. Food banks are under heavy strain right now due to the increase of people in need; they rely on donations to keep serving our fellow citizens. I recently signed a letter with other members of the Bexar County legislative delegation requesting Texas accept the State of Texas Assistance Request for San Antonio Food Bank, which serves Bexar and 15 surrounding counties. How you can help and more information on the San Antonio Food Bank can be found by visiting the following website: www.safoodbank.org or South Texas Food Bank in Laredo, which services many constituents in Senate District 19, at: www.southtexasfoodbank.org.
My office works daily to serve you. We are working remotely, but still accessible via phone and email. Do not hesitate to reach out by emailing District19.Flores@senate.texas.gov, an email inbox we check multiple times a day. Other contact information can be found on my Senate webpage: www.flores.senate.texas.gov. Information is also posted regularly to my social media accounts: www.facebook.com/SenatorPeteFlores and www.twitter.com/PeteFlores_TX.
Texans must do their part to remain healthy: be vigilant about washing and disinfecting surfaces, practice social distancing, limit contact to at-risk populations, wear a facemask in public if you have one, and stay home if sick. Our state, and our people, are capable of defeating this virus.