La Feria News

Coronavirus pandemic brings about plenty of changes

Empty shelves like these seen at the H-E-B located at Expressway 83 and Lincoln Street in Harlingen are becoming a common sight at stores all across the nation as the coronavirus outbreak is causing shoppers to stockpile groceries. Photos: Nelda Briones / LFN

By NELDA BRIONES
LFN

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has caused some panic here in the Valley.

People shopping for groceries in Harlingen were in for a surprise when store shelves started to become empty. The panic has caused people to stockpile toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, soap, bottled water, canned goods and other non-perishable items.

Due to the chaos, H-E-B announced that they will close their doors early so that they could replenish items overnight. Their stores in Harlingen are now open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the time being.

The stores have also implemented limits on certain items. The company wants to reassure customers that they are maintaining close contact with their suppliers and their partners are working around the clock to keep their shelves fully stocked.

Walmart also announced that they would be closing early in order to clean and restock shelves. As of March 18, their store hours in Harlingen and Los Fresnos were from 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Dollar General stores have also announced that the first hour of each shopping day were to be devoted to senior citizens since the elderly population is considered the most vulnerable to the virus.

It was business as usual at El Centro Foods in La Feria as the grocery store remaied open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The same went for La Feria Cafe, Los Leones Restaurant, Los Amigos Restaurant and Fiesta Tex-Mex, which were all still open and serving customers along with Elva’s Mexican Restaurant and Julias Restaurant in Los Fresnos.

However, Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. announced on March 19 that the county was implementing a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m. and that all contry restaurants were going to be ordered to close their dinning rooms, but could still serve items to go, which is something larger franchises had already done.

On March 17, Whataburger announced that all its dining rooms, including the one in La Feria, would be temporarily closed and only drive-thru services would be open.

McDonald’s also has their dining room temporarily closed. They stated that effective today March 17 they closed seating areas, Play Places, self-service beverage bars and kiosks. They are shifting their service though drive-thru, takeout and McDelivery.

In additon, the city of La Feria has postponed all board meetings until further notice. Also, the community recreation center is closed until futher noitice and the public libray has also been closed for the time being. City Hall, however, is still open to the public as usual from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and La Feria City Park is also still open.

In Los Fresnos, city staff will continue to work normal hours but City Hall will not be open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to use the drive through lanes to conduct normal business, or online services are available. The Los Fresnos Chamber of Commerce will also be closed to the public. Staff will continue to work normal hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from remote locations.

The Los Fresnos Public Library will remain open by limiting the number of patrons allowed in the buidling at a time, but public computer use is suspended until further notice. Parks will also be closed for use except for the walking trails, which can be used by individuals or groups under 10 people until further notice. All other services such as garbage, water, wastewater, police, fire and ambulance will continue uninterrupted.

On March 18, Bishop Daniel Flores announced that the Diocese of Brownsville has suspended all catholic church masses and other church events in the diocese until futher notice. Priets will continue celebrating mass without their congregations.

First Baptist Church of La Feria has also suspended all services until futher notice. First United Methodist Church of La Feria, however, had not made a decision as of the morning of March 19.

In Los Fresnos, decisions had also not been made at Abundant Life Church of Los Fresnos or the Church or Christ. First Baptist Church of Los Fresnos, however, did decide on March 16 to suspend all services until at least April 5.

The pandemic event has also affected other aspects of our daily lives, including the banning of non-essential guests at nursing facilities, the cancellation of large gatherings, sporting events and even athletic team practices.

The CDC recommended the cancelling of all events of 10 or more people as well as practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. This means avoiding crowded places and maintaining distance from others when possible.

According to the Cameron County Public Health Department, the key is to wash your hands often, keep your hands away from your face, and clean and disinfect “high touch” surfaces.

It also recommends for those who are sick to stay at home, limit your contact with others and call a doctor before seeking medical attention.

In addition, Gov. Abbott also announced that he is waiving vehicle inspection rules as a way to avoid unnecessary social contact. Under these new temporary rules, people will not be penalized if they haven’t renewed their vehicle’s title or registration as well as parking placards for those with disabilities.

“The State of Texas continues to implement a comprehensive plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and that includes strategies to reduce preventable in-person contact,” Abbott wrote in a release. “By suspending these rules, Texans can avoid unnecessary crowds and in-person contact without fear of being penalized. We encourage all Texans to continue practicing social distancing and to take preventative actions to protect their health and the health of those around them.”

The governor said he would work with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and make sure law enforcement is aware of the waivers. People will still be able to renew their registrations online.

As of March 19, no official cases of coronavirus had been reported in Cameron Country. There were a pair of travelers from Michigan, however, who were confirmed to have the virus. According to Cameron Country officials, the couple visited South Padre Island recenlty, traveled to Idaho then returned to the island before returning home to their permanent residence in Michigan where they were officially diagnosed.

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