State and federal officials are working to keep residents informed as they continue working to protect Americans from Coronavirus.
According to the Center for Disease Control, coronaviruses are common throughout the world and can infect people and animals.
The World Health Organization has now qualified the coronavirus as an international pandemic. And says the large family of viruses can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe conditions.
A novel coronavirus is a new strain and has not been previously identified in humans.
Like the flu, people with severe chronic medical conditions and who are over the age of sixty are at a higher risk of getting sick and developing more severe conditions.
Federal and state officials are working continuously to ensure outbreaks do not occur in U.S. communities.
The following updates are only intended to keep Texas communities informed.
NOT ONLY FOR YOUR PROTECTION BUT FOR THE
SAFETY OF OTHER, PLEASE FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Governor Abbott Announces New Processes To Preserve And Extend Child Care Capacity For Front Line Workers
AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today waived certain Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) regulations to preserve and extend child care capacity for front line workers.
These waivers will allow TWC the flexibility to respond to child care needs and are part of the Governor’s work through the Supply Chain Strike Force to strengthen child care infrastructure for critical workers during the COVID-19 response.
These waivers ensure that families using child care subsidized through TWC will not lose their slots during this interim period while the state battles COVID-19, and it secures payment to child care providers throughout this time.
“Through these waivers, TWC will be able to better respond to the child care needs of our front line workers in Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “We remain committed to working with TWC and other state entities to ensure Texans serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response have the support they need.”
Children within TWC’s child care services program will be able to accrue absences due to COVID-19 without impacting ongoing eligibility or provider reimbursements.
TWC will also be able to waive parent share of cost requirements and direct local workforce development boards to make supplemental emergency payments to child care programs to offset payments lost due to COVID-19.
Additionally, these waivers will allow TWC to temporarily broaden the definition of “protective services” to include children of workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
Governor Abbott Announces National Guard Deployment In Support Of COVID-19 Response
As part of the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19, Governor Greg Abbott today announced the deployment of three National Guard Joint Task Force Brigades.
The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the 176th Engineer Brigade will operate ten general support units located throughout the state.
“Whether it’s overseas combat, major storms, or deadly viruses, the Texas National Guard is always quick to defend and serve their fellow Texans,” said Governor Abbott. “Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis.”
The Governor has ordered an initial focus on two critical missions that will directly benefit from Texas National Guard’s unparalleled logistics capabilities, medical expertise, communications support, infrastructure maintenance, and transportation assets: assisting drive through testing sites and bolstering the state’s healthcare infrastructure.
Over the past week, Guard members have practiced erecting and running drive through testing site locations alongside medical staff to ensure a well-coordinated process that allows Texans to access COVID-19 screenings in a safe, efficient way that also limits contact with potentially infected members of the public.
The Guard is also rolling out support for the state’s healthcare infrastructure with medical providers, equipment, and supplies needed to provide access to care.
As the response advances, Guardsmen will continue working with partners at the local, state, and national levels to identify and develop additional locations that can be converted to healthcare facilities.
“We are citizen soldiers and we find our highest calling in serving our fellow citizens, no matter where duty calls us,” said Major General Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas and commander of the Texas National Guard. “This will be no easy task but we have faced difficult times before. With the commitment of our soldiers and support of the community, we will show the world that we are Texas strong and Texas proud, and together we will overcome this challenge.”
Governor Abbott also stressed that these taskings will not diminish the Guard’s ability to meet operational commitments including the Texas border mission and overseas deployments.
To ensure responding Guard members are healthy, trained medical staff will be attached to each unit and provide screenings before each Guard member is approved for the mission.
Any Guard member showing signs of illness will receive treatment and the needed resources to recover while following all requirements outlined by the CDC.
This measure will keep responding units healthy and reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.
HHSC Temporarily Waives Renewal Requirements for Medicaid, SNAP Clients During COVID-19 Crisis
Texas Also Waives SNAP Interview Requirements
AUSTIN – Texas Health and Human Services announced today SNAP and Medicaid benefit renewals currently due will automatically be renewed so existing clients can maintain continuity of coverage during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
“During this difficult time, we’re making sure Texans in need continue to receive their food and medical benefits without the added worry of having to renew their coverage in the midst of a crisis,” said Wayne Salter, HHS Deputy Executive Commissioner for Access and Eligibility Services.
To ensure benefits continue, Texas requested and received federal approval to automatically extend benefits for recipients who were up for renewal. Renewing the SNAP and Medicaid applications automatically means that those who were up for renewal do not have to call or complete their renewal to receive continuous coverage.
SNAP and Medicaid benefits are extended until further notice, and Texas HHS will continue to provide updates to the public during the coming months.
Additionally, as authorized by section 2302 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Texas is also waiving interview requirements for households applying for SNAP. As part of that, households are not required to complete an interview before approval if identity has been verified and mandatory verification steps are completed.
Waiving interview requirements means people do not have to come into an office or call the agency about their application or renewal, and HHS can process applications as they are received and make eligibility determinations faster.
Administered by Texas HHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1.4 million eligible low-income families and individuals in Texas, with monthly benefits worth nearly $400 million.
Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health coverage to 4.6 million Texas children, pregnant women, parents of eligible children, people with disabilities, and older Texans who need nursing home care.
Texans in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, at YourTexasBenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app to manage their benefits.
Investor Alert: Protecting Your Financial Health in the Pandemic Era
The COVID-19 pandemic has roiled securities markets in ways we have never experienced and is making financial decisions vastly more difficult than usual.
We want to assure Texans that our primary focus remains on the protection of retail investors, and we are actively taking steps to protect the public from white-collar criminals and scammers capitalizing on the threat of COVID-19.
Investment Schemes Will Proliferate
Scammers will be targeting retail investors, capitalizing on recent developments in the economy preying on concerns about the regulated securities market.
Their products and tactics will track recent economic and social trends, promising lucrative returns to retail investors concerned about their portfolios and retirement plans. Retail investors must remain vigilant to protect themselves from these schemes.
(For an investing overview during this time, please see our news release, Investing In the Unknown.)
Retail investors should be wary of investment schemes tied to the threat of COVID-19.
Bad actors are developing schemes that falsely purport to raise capital for companies manufacturing surgical masks and gowns, producing ventilators and other medical equipment, distributing small-molecule drugs and other preventative pharmaceuticals, or manufacturing vaccines and miracle cures.
The schemes often appear legitimate because they draw upon current news, medical reports, and social and political developments.
In Austin, the U.S. Department of Justice recently took its first enforcement action against COVID-19 fraud, winning an injunction against the operators of a website offering non-existent “vaccine kits” from the World Health Organization.
Private placements and off-market securities
Scammers will take advantage of concerns with the regulated securities market to promote off-market private deals. These schemes will continue to pose a threat to retail investors because private securities transactions are not subject to review by federal or state regulators.
Retail investors must continue to investigate before they invest in off-market transactions, and independently verify the facts for themselves.
Gold, silver and other commodities
Scammers may also take advantage of the devaluation of the public securities markets by selling fraudulent investments in gold, silver and other commodities that are not tied to the stock market.
These assets may also be attractive because they are often promoted as hedging against inflation and mitigating systematic risks. However, scammers may conceal hidden fees and mark-ups, and the illiquidity of the assets may prevent retail investors from selling the assets for fair market value.
Retail investors should be wary of buy-low sell-high recovery schemes. For example, scammers will begin promoting investments tied to oil and gas, encouraging investors to purchase working or direct interests now so they can recognize significant gains after the price of oil recovers from historic lows.
Scammers will also begin selling equity at a discount, promising the value of the investments will significantly increase when the markets strengthen. Investors need to appreciate the risks associated with any prediction of future performance and recognize that gains in the markets may not correlate with the profitability of their investments.
Scammers will capitalize on changes in the unemployment rate. They falsely tout their ability to quickly earn guaranteed returns that can be used to pay for rent, utilities or other expenses. They also target retirees and senior citizens, falsely claiming they can quickly and safely recoup any losses to their retirement portfolios.
Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Replacement and swap schemes
Investors should be wary of any unlicensed person encouraging them to liquidate their investments and use the proceeds to invest in more stable, more profitable products. Investors may pay considerable fees when liquidating the investments, and the new products often fail to provide the promised stability or profitability.
Advisers may need to be registered before promoting these transactions and legally required to disclose hidden fees, mark-ups and other costs.
Real estate schemes
Real estate investments may prove appealing because the real estate market has been strong and low-interest rates have been increasing the demand for housing. Scammers often promote these schemes as safe and secure, claiming real estate can be sold and the proceeds can be used to cover any losses.
However, real estate investments present significant risks, and changes to the economy and the real estate market may severely damage the performance of these investments.
Old Schemes Manipulated for a New Age
Although scammers will be perpetrating complex investment schemes, many initial schemes will simply be old scams dressed in contemporary clothing. The financial, cultural, and societal changes are fresh, and as such scammers will begin perpetrating schemes that require little or no advance planning and minimal sophistication.
Among the ones, we expect to see…
Phishing scams may be perpetrated by foreign or domestic parties claiming an association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), or by individuals claiming to offer novel or expert medical advice or services.
They may even be perpetrated by persons impersonating government personnel, spoofing their email addresses and encouraging their audience to click links or access malicious attachments. Don’t do it.
No miracle cures
Scientists and medical professionals have not yet discovered a medical breakthrough or developed a means to cure COVID-19. Not surprisingly, a vaccine being sold by some online pharmacy isn’t real. You should not send money to anyone claiming they can prevent COVID-19. This kind of snake oil has a real bite to it.
Fraudulent charity schemes
White-collar criminals may pose as charities soliciting money for those affected by COVID-19. Before donating, you should independently verify any charity is authorized to raise money for the sick or secure donations to help uninsured persons pay for medical treatment.
You should also avoid online solicitations for cash and gift cards, as these schemes have become a popular way for scammers to steal money. Think with your head, not your heart. If you want to donate to a cause, you should work with a legitimate, established organization.
Schemes tied to economic relief
The federal government may send checks to the public to stimulate the economy. It will not, however, require the prepayment of taxes on the income and or the advance payment of a processing fee. Anyone who demands prepayment will almost certainly steal your money.
Resources and Guidance
Retail investors must remain vigilant and protect themselves from new schemes tied to COVID-19 and recent economic developments. We urge investors to stay clear of anything sounding too good to be true, such as guarantees of high returns with no risk, and vet their investment professional about their licenses and registrations.
Please contact Joe Rotunda, the director of enforcement for the Texas State Securities Board, if you have questions or concerns about investment opportunities offered to you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Investigating before you invest is the best approach in turbulent economic times or calm ones.
HHSC Takes Steps To Protect Denton SSLC Residents
AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is taking additional steps to protect residents and staff of the Denton State Supported Living Center and the surrounding community, and to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Measures include stationing emergency medical resources on campus and coordinating with multiple hospitals in the region to accept residents that may require hospitalization for COVID-19.
Denton County Public Health recently confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Denton SSLC and is coordinating additional testing of individuals who may have been exposed.
“There is no higher priority than protecting the health and safety of residents, staff and the local community in Denton and everywhere we have SSLCs,” said Scott Schalchlin, HHS Associate Commissioner for State Supported Living Centers. “We are working side-by-side with local and state health departments and area hospitals to ensure all medical needs are met while preserving hospital capacity in the community and region.”
Emergency Medical Services
Effective immediately, HHSC is stationing up to four ambulances on the Denton SSLC campus to provide transportation for residents who require hospitalization due to COVID-19.
These ambulances were secured through the Department of State Health Services’ Texas Emergency Medical Task Force and are not local emergency management resources. There will be no impact on local emergency response capabilities.
Preserving Hospital Capacity
HHSC is also working with the Medical Incident Support Team, in coordination with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, to identify multiple hospitals in the region that will accept patients, if necessary. Increasing the number of hospitals that accept these medically fragile residents will preserve hospital capacity in Denton and across the region.
Denton SSLC staff have dedicated homes on campus for residents who test positive for COVID-19 and do not require hospitalization and residents recovering from the virus who have been discharged from a hospital. These residents will be isolated while receiving care to prevent spread.
Denton SSLC staff working with sick residents, or residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19, are being supplied with personal protective equipment and are following all CDC guidelines to protect their safety and prevent spread.
On March 13, HHSC suspended visitation and on-campus events at SSLCs across the state. In addition, on March 16, Denton SSLC began screening all employees and essential visitors for fever and respiratory illness prior to entering the facility.
While SSLCs must meet certain staffing requirements to provide essential services, staff who are not required to be on campus are teleworking.
The Denton State Supported Living Center was established in 1960, Denton SSLC serves the 18 counties of the greater Dallas area.
The center’s 1,470 employees provide 24-hour residential care, medical services, and vocational training to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nearly 450 people call the center home.