The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Texas finding same COVID-19 challenges as New Mexico


March 22, 2020

Peter Stein

Monroe Roberts takes a call at Muleshoe's O'Reilly Auto Parts location. Roberts said he's been handling most of the errands with elderly relatives at his house, and takes many precautions when he gets home from work to minimize risks to family members.

MULESHOE — Talk of COVID-19 is everywhere. And seems to be impacting everything.

Even more so across the state line in Texas than in New Mexico. While New Mexico — through Saturday morning — had remained among states reporting fewer than 100 coronavirus cases, Texas is well over that number.

On Saturday morning, Texas was nearing 200 confirmed cases, with five deaths from the virus.

So, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order limiting public gatherings to 10 people, shutting schools, prohibiting visitors to nursing homes and retirement communities, and limiting bars and restaurants to take-out through April 3. Non-essential state employees are also being advised to telework.

“The traditional model that we have employed in the state of Texas for such a long time so effectively does not apply to an invisible disease that knows no geographic or jurisdictional boundaries,” Abbott said at a press conference. “The more that people do to reduce their public contact the sooner the COVID-19 will be contained.”

And so the state Texans once knew will be markedly different for a while. And with people having to stay home more, hoarding and shortages are happening in the state, like everywhere. As of Friday afternoon, United Supermarkets in Muleshoe had empty paper-product shelves. Lowe’s in Farwell had some paper products, including a few boxes of facial tissue. There was, though, one roll of toilet paper evident in the store.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad COVID-19 world. But Texans are adjusting.

Take Monroe Roberts, manager of O’Reilly Auto Parts in Muleshoe, a store that only just opened in that town nine months ago. Roberts is both a worker at what is considered an essential business and a citizen who is taking the virus seriously.

When Roberts isn’t speaking English and Spanish to help O’Reilly customers, he’s rubbing sanitizer on his hands. When he’s not at the store, he’s trying to keep his family safe.

“It’s concerning,” Roberts said. “I’ve got elderly people that live in my house. My mother’s 68, my stepdad’s 79. My grandmother stays with us too, she’s 93. They’re not going out; I do all the grocery shopping and everything for my house. I’m the only one that leaves my house. During the whole thing they’ve isolated themselves.

“I go and come and I take extra precautions when I get home,” Roberts continued. “I’ll go straight to the bathroom when I get to the house, take a shower, do a load of laundry every night. I’ll wash my own stuff.”

When one thinks of essential businesses, an auto parts store might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But it makes perfect sense when you think about it even just a little.

“They’re not going to close down the dairies,” Roberts said. “The cows have to be milked, farmers have to farm. And when their stuff breaks down they’ve got to get the parts.”

There is also an Allsup’s frequented by truck drivers across the street.

“We have truckers coming in here five, six, seven times a week,” Roberts noted.

Supermarkets like United are also vital, providing necessary goods for people in the best of times, which is even more essential during a state-wide lockdown.

Sudan mother of three Dena Danzeisen had a chock-full shopping cart at the Muleshoe United store on Friday afternoon, as she and her family try to power through like everyone else.

“We’re doing fine,” Danzeisen said. “We’re hoping and praying that things get better and nobody else is sick. It’s hard because you look at other parts of the world and there’s so much fear. I hope and pray that the economy stays OK, and that the virus goes away. We don’t want anybody else to get sick.”

In an effort to keep that from happening, restaurants have changed dramatically in a little over a week. Restaurants are essential, as in providing food. Sitting down and eating in them, however, is not only non-essential but potentially hazardous.

Leal’s in Muleshoe, like just about any restaurant anywhere, is closed for sit-down customers. But Muleshoe residents can still get their favorite meals at Leal’s by ordering take-out or placing to-go orders.

Next to the Muleshoe Leal’s is a Mexican restaurant named Kuka’s, which has an all-too-familiar sign on the door advising that dine-in is not being offered.

Across the street under the sturdy and familiar golden arches, the Muleshoe McDonald’s has an empty lobby. Drive-thru and to-go orders only for now.

Navid Medrano, as general manager of that McDonald’s, is working to keep the store’s tradition of food service rolling along within the current parameters.

“We’re just all thankful to have our jobs,” she said.

Medrano is also a Texas citizen who is trying to muddle through the health crisis.

“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks coming up,” Medrano said. “So, a lot of uncertainty with everyone.”

To combat some of the uncertainty, disinfecting is the name of the game at every store and business that remains open.

Peter Stein

The shelves for paper products at the United supermarket in Muleshoe was a familiar site to most area people, with toilet paper and water nowhere to be found.

“We’re doing as much as we can do to sanitize after every customer,” Roberts said. “We don’t touch customers themselves. As you can see we have hand sanitizer all the way down (the counter), trying to stay as clean as we possibly can, basically. It is what it is.”

Unfortunately, hoarding bathroom tissue has fallen into it-is-what-it-is territory.

“I think it’s kind of funny,” Danzeisen said. “And really, it just seems like there should be more things to worry about than toilet paper.”

There is indeed plenty to be concerned about until further notice. Until the curve is flattened and the virus cases start to diminish, until the lock-downs and the hoarding move into it-isn’t-what-it-is territory, the people of west Texas, like everywhere else in the country and the world, will keep doing what they can to get by.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Medrano said, “so I’m kind of taking it day by day.”


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