The County With No Coronavirus Cases (and Plenty of Suspicion)

first_imgSome residents said they knew about cases of the coronavirus in the county, but because they were limited to visiting workers, the county still considers itself to be virus free — if on a technicality. Mr. Galan, from Eagle Pass near Texas’ border with Mexico, said he usually spent about 12 days working and then got four days off. He counted himself lucky to be only five hours away from his family. Some workers come from much further, like Utah or Louisiana.While in Loving County, Mr. Galan lived in a man camp on his company’s property, sharing a small living space with another worker. He said the workers there practiced social distancing. “On our yard, nobody’s gotten sick from Covid,” he said.But, he added, no one was being tested unless they had symptoms. “They don’t test you just to test you,” Mr. Galan said. For that, workers must travel to larger cities like Odessa or Midland. Though never included in the county’s official reports, at least one positive test for the coronavirus was recorded over the summer at a local health clinic in Mentone, the county’s only town, according to a worker at the clinic. It is something that people in the county are proud of. They talk about it. They live by it.“You can take that off!” Chuck Flushe told a visitor in a face mask at the window of his food truck as a pair of barefaced oil field workers milled about. “We don’t have the virus here.”If only it were true.- Advertisement – There were rattlesnakes in the yard of their first home, she remembered, and a toilet out back. They had five children, moved to a bigger house, accumulated acre upon acre of land and never left.Mr. Jones, known to all by his childhood nickname, went from the oil fields to become sheriff for nearly three decades. “He was known as the only sheriff in Texas you could call Punk and get away with it,” Mrs. Jones said.Their children went to the local schoolhouse until the sixth grade. But it ran short of students, and then closed. Children now ride a bus at 6 a.m. to the next county east. Those who live in Loving County full-time — the U.S. mainland’s smallest population, with no more than 169 people stretched across 669 square miles of sand, mesquite and greasewood — credit their relative antiviral success to the landscape and the sparseness of the population. They joke that they were socially distant before it was cool.“It’s a desert town. That’s what it is,” said Steve Simonsen, the county attorney. “We don’t speak in terms of running how many cows per acre, it’s how many cows per section. A section is 640 acres.”But despite the wide-open space, the county is busy. The census counts 10 times the number of workers in the county as residents. Trucks hauling equipment for the oil fields or big boxes of sand for fracking groan through town in a constant, noisy stream. Plastic trash and bits of blown truck tire litter the roadside.When one drives through the county at night, lights from the oil and gas operations flicker brightly across the landscape, creating the mirage of a distant city that can never quite be reached. “You top that hill and it looks like you’re driving into Dallas or Fort Worth,” Mr. Simonsen said.Men — and it is mostly men who work in Loving County — shuffle in and out of the only shop for miles, a relatively new convenience store where the line for beer and single-serving meals can stretch to the rear refrigerators during the 5 p.m. rush.“Restrooms Coming Soon,” boasts an all-caps banner hanging outside. On a recent weekday evening, one shopper wore a cowboy hat. More had on mesh trucker caps. None were in masks. Neither were the clerks. The county is exempt from a statewide mandate. Now even rural areas, which escaped the brunt of the pandemic early on, have become serious centers of new infections. In recent months, a diminishing number of small, remote counties, including Loving County, remained the only places in the continental United States with no positive cases.One by one, each has begun to record infections. The last besides Loving County to officially fall was Esmeralda County in Nevada, which reported its first case last week. (Kalawao County in Hawaii, which has even fewer people than Loving County, also has reported no known cases.) Most tests conducted in the county have involved oil and gas field workers, according to Mr. Luk, at the local clinic. And those would be recorded in the employees’ county of residence, not in Loving County, said Lara Anton, a state Health Department spokeswoman.Were any permanent residents infected? Officially, that is still a no.But Loving County residents concede that their perfect record is probably no longer perfect.“To say that we’re the only place in the United States that’s never had a Covid case, I don’t think that’s true,” Mr. Simonsen said. “It’s a nice little bit of hype, but certainly it’s been here.” A private health clinic offers coronavirus tests and performs around 20 per week, according to Anthony Luk, 28, a paramedic there. Mr. Luk, like most workers in the county, lives in a trailer — his is attached to the clinic — and stays for two-week stints between periods of rest at home in Lubbock.During his time there, he said, the clinic has had two positive tests for the coronavirus: in August, involving the man camp near the center of Mentone, and another taken at a job site outside of Loving County.The August case raised alarm at the county courthouse because clerks and other county workers often go to the camp for free lunch on workdays.“We’re made very known when something like that happens here,” said Angela Medlin, 31, a deputy county clerk who moved with her husband and four children to Mentone last year. “I know of at least one guy who was sick, but they took him back to where he’s from,” she said, recalling the situation over the summer.In town, residents draw a bright line between themselves and the visiting workers. Those who live in the county full-time treat one another like members of an extended family bubble.At the courthouse, a square brick building from 1935, the doors are now locked to outsiders and the county employees do not wear masks. When someone comes to visit, like a landman looking into new oil or gas leases, the person must have an appointment and wear a mask.A Halloween party for the children in town attracted about 60 people and included temperature checks at the door. People felt comfortable not wearing masks. MENTONE, Texas — Zoom in on the glowing red map of ever-escalating coronavirus cases in the continental United States and you will find one county that has been spared. Only one, from coast to coast.Like a lone house standing after a tornado has leveled a town, Loving County, in the shadeless dun plains of oil-rich West Texas, has yet to record a single positive case of the coronavirus.- Advertisement – But there are few such gatherings in Mentone, where the county’s history of oil booms and busts can be read in hollow rusting storage tanks, empty corrugated homes and the cracked plaster of the only schoolhouse, unused for decades.“When we got here, I said, ‘Punk, how long are we going to live in this godforsaken place?’” recalled Mary Belle Jones, 89, who moved to Loving County in 1953 with her husband, Elgin Jones. But even if the virus is not front of mind in Loving County, it has changed life here.The pandemic caused a downturn as oil prices dropped, reducing the number of workers in town. The man camps were less full. Hotel rooms that just months ago cost $350 a night in Pecos, the nearest large town, were now going for a third of the price.“With the pandemic, a lot of stuff shut down,” said Ricardo Galan, 38, who works for a supply company that he said had dropped from 50 employees to 12. The man lived at what everyone in this part of Texas calls a “man camp” — temporary housing for transient oil and gas field workers — near the center of town when he became sick. But since he was not a permanent resident, and was quickly shuttled home, Loving County never reported the case. Its record remained intact.Ten months after the first infection was recorded in the United States, the coronavirus has made its way into every corner of the country. More than 11 million people have tested positive for the virus, which causes Covid-19, with more than 164,000 new cases emerging on Monday alone.- Advertisement – Several members of the Jones family stayed in Loving County. One son, Skeet Jones, is the top county executive. His sister is the county clerk. Mr. Simonsen, the county attorney, married into the family.“She was spending more time here than she was at home so we decided to make the move,” Mr. Simonsen, a lawyer who last lived in Houston, said of his wife. “I knew there wasn’t a lawyer here in town, so.”For Leroy Medlin, 33, moving to Loving County was the fulfillment of a dream. Not so for Angela, his wife, who had to be convinced.“She was throwing a fit at just the idea of it,” he said, seated in a wicker recliner on his porch at the far edge of town, a cowboy hat on a table at his side.Mr. Medlin, who was fired from his job as a San Antonio police detective for lying to justify car pursuits and later lost his job in town as a deputy sheriff, works as a cowboy on the Jones family ranch.“I kind of like to go back in time. That’s why I’m out here,” he said. – Advertisement –last_img read more

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The Scope of Dredging in Russia Expected to Grow

first_imgThe scope of dredging and hydraulic engineering works in Russia is expected to grow this year, informs the maritime industry media group PortNews.A series of 20 dredgers is to be built for operations on inland waterways with Damen sharing its innovative technologies with the industry.Those and other topics were in the spotlight of the 3rd International Congress “Hydraulic Engineering Structures and Dredging”.When speaking at the Congress, Andrey Lavrishchev, General Director of FSUE Rosmorport, said that the scope of dredging planned by FSUE Rosmorport for 2020 is to total 18.4 million cbm.According to him, 8.6 million cbm of material is to be dredged under maintenance projects with 9.83 million cbm to be dredged under new projects.The scope of dredging to be performed by Rosmorport’s own facilities is estimated at 7 million cbm, which is similar to the volumes of the previous year.To read the full story, please click here.last_img read more

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Lacrosse travels north for conference series

first_imgJunior attacker Izzy McMahon moves around a Hofstra defender at McAlister Field Feb. 9. (Michelle Mankoff/Daily Trojan) There is no individual Trojan in the top 100 rankings of goals per game, showing that they boast a well-balanced attack in the game with an offense that can dominate in many ways. After facing Cal on Saturday, USC will travel to face the Cardinal on Monday. Stanford is coming off wins over Oregon and Cal after suffering an upset loss to No. 23 Colorado at home. This season five Golden Bears are in double-digit goals, led by senior attacker Kirsten Swanson and senior midfielder Eliza Christman, each boasting 20 goals.   At the midway point of the lacrosse season, the No. 13 Trojans look poised to make a late season run for the conference title and national championship.   “Our team plays to win, yet no win is achievable without trust in one another on both ends of the ball,” Miller said. No team in the NCAA has more players scoring double-digit goals than USC with its seven players. The Trojans also have eight players in double-digit points (goals and assists), tied for most in the NCAA. With an intense set of matches this weekend, the Trojans hope not to repeat that feeling and that their hard work from these past few weeks reflects their performance this weekend against Cal Saturday at noon and Stanford Monday at 4 p.m. Senior defender Jackie Gilbert pushes her way through two Hofstra defenders in USC’s home opener at McAlister Field Feb. 9. (Michelle Mankoff/Daily Trojan) The Trojans have had a successful record against the Golden Bears, with their last game ending in favor of the Trojans, 17-3. That victory has brought USC’s overall record against Cal to a six-game win streak, four of which are double-digit victories for USC. “After the NCAA selection show last year, we all sat in a room upset after not [hearing] USC called,” Stallings said. This weekend match against Cal will mark the 10th regular season match for USC. Last week, No. 23 Colorado and No. 19 Stanford snapped the Golden Bears’ four-game win streak. Last year, USC split games with Oregon, winning the first matchup 9-8 in overtime and losing the second 11-18. On Sunday, the Trojans blew the Ducks out 14-5. USC put up five goals in the first seven minutes, never allowing the game to get close. The Cardinal are the fourth ranked opponent the Trojans have faced this season. USC currently owns 17 all-time wins over ranked foes (17-27) with an all-time meeting record of 5-6 against the Cardinals. This year’s team is much improved from the 2018 team that lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship and missed the NCAA championship. The 2019 team is balanced offensively and defensively, ranking No. 21 in scoring offense and No. 19 in scoring defense. “One of our main goals this year is to take each day at a time,” sophomore midfielder Emily Stallings said. “We have to focus on ourselves every practice and not who we play that weekend. We also have aspirations to win the Pac-12 and make it to the NCAA tournament.” USC is currently ranked No. 20 in the IWLCA coaches poll and has held a ranking on the poll for 47 consecutive weeks. It will look stay on the polls this weekend as it takes on familiar foes No. 19 Stanford and Cal. Junior Kerrigan Miller, the reigning Pac-12 midfielder of the year who led the team in scoring last year, currently ranks seventh on the team in scoring. She still leads the team in caused turnovers and ground balls and is second in draw controls. Her ability to play a role as offensive facilitator without being the leading scorer shows the completeness of this USC team. Past matches against the Cardinal have not always ended in favor of the Trojans, especially last season, when their devastating loss cost a chance to compete in the final NCAA tournament. last_img read more

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Mason City’s Parks & Recreation Department finally has permanent home

first_imgMASON CITY — While most of the news surrounding the new multi-purpose center in downtown Mason City has dealt specifically with the opening of the arena, another milestone was reached today. The city’s Parks & Recreation Department opened their new office in the same wing of Southbridge Mall where the arena is located. Recreation Superintendent Brian Pauly says it’s nice for the department to finally have a permanent home after decades of being moved around different places throughout the city.  “Even before my time, we took abandoned schools, abandoned buildings, there are stories of the Rec Department actually being able to communicate in a two-story building because there’s holes in the floor. For us to actually hunker down in a permanent location for the next 40 years is outstanding, and to be part of the actual Renaissance project and the big movement of downtown is even greater to be part of this positive momentum that’s continuing to happen with the mall.” Pauly says having three program rooms solely designated for activities in the new office will continue the positive momentum of the department.  “The real nice thing is that we actually have designated programming rooms and meeting rooms. In the past, we’ve been kind of limited. If we run our summer camp program out of our office, which we have quite a bit for the last I think eight years, it kind of handcuffs us. If we want to run our child care program but then also do like a STEM camp with 4-H or Iowa State Extension or whatever, we can do it. If we want to hold a coaches meeting and a park board meeting on the same night in our office, we can actually do that, the other places, we would have no capability of doing that.” Pauly says having the office in a visible spot right outside the mall-side entrance to the arena is a big thing.  “People are  walking past us every time they come in through the mall entrance to the arena. Word of mouth and foot traffic is the best marketing you can even have, so just having a 2000-seat arena right next to us, and it can seat up to 4200 for concerts, we’re going to be seeing those people.”Pauly says it’s been great to solidify some partnerships in the community with the move next to the arena.  “We do a lot of community outreach and partnerships through our department, and just being connected with the arena has actually strengthened even more partnerships with this move, with our local businesses from Pretzelmaker and The Sports Page, all the way to getting strong ties with the North Iowa Bulls, the Figure Skaters and Mason City Youth Hockey.”Over the last three decades, the Parks & Recreation office has been several locations, including the old Garfield Elementary school site, Mohawk Square, the former Washington Elementary school building, and most recently next to the Mason City Senior Center in the 300 block of 4th Northeast.last_img read more

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