Churches in El Paso adapt to coronavirus challenges to keep serving community

El Paso – Churches across El Paso have had to adapt and become creative during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing prayer assistance on the phone, food drives and online religious services. Mayor Dee Margo announced a “Stay Home, Work Safe” order on March 24th requiring residents to only venture out for essential tasks including grocery shopping, a medical emergency and caring for family. “You know we always say in the Catholic faith that the church isn’t the building but the church is all of us together. We are all the church and if we can’t come together, we can’t come together as church,” said Fernie Ceniceros, the Public Information communications director for the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. “We wanted to make it clear to our people that that just because we’ve suspended or we’ve not allowed people to come to the public celebration of Mass – like most other diocese’s in the country – we wanted people to know that we we are celebrating Mass that’s something that’s that we felt was very critical” Ceniceros said.

Un trabajador agrícola mantiene el campo limpio de hierbas con el tractor donde se cosecha la fresa en Oxnard, California. (Photo: Martha Ramírez/El Nuevo Sol)

Coronavirus threatening seasonal farmworkers at the heart of the American food supply

By Michael Haedicke, Drake University

Many Americans may find bare grocery store shelves the most worrying sign of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their food system. But, for the most part, shortages of shelf-stable items like pasta, canned beans and peanut butter are temporary because the U.S. continues to produce enough food to meet demand – even if it sometimes takes a day or two to catch up. To keep up that pace, the food system depends on several million seasonal agricultural workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other countries. These laborers pick grapes in California, tend dairy cows in Wisconsin and rake blueberries in Maine. As a sociologist who studies agricultural issues, including farm labor, I believe that these workers face particular risks during the current pandemic that, if unaddressed, threaten keeping those grocery store shelves well stocked.

Social distancing to slow coronavirus is hard for a border culture used to hugging, togetherness

The Trejo family has been careful about handwashing and using hand-sanitizer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but when it came time to part ways near the Paso del Norte international bridge, they hugged each other. “As we were hugging, I thought, ‘Oh no, we should have given each other a little elbow tap,’” said Blanca Trejo, the 65-year-old grandmother and matriarch of the family. Her 15-year-old granddaughter Ruby Lerma Trejo said she tried not to hug too tightly but said of keeping her distance with family, “oh that’s hard.”  Her grandmother, aunt and young cousins were headed back to Ciudad Juárez. She and her mother and sisters were going back to Horizon City. The Trejo family said goodbye after a recent visit as part of the family headed to Horizon City and the rest stayed in Ciudad Juárez.

Blacks, Latinos still facing barriers to accessing formal mental health support

African Americans and Latinos face barriers that prevent many from seeking mental health treatment and often rely on more informal networks for support. “The number one barrier I would say centers around the stigma of mental health,” said Dr. Patrie Williams, a clinical psychologist with the El Paso Veteran’s Affairs healthcare system. “I think it’s both historically and culturally.” Instead of seeking professional help some African Americans and Latinos look elsewhere for counseling. “Therapists were not always people who had degrees.

Fathers need to care for themselves as well as their kids – but often don’t

By Derek M. Griffith, Vanderbilt University and Elizabeth C. Stewart, Vanderbilt University

If you had to choose, which would you rather have: a healthy father or a good father? Studies suggest men often choose being a good father over being healthy. Becoming a father is a major milestone in the life of a man, often shifting the way he thinks from being “me focused” to “we focused.” But fatherhood can also shift how men perceive their health. Our research has found that fathers can view health not in terms of going to the doctor or eating vegetables but how they hold a job, provide for their family, protect and teach their children, and belong to a community or social network. As founder and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt University and as a postdoctoral fellow from Meharry Medical College, we study why men live shorter lives than women, male attitudes about fatherhood, how to help men engage in healthier behavior – as well as what can be done to reduce men’s risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Today’s border reality: River hazards, refugee child trauma; an end to migrating wildlife

There are many perils for humans and wildlife crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, from the hazards of navigating challenging terrain to the trauma of being detained by law enforcement. As tensions rise with each newly erected section of border wall, the impact of hardline policies can be seen taking a toll on the mental, physical, and environmental health of the borderland. Rising waters threaten migrants crossing Rio Grande

Risks to migrants crossing into the U.S. near El Paso have increased with the annual release of Rio Grande water from upriver in New Mexico. The release replenishes the borderlands and allows its farmers to irrigate, but the surge of water and migrants is a potentially deadly combination. Migrants who bypass barriers at U.S. ports of entry to seek asylum by crossing the Rio Grande risk drowning in the high water of the borderland canals.

If my measles shot was years ago, am I still protected? 5 questions answered

By Eyal Amiel, University of Vermont

As the measles outbreaks spread, many people are growing concerned. New York City declared a public health emergency and mandated vaccinations in four ZIP codes where vaccination rates have been low. A Israeli flight attendant is in a coma from being infected with the highly contagious disease. As a professor who teaches courses in immunology, microbiology and vaccine public policy, I research the fundamental processes of how our bodies respond to infections and vaccines to generate protective immunity. In my teaching, I work with students to develop an understanding of the complexity of these issues and encourage them to engage in the public discourse on these topics from balanced and informed perspective.

HIV clinic gives patients hope through prevention

El Pasoan Ventura Villasenor grew up in the aftermath of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s where he lost friends and family members due to HIV complications, but there are now a preventive treatments that give people a chance they didn’t have when the crisis began. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the gay community, in reality, for anybody who is at high risk of becoming HIV-positive to take advantage of the clinic, of the features that they offer, because they do not only offer HIV testing, they do all types of screenings,” said Villasenor, 39. A clinic to treat and prevent HIV opened on El Paso’s East Side by Centro San Vicente in the summer of 2018. Villasenor is a patient at the clinic. El Paso is among the Top 10 counties with HIV cases, according to the Texas HIV Surveillance annual report.

High rates of dementia in Latino communities show importance of early diagnosis, support

El Paso has a significantly higher rate of Alzheimer’s diagnosis’ than the national average, and Latinos in general have higher rates of risk factors for the disease. Yet limited access to prevention services and medical care may make Borderlanders more likely to delay treatment and receive inadequate health care treatment for dementia issues. In 2015, according the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 12.4% of El Paso county residents over the age of 65 had some form of dementia. Hispanics in general are 1.5 times more likely to contract Alzheimers than non-Hispanic whites, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This might be connected to Hispanics having higher rates of risk factors such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular risk, according to a 2016 report by the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging.