Day: September 7, 2020

OPINION: TAMIU rejects quarantine order

OPINION: TAMIU rejects quarantine order

Alejandro Carbajal | Bridge

By Alejandro Carbajal
Bridge Illustrator

Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

I think disregarding the concerns of health authorities during these trying times will only prolong the fire. This is the stench of greed over the well-being of students and staff.


City issues quarantine orders, not applicable to TAMIU

City issues quarantine orders, not applicable to TAMIU

By David Gomez Jr.

Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

Laredo Health Authority Dr. Victor Treviño laid down quarantine orders last week on two of TAMIU’s buildings only to later rescind those orders under state revocation.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Treviño had papers served to Texas A&M International University for a quarantine of the Academic Innovation Center and the Kinesiology, Wellness, & Recreation Center.

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge
Social distancing signs are placed all over campus, as seen Sept. 4.

“Under the orders issued by Governor [Greg] Abbott and other state law, the (Laredo health authority) does not have the legal power to issue quarantine orders to this University,” TAMIU President Pablo Arenaz wrote in an email on Sept. 2. “We have explained this to the LHA on multiple occasions, but they refused to recognize the limits on their authority and issued orders that are simply unlawful. As a result, a short while ago the Texas Department of State Health Services exercised its authority to revoke the orders issued by the LHA and eliminate the confusion unnecessarily created by the LHA.”

The City of Laredo powers provided to the health authority are simply to provide recommendations and guidance. This is not to be confused with the health director who runs operations and oversees public outreach and logistical response for the Laredo Health Department.

“This matter has been resolved,” TAMIU Director of Public Relations and Marketing Steve Harmon told The Bridge in an email. “As you may have heard, Dr. Treviño rescinded the quarantine notice, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the City of Laredo in our shared commitment to the health and safety of the University community and the community at large.”

Jessica Rodriguez | Bridge
Facial covering disclaimers are placed at each campus entrance, as seen Sept. 4.

The Texas Department of State Health Services sided with TAMIU to keep its doors open since the University followed state guidelines.

The University tested 681 people, Arenaz wrote in an email on Sept. 2. Twelve came back positive. Only one attended class in person. As of Sept. 4, the TAMIU COVID-19 web page reported the following stats: TAMIU on-campus testing — Total tested: 782. Positive: 14. Inconclusive: 7. Estimated recovered: 2. Positivity rate: 1.79%.

In his Sept. 2 email, Arenaz pointed to TAMIU’s low positivity rate of then 1.76% as proof that the quarantine orders were unnecessary.

Comparatively, as of Sept. 7, the City of Laredo reports on its website testing 139,235 times. There are currently 668 active case results from a total of 12,094 confirmed cases. Of the positive cases, 121 were hospitalized, 11,053 estimated recovered and 252 deceased.

Social distancing, face coverings, washing and sanitizing frequently are some of the tools and routines being used to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Harmon continued in the email, “We thank our TAMIU community for their partnership in this … observe all possible preventive actions. Remain diligent every day.” He added, “This disease plays no favorites, but these practices have been proven to minimize the spread of the virus.”

Harmon provided a list of the different measures staff have taken, such as free COVID-19 testing, campuswide cleaning, enhanced HVAC filtering, socially distanced classrooms and meeting spaces, along with utilizing the help of public health and nursing faculty.

As much as these preventive measures are practiced, many students expressed their opinions and concerns of Arenaz’s and the University’s handling of the quarantine notice by the city on the unofficial TAMIU Student Network page on Facebook.

Among the comments, worries of having a science lab class during these times is a risk some students felt unnecessary.

“I understand where they’re coming from, but they must understand that it is not my decision to have them come into lab,” faculty adjunct Chris Rosales said. “They must have patience with us instructors as we are learning and going through this together.”

To be certain, not all of the social media posts are written from a well-informed status.

“When actions are debated via social media it is most often without the benefit of the facts of the matter,” Harmon told The Bridge in an email. “Soon, one person’s opinion becomes the next person’s fact and a flawed narrative is built.”

Harmon also noted Arenaz’s dedication and commitment to making the semester work are his highest priorities. The president earned a doctorate in microbiology.

“Every day, he works with our partners, the city, system, state and federal, to make sure that this campus is as safe as humanly possible,” Harmon continued in the email. “His commitment is total.”

Harmon concluded, “Like any entity here or around the globe, it is unrealistic to expect the University will have zero incidences. What all can be assured of is that the University will always do its very best to reduce the likelihood of incidence.”

This is not the first time Treviño had a disagreement over pandemic policies regarding education. On July 9, he signed an order for local elementary and secondary schools to conduct classes virtually. In late July, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a guidance letter stating that local health authorities did not have the power to issue sweeping school closures to minimize infection rates.

“I think [Paxton] mentioned I can’t close the school due to prevention of illness. But this is not prevention, this is already an outbreak in the whole city. This has nothing to do with prevention,” he told The Laredo Morning Times regarding that earlier disagreement.

His contract with the City of Laredo, which began May 1, lasts through April 30, 2022.


OPINION: Perplexing pandemic times

OPINION: Perplexing pandemic times

By David Gomez Jr.
Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2020

So far as editor-in-chief for a second semester, it is already overwhelming but I cannot see anyone else doing what I do. I am sure anyone can do what I do, especially if they have organization skills–seriously.

Anyway, that was just me blowing off some steam, but blowing off steam can get people into strange situations or start something they never intended to start.

One of the things blowing up my realms of social media has been that Texas A&M International University and the City of Laredo are in some type of “battle.” This disagreement calls into question TAMIU choices regarding the pandemic. Leaving flex scheduling and both buildings, the Academic Innovation Center (that’s how you spell it, KGNS), and the Kinesiology, Wellness & Recreation Center, open for students and faculty. That quarantine order was later rescinded.

From what I read from a wide variety of local theories, reaching into the unknown, the reason for the initial quarantine order was because the previous Laredo Health Department director is now a consultant to TAMIU, or because the City of Laredo cannot force any of its orders onto TAMIU, or my favorite reach yet, because the University is being run by marionettes and is making administration and faculty its puppets with strings that stem all the way from College Station–reptiles in disguise is what I am getting at here. Hilarious stuff.

Then again, this might be the year where some believe such oddities. Students and everyday people are believing without seeing anymore. Twenty-twenty. 2020. The year that spawned bizarre theories out of boredom due to quarantine and overactive imaginations.

TAMIU is not safe from those same imaginations at all this year. I believe things will blow out of proportion a lot this semester and if things do not wind down, it’ll certainly flow into the spring.

I think this is all just people blowing off steam in the worst way.

Of course, it looks bad for our University to keep its doors open through a global pandemic but some of our international students might not have gotten enrolled if TAMIU went fully online (at least, that’s how it looked up until around July 14 when ICE and the Trump administration backed off of that international student requirement). Flex scheduling helps with situations like that, where funding may be dependent on face-to-face class offerings. We are an international university, after all.

This past summer, in July, new international students could take a full course load online without complications from U.S. Customs or the student’s respective embassy.

I’ve been here at TAMIU since 2006. There was that gap from 2012 to 2019 where I did leave, though. I believe I know already how this works, in a way. I was there for what my friends called “Swine 09” when the H1N1 epidemic occurred. It only lasted for a week but, even then, TAMIU knew to close its doors when things turned for the worse.

And currently, this pandemic, things are bad. Yet, we are living with it and adjusting to find some form of normalcy–even if that means going to a class face-to-face. You do not have to, but you can.

If someone tells you it is raining and someone else says it is not, you go to the window and check for yourself.

I am not saying I defend TAMIU’s rejection of the city order, but I understand why we students are making a big deal about this. We care so much for our school that we don’t want anyone here to contract the virus. TAMIU is home and we want to keep it as clean and safe as possible.

Here’s a shout out to the maintenance staff for doing the best they can with what they’ve got! Thank you for all your work.