Menton, Texas – Zoom Glowing red map In the United States you can see the rising number of corona virus cases on the continent and a district that has been saved for months. It was the only one from beach to beach.
Loving County, in the shady plains of oil-rich western Texas, has not recorded a single positive case of the corona virus, as a detached house stands perfectly after a hurricane has leveled a city.
This is something that people in the county are proud of. They talked about it. They lived accordingly.
“You can take it off!” Chuck Flush told a spectator with a mask on the window of his food truck as a pair of blank-faced field workers grind. “We have no virus.”
Only if it is true.
Although never included in the county’s official reports, at least one positive test for the corona virus was recorded at a local health clinic in Menton, the county’s only summer, a clinic worker said.
Then on Tuesday, state officials said it was unavoidable for the first time. Positive tests for corona virus in Loving County. Three of them.
It can now be said that the corona virus has officially infected every corner of the American landscape.
The sudden addition of confirmed cases – the New York Times focused on at least one positive case published online after an article – could not be immediately explained by district officials.
“This is news to me,” said county attorney Steve Simonson. “I wonder if they count the people you speak to and the two residents who have it.”
A positive case that has not been reported before is that a person in this part of Texas called everyone a “human camp” – temporary housing for temporary oil and gas field workers – near the city center when he fell ill. But Loving County did not report the case at the time because he was not a permanent resident and quickly moved home.
Ten months later The first infection was recorded in the United States, The corona virus has entered every corner of the country. More than 11 million people have been tested for the virus that causes Covit-19, and more than 164,000 new cases were reported on Monday alone.
Even rural areas that initially escaped the impact of the epidemic have become serious centers of new epidemics. In recent months, the number of small, remote districts, including Loving County, has been declining, making it the only place on the American continent where there have been no positive events. (Kalawau County in Hawaii has a smaller population than Loving County, with no known cases reported.)
One by one, each began to record infections. Esmeralda County, Nevada Its first case was announced last week. Then came Loving County.
Full-time residents of Loving County – the smallest population in the U.S., no more than 169 of the 669 square miles of sand, mesquite and greasewood – add pride to their comparative viral success over land and population decline. They make fun of the fact that they were socially distant before it got cold.
“This is a desert city. That’s it, ”said the county attorney. Simonson said. “We are not talking about how many cows to run per acre, it is how many cows per section. An area of 640 acres. ”
But despite the wide-open space, the county is busy. The census estimates the number of residents as 10 times the number of workers in the county. Trucks towing equipment for oil fields or large boxes of sand to scream through the city in a large, quiet stream. Plastic trash and discarded truck tire bits litter the roadside.
At night as one runs through the district, the lights of oil and gas operations shine brightly across the landscape, never reaching the distant city of Mirasi. “You’re at the top of that mountain, and it looks like you’re driving into Dallas or Fordworth,” he said. Simonson said.
Men – and mostly men who work in Loving County – mix in and out of the same store for miles, and the line for a relatively new convenience store, beer and single-course meal can be extended to the rear refrigerator in a 5 hour rush hour.
“Bedrooms coming soon”, featuring an all-cap banner hanging outside. On a recent weekend evening, a shopkeeper was wearing a cowboy hat. There were more in the mesh trucker hats. Nothing in the masks. There are no writers. The county is Exemption from Statewide Order.
But even though the virus is not on the mind in Loving County, it has changed lives here.
The epidemic caused the fall in oil prices, thus reducing the number of workers in the city. Man camps were low. Hotel rooms that used to cost $ 350 a night in the nearby big city of Pecos a few months ago now cost a third of the price.
“A lot of things have been shut down because of the epidemic,” said 38-year-old Ricardo Callen, who works at a distribution company that has dropped from 50 employees to 12.
Mr. of Eagle Pass, near the Texas border with Mexico. Callen said he usually works about 12 days and then gets four days off. He thought he was lucky to be only five hours away from his family. Some workers come from Utah or Louisiana.
While in Loving County, Mr. Callen lived in a human camp on his company property and shared a small living space with another worker. He said the workers there adhered to social distance. “In our yard, no one from the temple has been sick,” he said.
But he said no one would be tested if there were no symptoms. “They will not only test you, they will test you,” he said. Callan said. For that the workers have to go to big cities like Odessa or the Midlands.
Anthony Luke, 28, a paramedic there, says a private health clinic offers corona virus tests and performs up to 20 per week. Mr. Luke, like most workers in the county, lives in a trailer – he is attached to the clinic – and is at home for two weeks between leisure time in Lubbock.
While he was there, he became aware of two positive tests for the corona virus: in August, he was involved in a human camp near the center of Menton, and another was taken at a work site outside Loving County.
The August case raised the alarm in county court because clerks and other district workers often go to camp for free lunch on weekdays.
Angela Medlin, 31, an assistant county clerk who immigrated to Menton last year with her husband and four children, said: “We are very aware of something like this happening here. “I know of one boy who was sick, but where did they take him,” he said, recalling the situation over the summer.
In the city, residents draw a bright line between themselves and the visiting workers. Full-time county residents treat each other like members of an extended family bubble.
In the courthouse, a square brick building from 1935, the doors are now locked to outsiders, and the county staff are not wearing masks. When someone comes to visit, like A landowner looking at new oil or gas leases, The person must make an appointment and wear a mask.
A Halloween party for kids in the city attracted about 60 people and included temperature checks at the door. People felt comfortable without wearing a mask.
But there are few such meetings in Menton where the history of oil spills and explosions can be read in empty rusty storage tanks, hollow corrugated houses and cracks in the same school that have not been used for decades.
“When we got here, ‘Punk, how long are we going to live in this divine place?’ ‘I asked.
There were rattlesnakes in the yard of their first house, she remembered, and again a toilet. They had five children, moved to a larger house, accumulated acres upon acres of land, never left.
Mr. Jones, known to all by his childhood nickname, became a sheriff from the oil fields for nearly three decades. “He was known to be the only sheriff in Texas. You can pick up the stock and leave it,” Ms Jones said.
Their children went to local school until the sixth grade. But it ran low for students and then closed. The children now travel by bus to the next district east at 6 p.m.
Many members of the Jones family stayed in Loving County. A son, Skeet Jones, best district administrator. His sister is a county clerk. Mr. Simonson, the district attorney, was married into the family.
“He spent more time here than he did at home, so we decided to take action,” said Mr. Cunningham, a lawyer who last lived in Houston. Simonson said of his wife. “I know there’s not a lawyer in town, so.”
For Leroy Medlin, 33, moving to Loving County is a dream come true. For Angela, his wife, had to be sure.
“She threw an idea about it,” he said, sitting in an evil renovation in his hall far from the city, with a cowboy hat on a table by his side.
Mr. Medlin, fired from San Antonio police detective mission For lying to justify car intentions He later lost his job in the city as deputy sheriff, and Jones works as a cowboy on the family farm.
“I want to go back in time. That’s why I’m here,” he said.
Some residents said they were aware of cases of corona virus in the county, but because they were limited to visiting workers, the county had long considered itself virus-free – if at all.
At the local clinic, Mr. According to Luke, most of the tests conducted in the county involved oil and gas field workers. State Health Department spokeswoman Laura Anton said they will be registered at staff residences, not in Loving County.
But even before Tuesday’s news, Loving County residents admitted that their valid record was no longer valid.
“We say the only place in the United States where there has never been a Govt case, and I don’t think that’s true,” Mr. Simonson said. “It’s a little bit of hype, but of course it was here.”
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