Saturday, March 28, 2020

City Ramps Up Testing

The City of San Angelo reported 287 COVID-19 tests have been performed and that 3 positive cases have been identified to date.  The number rose from 108 and no positives on 3-21-20.

A high profile community leader estimated San Angelo had 600 coronavirus cases This was prior to the city announcing the first positive case on 3-24-20.  Without testing it is difficult to know the rate of spread.  Other communities have seen cases double in 3-4 days and go up an order of magnitude every two weeks (examples:10 to 100, 100 to 1,000, 1,000 to 10,000, 10,000 to 100,000). 

Yahoo Finance reported:

Philanthropist and billionaire Bill Gates believes that the best way to stop the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is to “quite dramatically” ramp up testing while keeping social distancing measures in place for six to ten weeks.

“We have to raise the level of testing and the prioritization of that testing quite dramatically ... so that we take the medical problem and really stop it before there's a large number of deaths.
Healthcare workers, especially those working with patients in the home, are flying blind at the moment.  Testing has increased in our community in the last week but it needs to increase dramatically for leaders and clinicians to understand the scope of the problem.  It will also help citizens make better decisions going forward.

God's peace, joy and strength be with us during this difficult time.

Update 3-29-20:  San Angelo has five total cases as two new cases of COVID-19, a young boy and man in his 30's, tested positive.  They are family of third case in Tom Green County, which resulted from community spread.  

Pandemic spread goes case, case, case, cluster, cluster, boom.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tom Green County has First COVID-19 Case

The City of San Angelo reported this morning:

The City of San Angelo Health Department has confirmed one positive case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Tom Green County. This is the first case to be confirmed in the area. 

The affected person is a male in his seventies who had traveled, officials stated. 
As of now citizens don't know where in Tom Green County he lives.  A press conference is scheduled for 3:30 pm today.  It's officially here, five days after City Council held an emergency meeting.

One high profile community leader said last week that San Angelo likely had 600 cases.  Testing will begin to reveal the extent of the coronavirus in our community.  God bless us all, especially the elderly and medically fragile.

Update 3-25-20:  The City reported a second positive case, a young man in his 20's who'd contacted someone else in the state with the disease.  He received a test at Shannon and it was positive.

Update 3-28-20:  The City reported a third possible case, a woman in her 30's with no identifiable contact with a known coronavirus patient.  San Angelo has community spread. San Angelo is at case, case, case.  Next up cluster, cluster, boom.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Conservative Senator, This Citizen and San Angelo Mayor Concerned about Coronavirus

The Republican Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said the following on February 27th in a meeting with supporters:

"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history.  It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."
The United States is about ten days behind Italy where coronavirus cases have overwhelmed hospitals and taken out healthcare professionals.  I had elective cancer surgery Monday at Shannon Medical Center.  Had I been in Washington state or New York City my procedure would've been cancelled.

The evening of my surgery Shannon reduced visitation to one family member.  They set up visitor screening at the front door, asking visitors to complete a COVID-19 screening.

While there I kept the door to hall closed.  Outside my room I could hear people coughing and wondered if that was a yet to be diagnosed person, patient or staff.  I needed to walk as part of my recovery and decided loops at my end of the hall would provide the best protection.

My goal was to get home as soon as possible and needed to complete a checklist to do so.  One of those was coughing.

During my two day hospital stay the world changed dramatically. Mayor Gunther and City Council went from addressing the potential outbreak in public comment on 3-17-20 to a full blown press conference on 3-19-20.   The City has links to substantial resources on its website.

The City is following CDC guidelines and recommendations.  Yes, that's the same CDC that botched testing, one of many key strategies required to control a pandemic.

San Angelo Live reported:

At the end of Friday, March 20, the City of San Angelo Heath Department reported:
  • 108 total tests taken
  • 16 negative tests
  • 92 tests are pending, awaiting the results from the lab
Today, a Shannon Medical Center spokeswoman said the labs are turning around the tests in about seven days.
On February 23rd, (nearly a month ago)

South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the "highest level" as confirmed case numbers keep rising.

President Moon Jae-in said the country faced "a grave turning point", and the next few days would be crucial in the battle to contain the outbreak. 
South Korea chose mass testing.  Our current seven day turnaround with 85% of test results not back falls well short of what is needed/required.

That means everyone has to do their part to protect themselves and their loved ones until the threat abates.  Listening to the call to help others during this time is encouraged.  Just do it safely.

May God's peace and love be upon you and remain with you.  In Christ's name we pray.  Amen

Monday, March 02, 2020

City Public Health Addresses Coronavirus Topic

KSAN interviewed Health Department Director Sandra Villareal.  In addition the city added information on the Coronavirus to the Health Services webpage.  This information was not available over the weekend.

A number of states experienced community spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.  Physicians estimate the virus has been in the United States for six weeks as travelers returned from areas that had coronavirus outbreaks.

San Angelo has Goodfellow Airforce Base which serves all branches of the military in its training mission.  Angelo State University has a large contingent of international students.

The Health Department did not mention testing or what to do if one has the symptoms listed.  It also did not mention what people without health resources should do if they get a respiratory illness.

The U.S. strategy has been light on testing, without which tried and true public health measures like contact tracing and isolation cannot be implemented.

The City of San Angelo finally said something about the pandemic coronavirus.  However, it did not rise to the level of a news story or press release.

Update 3-3-20:  One month ago a CDC representative said "The goal is to catch the majority of cases and slow the entry of the virus into the country. She added the public health system remains on high alert." As of this morning the CDC website states "CDC is remanufacturing the reagents with more robust quality control measures. New tests will be distributed once this issue has been addressed."  An ER physician offered advice for the public and stressed the role of local health departments.

Update 3-4-20:  The City published a news story about the coronavirus.  The piece stated "there are no cases of COVID-19 in the general population in San Angelo or Texas at this time."  It did not say if any testing of patients had been conducted.

Update 3-5-20:  The Trump coronavirus team refused to answer a question on uninsured people paying for the diagnostic test.  The Hill reported on the potential cost of the test. 

The Trump team will miss its promise to make 1 million tests available by the end of this week.  Bloomberg reported "The lack of testing kits for hospitals and health departments has created a gaping vulnerability in the U.S. effort to contain the virus."

San Angelo Live ran a story on Health Department preparations for the coronavirus coming to town.  Their piece did not address testing or what to do if one has the symptoms listed.  It also failed to advise people without health resources what they should do if they get a respiratory illness.  Three new cases of coronavirus arose in the Houston area from people who traveled overseas, at least one to Egypt.

Update 3-6-20:  Mayor Brenda Gunter put out an official communication on the city's preparedness for a possible coronavirus outbreak.  "Any positive case of coronavirus will be confirmed through the City Public Health Department and distributed to the public via the City Public Information office."  Health Department Director Sandra Villareal gave a coronavirus update to City Council during public comment on 3-3-20.  Council later approved a Hazard Mitigation Plan for the City and Tom Green County.  Council asked if it included pandemic.  A search of the document showed it lacked the words "pandemic" and "epidemic."

Update 3-11-20:  The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic.  Dr. Anthony Faucci told Congress "If we don’t do very serious mitigation now, what’s going to happen is that we’re going to be weeks behind, and the horse is going to be out of the barn, and that’s the reason why we’ve been saying, even in areas of the country, where there are no or few cases, we’ve got to change our behaviour. We have to essentially assume that we are going to get hit. And that’s why we talk about making mitigation and containment in a much more vigorous way."  In some parts of the U.S. we are already weeks behind.

How many contagious individuals traveled to San Angelo during this time?   The City's Health Services webpage added two CDC videos, one for elderly patients and another on how the disease is spread.

Update 3-13-20:   City Council's agenda for 3-17-20 has only one item on the regular agenda.  It is not the coronavirus, but a resolution for Republic Services to access tax exempt bonds through the State of Texas.  Of the nearly $500 million San Angelo's landfill would get $6.2 million for improvements.  There is no agenda item for the novel coronavirus.  One columnist wrote "So, to our elected officials: You have critical responsibilities to the country. It is essential that you trust the experts from CDC, the National Institutes of Health and local health departments. Make sure they have the funding they need to manage this crisis. Tell us the truth … this is a dangerous virus, not a hoax, and there is no magic bullet."

Update 3-14-20:  San Angelo Independent School District canceled classes through March 20th after the district became "aware of the self-reporting and self-quarantining of people in the community who traveled to areas of high exposure." Bell County confirms their first case of coronaavirus.  The person recently returned from a trip to Europe.  Austin has three cases of coronavirus, one a "transfer from a rural hospital in a different region" of the state.  Another recently traveled from Houston, which is believed to have community spread.  Yesterday Dallas County reported its ninth coronavirus case.  Fort Bend County also has nine cases.  Tyler has three cases while Gregg County has one.  As of yesterday Texas Tribune reported 50 cases in Texas and broke that number down by county.

Update 3-15-20:  Texas eliminated access to primary care as part of its public health responsibility in the early 2000's.   That was part of a U.S. wide dismantling of public health resources and capabilities.  "America has no real public health system – coronavirus has a clear run.  Local and state health departments are already bare bones, having lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials."

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Indian Company's Deal with PGAP Pipeline Owner at Risk

Tellurian's Permian Global Access Pipeline is part of a big vision, one dependent on tens of billions in financingImploding energy prices place that vision at risk.. 

Bloomberg reported:

An emerging U.S. natural gas developer, along with its $28 billion export project, has been rattled by the attempts of a potential major customer in India to probe the market for competing supplies, highlighting mounting pressure on sellers amid a global glut of the fuel.

India’s largest liquefied natural gas buyer, Petronet LNG Ltd., has started soliciting offers for supply under terms similar to a tentative agreement it signed with Tellurian Inc. last year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Petronet tender, combined with the lack of a deal announcement that was expected during President Donald Trump’s visit to India this week, adds to doubts that Tellurian will be able to secure a sizable anchor investment from Petronet for its Driftwood LNG project, according to Michael Webber, managing partner of Webber Research & Advisory LLC.

“It’s supportive of our overall skepticism of the deal,” he said.
No Driftwood LNG plant, likely no PGAP.

Tellurian Chairman Charif Souki said in late January that the company would finalize a deal with Petronet soon, and that it plans to make a final investment decision on the first phase of Driftwood in the “next couple of months” and break ground in the second quarter.
Stay tuned.

Update:   Reuter's reported "That agreement, worth about $2.5 billion, was expected to be finalized by March 31. Tellurian said the companies extended the deadline to May 31 to support Petronet's review process.  The Cowen analysts noted Tellurian had about $80 million in cash and about $88 million in debt due May 23, presenting a potential liquidity issue unless the company secures equity interest in Driftwood."

Update 2-29-20:   Tellurian's stock price dropped over 50% yesterday to $1.80.  In mid January the stock was around $9 per share in anticipation of the deal progressing.

Update 3-2-20:  Two Tellurian founders were forced to sell millions of shares of company stock on Friday as the stock plummeted.  The company issued a press release on how it intends to survive.

Update 3-3-20:   Bloomberg reported the riskiness of Tellurian's plans and recent moves raise "real access to capital concerns and liquidity concerns."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Council Renewed Gilbert Consulting Contract

City Council rehired Gilbert Consulting when it approved the Consent agenda yesterday.  No Council member asked how the arrangement had benefited the city.  City Clerk Julia Antilley's rationale for hiring Gilbert was the exactly same as a year ago.  There was no data showing the impact of Gilbert Consulting on any performance measure.

The City of San Angelo hired Judge Allen Gilbert as a consultant shortly after he retired as Municipal Judge.  City Council approved the initial hiring of Gilbert Consulting on March 5, 2019.

The initial recommendation arose from City Attorney Teresa James.  On February 19, 2019 City Council entertained "contract negotiations with court consultant" in Closed/Executive Session.  

It took but a City Clerk and City Attorney to recommend renewing a $60,000 annual contract.  Council failed to ask any questions.  No one asked staff how the transition had gone and if the city got value for its money.  Municipal Court reports directly to City Manager Daniel Valenzuela but his name has been conspicuously absent from all documents.

Update 2-23-20:  While Gilbert was still with Ener-tel the Development Corporation awarded the company $25,000 in BREP funding.  Judge Gilbert is no longer Consulting General Manager and President of Ener-tel Services.  Ener-tel continues to partner with Gilbert Consulting in "developing personalized security policies and procedures for your court." 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

San Angelo's Former Elected Police Chief Charged with Bribery

The Department of Justice press release stated:

Timothy Ray Vasquez, 49, was charged Wednesday with one count of receipt of a bribe by an agent of an organization receiving federal funds and three counts of honest services mail fraud.

“We must insist that law enforcement leaders personify integrity,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox. “Former Chief Vasquez abused his office for personal financial gain. We are determined to root out corruption wherever we find it. Public officials cannot be allowed to violate their sacred trusts.”

“The defendant manipulated a government procurement process to personally profit for years. This abuse of power affected a system that is supposed to be fair and unbiased,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office Matthew J. DeSarno. “Public corruption is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities. We will continue to hold elected officials accountable for violating the trust of their constituents.”

According to the indictment, Mr. Vasquez allegedly used his official position to help a radio system vendor land two government contracts worth more than $11 million. In return, the vendor and its affiliates allegedly funneled him and his band, “Funky Munky,” more than $130,000.
City records show Council's actions on the updated radio system in late 2014-mid 2015.

Vasquez presented the item alongside IT's Bucky Hasty to City Council on June 2, 2015 when Council approved over $5.7 million for the purchase of the P25 radio system upgrade.

The city did not bid the P25 radio system, a $6 million capital budget item.

The city did bid the CAD-Records Management-Mobile Computing system during the same time period.  The city later sued Spillman Technologies for $3.5 million for fraudulently representing the system's performance.

Vasquez' indictment noted his ill gotten gains as the initial radio system was wearing out:

By 2015, Mr. Vasquez and Funky Money had collected more than $84,000, including $38,200 the defendant deposited directly into his personal bank account and $29,800 he withdrew in cash.
To keep the cash train going Vasquez needed vendor Daily and Wells Communications Inc. to win the new contract.

In an email with city employees, Mr. Vasquez indicated he wanted to “use the same vendor” for the new equipment, and urged the City Manager to support Vendor 1. In another email with a city employee, he discussed an exemption from the competitive bidding process that would allow San Angelo to award the contract to Vendor 1.
Following a presentation made by then-Chief Vasquez and another employee, San Angelo awarded a new $5.7 million contract to Vendor 1 in June 2015. 
Council approved Chief Vasquez' recommendation on June 2, 2015.

In total, Mr. Vasquez and Funky Munky received at least $134,000 from Vendor 1 and its affiliates, including at least $88,200 he deposited into his personal bank account and $29,800 he withdrew in cash.
The public deserves information on how the former Police Chief manipulated a government procurement process to personally profit for years. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

PAWS Changing of Guard at ASAC

San Angelo's Animal Services Advisory Committee will continue to have two board members that work for adoption services/veterinary contractor Concho Valley PAWS.  PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson will no longer oversee herself as of the end of January 2020.  PAWS Assistant Director Jen Murphy will take over her boss' slot, providing public oversight to Mrs. Wilson, the person who conducts Murphy's performance evaluation.

The two PAWS board slots combined with two City staff slots gives this combination a majority vote on any ASAC agenda item.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden provides public oversight for herself.  Health Department Director Sandra Villareal fills the other staff ASAC board seat.  Villareal previously oversaw the Animal Shelter and once referred to following nuisance animal ordinances as "the red tape way."

Not mention in today's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting:  1)  Ordinance updates planned for November 2019 (but later cancelled) and 2) Draft adoption services/veterinary care RFP (with broadened scope of services and full fiduciary responsibilities).

PAWS Veterinarian and ASAC member Dr. Victor Schultze missed his third meeting in a row, which could trigger discussion of his removal if all were unexcused.

PAWS new building next to the Animal Shelter is underway.  There is no official opening date in any of the Standard Times or San Angelo Live news articles published to date.

Citizens who read the news were told not to take pets to the shelter in November 2019.  The articles did not come from the city's juggernaut Public Information Office and the city claimed to not know the source of the articles, which quoted PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson.  This was not the first time the city and PAWS were on different public relations pages.

Yesterday the Animal Services Advisory Board celebrated the reduction of animals taken into the shelter from October-December 2019 and corresponding declines in euthanasia.  Pets Alive policies constrain a citizen's ability to surrender their pet via managed intake and encourage managed intake of unowned pets.  In addition PAWS steered citizens away from the shelter with their "Shelter is Full" public relations campaign. 

The City of San Angelo does not allow a citizen to surrender their pet due to owner illness, health decline or death.  Moving out of town is not a reason that allows an owner to surrender their pet at the Animal Shelter.   The only two reasons a pet can be immediately surrendered at the shelter are aggression to humans residing in the home and natural disaster.

The City does not allow adopters to return their pet to the Animal Shelter under managed intake, instead steering them to pet rescues other than Concho Valley PAWS (the contracted adoption coordinator).  Area rescues have seen owner surrenders from Shelter adopters soar since the city began "managed intake."  Many of these surrenders have been unaltered, a violation of city ordinance.

PAWS Director Jenie Wilson told the ASAC in October 2019 she had compliance data on shelter pets meeting the spay/neuter ordinance but a December public information request had the city claiming no such document exists.  Standard contract language on the city's purchasing website addresses public information, ownership of documents and the city's right to ensure a contractor meets applicable regulations.  Apparently none of these terms apply to Concho Valley PAWS.

A PAWS for PAWS exchange is coming to the oversight board, courtesy of City Council.   It will occur this coming Tuesday.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

City Staff/Contractors Control Public Animal Services Board

The City of San Angelo updated its website for the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee (ASAC).  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden has the unique role of providing oversight to herself, as do PAWS Director Jenie Wilson and PAWS Veterinarian Dr. Victor Shultze.  PAWS is the shelter contractor for adoption and veterinary services.

City Health Director Sandra Villareal formerly oversaw the Animal Shelter.  Years ago she referred to the city following animal ordinances as the "red tape way."  The public board is made of a majority of city staff/contractors who have a pattern of hiding behind one another when asked for basic information about shelter operations (shelter compliance with state law and city ordinances).

PAWS Director Jenie Wilson stated she had compliance data in the September 2019 ASAC meeting but the city had no documents when asked to provide that information.  

The City of San Angelo frequently hides information behind attorney-client privilege, as it did on the appointment of Chegwidden to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.  It has asked the Attorney General to withhold an e-mail chain regarding the community cat program, citing attorney-client privilege.  Community Cats is a top four strategy for the shelter under Pets Alive, which encourages shelters to be completely transparent on their operations.  

Transparency is not the city's strong suit in the animal services arena.  City actions do not inspire public confidence that relationships are arm's length and actions are above board.

Update 1-16-20:  The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee met today.   Changes since last year, plus the shelter is full call out by Concho Valley PAWS, reduced intake over 10% for most of the last quarter.  Two of the three pets cited in the update were dogs and both made it back to the shelter since their highlighted adoption/reunion.  The third was a community kitten who grew into a cat.  After a year in the shelter he rules his old neighborhood.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden and PAWS Veterinarian Victor Schultze missed today's meeting.  This is the third ASAC meeting in row Dr. Schultze missed.

Update 1-17-20:  City staff nominated Assistant Director for Concho Valley PAWS Jen Murphy to the Animal Services Advisory Committee.   PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson's term ends 1-31-20.  I assume this will be a PAWS for PAWS substitution.