Texas agencies alter operations to support state’s coronavirus response


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — At least one Texas agency is diverting some of its employees from their regular duties to support the state’s coronavirus response.

At the direction of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, some of his inspectors are delivering supplies to first-responders and healthcare workers at rural hospitals, local governments and emergency management departments.

Texas Department of Agriculture Inspector Joe Finley is seen loading supplies into a TDA vehicle in Amarillo for delivery to assist in the state’s response to the novel coronavirus. (Photo: Texas Department of Agriculture)

“We have kind of changed our role and we are pitching in and making sure that the masks get out, and the gloves and the gowns and the face shield to (where) those people in the critical needs are,” Miller said.

“Normally we would be inspecting eggs and green houses and scales and pesticide applicators, and all kinds of stuff like that,” Miller said.

“But, right now we told them to stay out of the grocery stores, we don’t need the price checks or price verifications, but we do need help delivering these personal protective equipment to the people who need it,” Miller added. “So that’s what we’re doing.”

In a follow-up to Miller’s office about if the agency helping the coronavirus cause has decreased regular inspections, he issued a statement.

“The safety of our staff members and Texas farmers and ranchers is a top priority at the TDA right now. Some producers have requested to cancel or reschedule inspections due to the concerns of COVID-19 and we have honored those requests but for the most part, TDA has continued business as usual,” Miller wrote.

“All TDA inspectors are cross trained, so although they may have faced some limitations our inspectors have still been able to perform at a high level,” he continued. “The agriculture industry is listed as an essential service by the federal government and because of that TDA will continue to perform essential services to keep Texans safe.”

Other state agencies, like the General Land Office, have communicated with the Texas Division of Emergency Management on what resources they can assist with. A GLO spokesperson said the agency offered fleet vehicles up for delivering supplies and notified state emergency management officials of how many vehicle and personnel they have available.

In a March 6 interview about the state’s coronavirus response, Chief Nim Kidd, who heads the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said TDEM has procedures in place to ensure agencies have the resources they need to operate.

“Life safety will always be our number one priority,” Kidd said. “And it really doesn’t matter what the cause or threat to that life safety is. We will adjust our mission as necessary.”

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