• April 2, 2020

Hays talks action, takes none and doesn’t answer most questions - Odessa American: Local News

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Hays talks action, takes none and doesn’t answer most questions

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Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 5:13 pm

Hays has not returned phone calls from the Odessa American for more than a week and dodged most coronavirus questions during the H-E-B event where she urged shoppers not to panic.

The 10 a.m. county commissioners meeting was closed to the public for social distancing, but live streamed its meeting on its website. She said after the commissioners meeting, she would be able to be reached.

When Hays was asked why the Odessa American had been trying to reach her since March 16, after she failed to return a scheduled phone interview she answered, “Has it just been a week?”

An H-E-B employee said their goal was to invite the media to help calm the public and said that the invitation for the media was to focus on H-E-B, the controlled entry, and social distancing and that they didn’t want to interrupt Hays’ focus on those topics.

Hays spoke about senior citizens saying that they get paid from Social Security.

“They get one paycheck and it has to stretch a month, well, we want them to know that they can come in the store and they don’t have to worry about not being able to get their items,” Hays said.

If Odessa Mayor David Turner were to order a shelter-in-place, then grocery stores would be an exception of that order, an H-E-B spokesperson said. Hays said Gov. Greg Abbott left the decision up to all 254 counties.

“I can understand why some of the cities and counties up and down the I-35 corridor have selected to do that. It is not something I am looking to do at all at this point,” she said. “Right now, Odessa has zero cases.”

Although she thought that Odessa would definitely get a positive case soon.

Hays said the emergency management team and the leaders of the community have been behind the scenes working frantically to make sure they have everything in place to be ready for when they get that first case.

Hays said that she trusts the community and the people that live in the county that they will abide by Abbott’s 10 rules, “We’re just gonna proceed in that fashion.”

Hays said that she came into the store Tuesday morning because she’s a hands-on person and said that, “There are items on the shelf. There’s toilet paper, there’s milk, there’s water, there’s produce. So, if everyone will just shop for themselves for a two- or three-day period and allow other people to come into our stores and shop, then I think it will help with the panic within our community.” Hays visited the restocked store before shoppers were allowed inside.

When the Odessa American asked what is the best way to reach her, Hays explained people must go through the city public information officer. The county has scheduled the PIO to send out press releases every 48 hours. The last press release, which was supposed to be sent on Friday afternoon didn’t come until Saturday afternoon.

“There has been conversation about, ‘I’ve called the Health Department and I can’t find anybody to answer my phone calls or my questions.’ There’s also been that comment with myself,” she said. “It’s not that we’re trying to avoid the media, or avoid the question, just what we’re trying to do. It’s like preparing for a tsunami. You know it’s coming and so our first concern is to make sure that we have the right key people in our community in the right positions and that is what we have been working on.”

When asked if there will be any changes to how information is dispersed to the public, Hays said that the county will still follow the press releases every 48 hours.

Jennifer Molina, 32, was one of the personal shoppers standing in line outside of H-E-B around 7:30 a.m. She said that she has been coming to stand in line for the last week at around 6:30 a.m. waiting for H-E-B to open at 8 a.m.

Molina said she works as a personal shopper and works for a company where customers place online orders. She shops for those customers and then delivers those orders to their homes. Molina explained that her orders have doubled in the last two weeks. She agreed that there are sufficient supplies in the stores and to not be panicked.

“But if you don’t get here at a certain time, then the stuff is gone,” she said, “because everybody gets here and takes all of it.”

Molina says she usually gets up around 6 a.m. in the morning and doesn’t get home until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. She said that there have been a lot of elderly people going to the stores early because they can’t get the stuff that they need.

“A lot of my customers are elderly and that way they don’t have to come out, so we take it to ‘em,” Molina said.

Molina said that she hasn’t seen any fights in the stores, but that sometimes someone talks to an employee like they’re not supposed to. She pointed down the line of people waiting outside.

“Everybody’s been really cordial,” she said. “We all talk to each other. We tell each other our stories and stuff, so it’s not been bad.”

Molina started working as a personal shopper about a year ago and she said it was a lot easier then because when stores opened at 6 a.m., she could get her orders and go home. Now she has to go to the store an hour and a half early just to get in line to go shopping for her customers.

Shoppers behind Molina said that she taught them the ropes and how to shop more efficiently.

 “I had to tell them the aisles that everything was on,” she said.

She knows how many people will be let in, when shoppers will get let in and the entrances and exits. “So if you need to know what aisle something is on, just let me know and I’ll tell ya. “

Molina said she wishes people would calm down and if they did for a week, everything would be back to normal and people wouldn’t have to stand in line. Molina said the problem is that people are taking everything before H-E-B can get another truck in and that people are taking too much.

 “Now everybody’s just trying to get a few small things,” she said, but that last week she was seeing people pulling two or three carts.

“They had, you know, a husband, a wife, and a kid pulling three carts that were completely full. So it was crazy.”

She looked at the line of people standing behind her and said she was surprised there weren’t more and that on Sunday morning there was roughly 100 people lined up to shop.

Odessa, TX

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