As you read this, all of us here at El Paso Inc. are on the final day of holiday after shutting down on Christmas. On Monday, it’s back to work.
But as I write this, five frontline health care workers at University Medical Center of El Paso are receiving five of the first 2,900 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to arrive in the Sun City.
Given the unrelenting pace of the news cycle these days, as you read this three weeks from now, I’m sure it’s old news. But it’s worth taking a moment to revisit the moment – a triumph of scientific ingenuity and human organization, and a good ending to a bad year.
There was the staging – a single stool in front of a backdrop where the first vaccines were given for the cameras. But what impacted me was the genuine look on each of the faces of the health care workers in some of the photos, a look that couldn’t be hidden behind the surgical masks they wore.
It was the look of someone who has been through hell but sees a small light at the end of the tunnel and dares, for a moment, to indulge in hope. The atmosphere was celebratory.
There’s still a long, tough road ahead, but it’s worth celebrating the victories when they happen.
I’ve been rereading T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” during the pandemic. (Pretentious, I know.) I don’t pretend to understand it, but while finishing this column I thought of a few lines.
“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time. / Through the unknown, remembered gate.”
I don’t know why but that seems to sum up the feeling as we head into 2021.
To make it possible for us to all have a break, we produce two issues the week before we shut down. The first, which announced the El Pasoans of the Year and Community Spirit Award, you received last weekend, and you hold the second in your hand. To help me get it all done, I knock my column out early and have made it a tradition to share the Top 10 most-read stories on ElPasoInc.com.
I hope you find it interesting and easy reading as you recover from whatever happened on New Year’s.
(Two caveats: These are the local stories that received the most clicks online – not my picks. And stories posted earlier in the year are overrepresented because they had the advantage of being online longer.)
10) How this hill could loosen China’s grip on rare earths: I love stories that bring the underappreciated and overlooked aspects of the world to light – that spin a tale around something I never imagined had so much importance. This was one of those kinds of stories. Who knew rare earth minerals were so important and that a hill near El Paso could have a role to play in a significant geopolitical trend?
9) Nurses, doctors voice concerns about operation of El Paso Children’s pediatric intensive care unit: The coronavirus wasn’t the only health care related story to draw attention in 2020. El Paso Children’s Hospital’s abrupt decision to exclude Texas Tech physicians from its pediatric intensive care unit and forge an exclusive agreement with Dr. Roberto Canales’ medical group quickly raised concerns among some doctors and nurses. It also concerned Texas Tech, which would no longer have a place for residents to train at the children’s hospital. In the end, El Paso Children’s reversed course and made room in its PICU for doctors from Texas Tech and the Canales Group.
8) Race for El Paso mayor: Meet the six candidates who want your vote: The U.S. presidential race seemed to overwhelm, well…, most everything. But there were other important political races on the ballet in El Paso, including the mayoral race that would determine who would lead the city for the next four years. In the end, Oscar Leeser, president of Hyundai of El Paso, defeated incumbent Dee Margo.
7) Preston Foster, son of El Paso businessman, dies at 33: There was much tragic news in 2020, including the death of Preston Foster, the son of El Paso businessman and philanthropist Paul Foster. Preston was a founder of F & R Properties, a construction management company where he served as a partner and owner.
6) Amazon plans first El Paso fulfillment center: In May, more than two months before it would be officially announced, El Paso Inc. broke the news of Amazon’s plans to build one of its massive fulfillment centers in El Paso. Today, it’s rising fast in far east El Paso County, at the corner of Interstate 10 and Eastlake Boulevard. Amazon said it will employ about 750 with a starting wage of about $15 per hour and health benefits.
5) Over 120 El Paso businesses close for good; others fight for survival as aid dries up: The new coronavirus and the shutdowns that followed created a dual health care and economic crisis. El Paso’s small businesses, the backbone of our economy, have been hit particularly hard. Nobody is counting exactly how many have closed. In August, Yelp released data showing that more than 120 businesses on the listing and review site had closed, permanently.
4) El Paso Children’s Hospital, doctors sued over child’s death: David Saucedo, a 2017 candidate for El Paso Mayor and president of Saucedo Lock Co., and his wife, Mariana Terrazas Saucedo, filed a lawsuit in August accusing Dr. Robert Canales and El Paso Children’s Hospital of negligence in the death of their 3-year-old daughter, Ivanna. The lawsuit also brought to light the disagreement between Texas Tech and El Paso Children’s over the staffing of the pediatric intensive care unit, the No. 9 most popular story on ElPasoInc.com in 2020.
3) Coronavirus in El Paso: Latest updates: As the pandemic took hold in El Paso, El Paso Inc. did something that, as a weekly, it doesn’t normally do. We provided up-to-the-minute coverage of the coronavirus crisis online, including charts illustrating the spread of COVID-19 in the community and the surge in unemployment claims. Coverage included the city’s response, shutdown orders, locations of testing sites, information about vital resources for businesses in need of assistance and much more.
2) Call center evades coronavirus orders: El Paso Inc.’s reporting on call centers flouting city and county coronavirus orders led at least one company to make changes and improve working conditions for employees during the pandemic. Multiple witnesses related to us how their employers were violating social distancing requirements and deceiving city inspection teams.
1) Amazon gets going with $192 million El Paso fulfillment center: No story on ElPasoInc.com got more clicks than this one about the start of work on the 115-acre site of a future Amazon fulfillment center. It wasn’t even close. News about the publicly traded retail giant is followed by many nationwide and our local coverage undoubtedly drew a national audience.