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Posts published in April 2020

Harris County appoints Walle ‘Recovery Czar’ to lead relief from COVID-19 crisis

Houston appoints Marvin Odum to lead city’s efforts

HARRIS COUNTY — April 20, 2020 — County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Monday selected State Representative Armando Walle to lead the COVID19 pandemic relief and recovery effort on her behalf. As Harris County COVID19 Relief and Recovery Czar, Rep. Walle is tasked with leading the effort to drive the region’s economic recovery. He will join the Houston relief and recovery Czar in this effort and jointly they will convene community and government stakeholders as necessary.

“State Rep. Walle is uniquely positioned to build consensus across Harris County’s diverse communities to help our region emerge from the COVID-19 disaster. As a leader in the state Legislature on issues of health, safety, and the economic well being of families, he’s a champion for the important priorities that we want to make sure are in the forefront of this relief and recovery effort,” Judge Hidalgo said. “Like the rest of the world, Harris County will not be the same when this crisis abates. But with inclusive, fast and coordinated planning, we will build an economy and a social services network that gives every resident the tools they need to thrive once again.”

A Harris County native, Rep. Walle is a graduate of the University of Houston School of Law and has served in the Texas Legislature since 2009. Rep. Walle serves on the Business and Industry Committee, serves as Vice Chair of the Land & Resource Management Committee, and serves on the Federalism & Fiscal Responsibility Committee.

Governor plans to reopen state

Governor Greg Abbott at a new conference in Austin last Friday, announcing steps to re-open the state.

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott last Friday, April 17, 2020, announced initial steps to re-open the Texas economy as it continues to reel from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a news conference at the Texas Capitol, Abbott said Texans’ efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus were paying off.

“We’re now beginning to see glimmers that the worst of COVID-19 may soon be behind us,” Abbott said. “We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus.”

To get the economy going again, Abbott named a “statewide strike force” chaired by James Huffines, the Austin banker and former UT regent. The task force staff will be led by Mike Toomey, a veteran lobbyist who was chief of staff to Abbott’s predecessor, Rick Perry.

Abbott offered a host of names that will advise the task force, including fellow statewide officials, top medical experts and business leaders.

After naming the task force, Abbott said he was issuing an executive order loosening the restrictions he previously put in place on non-essential surgeries.

Harris County Expands COVID-19 Testing

One of 14 Drive-thru test sites in Harris County, at Forest Brook MS.

Mobile Units to Reach All Precincts, Conduct 1,200 Tests Per Day

HARRIS COUNTY – County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced last Monday, April 13, 2020, that two new Harris County Public Health (HCPH) mobile units will provide drive-through testing for COVID-19, adding up to 200 tests per day to the county’s current testing capacity. Each pop-up site, which will rotate locations across the precincts starting Tuesday, will be able to make up to 100 drive-through tests per day. Additionally, testing capacity at HCPH’s two existing stationary sites will increase to 500 tests per location, per day, starting Wednesday.

These two units are in addition to 13 Drive-Thru sites around the county, both public and private. These include 2 Harris County sites, 2 City of Houston sites, 4 free sites by UMMC, and 3 sites by MD Medical.

“Until we make testing accessible to everyone who needs it, we will not be able to fully tackle this disease in Harris County,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “These efforts are a key step forward, but they’re not enough. We have to be nimble. We have to reach underserved communities and expand our ability to help folks identify if they are sick, and isolate immediately.”

The pop-up testing locations were identified in coordination with Harris County Precincts. To be tested, residents must complete online screening via and obtain an authorization code. Once confirmed they meet the criteria for testing, residents will be provided an appointment time and directed to a testing site closest to them. Walk-ins will be turned away.

Testing sites will be allocated to the precincts from Monday through Saturday, spending three days in two precincts, and three days in the other two precincts.

All individuals can access the online screening tool at Individuals without access to a computer or Internet can call the Harris County Public Health COVID-19 resource line at 832-927- 7575.


County orders Masks to be worn in public

Harris County, Texas — April 22, 2020 — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Wednesday issued an order requiring residents to wear masks when in public for the next 30 days, beginning on Monday, April 27, 2020 and will continue until May 26, 2020 at 11:59 pm. The order requires individuals over the age of 10 to wear a face covering, which can be a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief, when outside the home. Medical masks or N-95 respirators are not recommended as they are needed for health-care workers and first responders.

Masks should cover the nose and mouth, and must be worn except when an individual is exercising or engaging in physical activity outside alone; alone in a separate indoor or outdoor space; eating or drinking; when driving; or when doing so poses a threat to their health, mental health, or safety. Masks are not required when an individual is in the presence of only members of their residence.

“When it comes to fighting this virus, each of us is capable of committing heroic acts by making adjustments in how we live our daily life,” said Judge Hidalgo. “Steps like wearing a face covering, getting tested, and staying home save lives and reduce transmissions, which will get our economy back online sooner. I’m heartened by the number of residents who have already been following guidance to wear face coverings already, but we are in this for the long haul. The best way to get our economy back up and running again – and keep it open – is by making sure we’re working together to prevent the spread of this virus. Wearing face coverings is a vital piece of our playbook.”

The order comes as an uptick in hospital admissions indicates the region has not yet reached the peak of the Coronavirus outbreak. During the past week, the county has doubled its testing capacity and dispatched mobile testing units to all four precincts.

METROLift to deliver groceries to families in need

Pictured from left to right, METRO’s Senior Director of Contracted, Paratransit and Micro Transit Services, Art Jackson; Executive Director, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Gabe Cazares; Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo

METROLift is partnering with the city of Houston, the Houston Food Bank, Walmart and Sam’s Club to make sure no family goes hungry during the COVID-19 crisis. Today, the city announced the program to deliver groceries to those in need.

Thanks to a $30,000 donation from Walmart, beginning Friday, April 24, METROLift will make 500 grocery deliveries each week. The agency is proud to support this worthy cause while the city and county’s “Stay Home” order remain in effect.

Anyone interested in signing up, or learning more about the program can call 832-394-0814 or go to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Website:

AISD school nurses use their talents to create hundreds of masks

Spence Elementary School nurse Deborah Stevenson models one of the many masks she sewed for Aldine ISD employees to wear when they distribute Chromebooks to Aldine ISD students this week.

When Maisha Guillory, Aldine ISD program director of health services, presented a challenge to her school nurses, she was overwhelmed with the response. And did they respond in a big, big way!

Guillory asked a number of AISD school nurses to create masks to help protect district employees while they distributed Chromebooks to Aldine ISD students April 15 and 17. The masks were used as a preventative in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.

“I am so proud of our nurses,” Guillory said. “They stepped up to the plate and used their talents to create hundreds of masks for their fellow Aldine employees. They not only tend to the needs of their students, but they came to the aid of Aldine’s staff and the community as well.”

The nurses who created the masks were Deborah Stevenson of Spence Elementary School, Sofia Salazar of Dunn Elementary School, Emily Carter of Vines Primary School, Cindy Albee of Lane School, Sheri Quada of Aldine Education Center, Susan Klosterboer of Goodman Elementary School, Beverly Kelly of Cypresswood Elementary School, Cynthia Crafts of Odom Elementary School, Tequia Babineaux of Carver High School, Linda Linzy of Hambrick Middle School and Tawanna Chargois of Caraway Elementary School.

COVID-19 Virus changed everyone’s life

People around the world, including Harris County residents are experiencing the biggest changes in their whole life, due to the incredible spread of the Coronavirus known as COVID-19.

School closings, businesses and restaurants closed due to the public orders to “Stay Home Work Safe,” financial markets in turmoil, and medical facilities overwhelmed with patients that are sick and dying are the signs of the path of destruction that this virus has wrought.

Starting in Wuhan, China, it seemed that the problems were far away, but modern lifestyles including worldwide travel, brought the deadly virus into hundreds of countries in just a few short weeks. Every country has fought the epidemic on their own terms, but with thousands sick and hundreds dying, the World Health Organization soon labelled this disease a Pandemic.

In this country, federal officials and the President at first tried to minimize the threat and say that they had control of the disease, but eventually had to admit that there was a lack of medicines and medical supplies to properly deal with the problem.

In only a short time, since last February, Houston has seen a total of 1995 confirmed positive cases and 14 deaths. Harris County outside Houston has recorded 1052 cases and 20 deaths. Although the common flu is more prevalent each year than Covid-19, the new virus spreads faster and is more virulent, therefore more dangerous, say the medical experts. The U.S. has experienced 475,485 cases of the virus, with 17,925 deaths. Experts at the Center for Disease Control in Washington have predicted that the toll might rise above 1,000,000 deaths, and the president conjectured that it might be 2,000,000. But in a strange viewpoint, he said that would be a victory, since the toll could be higher.

Without a vaccine to defeat the virus, medical professionals are telling the public that the only way to control the spread is to stay 6 feet away from others, wash hands thoroughly and often, clean surfaces and don’t touch them unless necessary, and control your cough and cover it with a clean tissue.

Since the development of an effective vaccine may be months or years away, hospitals are trying to ease the severity of the disease in those affected with ventilators for their lungs, and medicines made for other purposes but showing some success in treating this virus.

In addition most local and federal governments have severely restricted travel, whether it is a Stay Home order as such from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, or a forced 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from outside the U.S. borders.

More Test Sites now Open, one on Aldine Mail Route

SHEILA JACKSON LEE OPENS FOREST BROOK TEST SITE: Above, Congresswoman Lee, Dr. Joseph Varon, and others at the opening of a free UMMC drive-thru testing site at Forest Brook Middle School on east Tidwell. • United Memorial Med Ctr. site at 510 w. Tidwell, does not require pre-screening. They have another site in Sugar Land. • City of Houston call 832-393-4220 for pre-screening. Two sites are open, at Butler and Delmar Stadiums. • Harris County has one site open in East Harris County, in the Baytown area, and another in the Katy area. Prescreening is done at or by calling 832-927-7575. • MD Medical has opened a drive-thru test site at 5230 Aldine Mail Rte. and another in Cypress. Call 888-776-5252 for prescreening.

ALDINE – The COVID19 virus continues to affect the lives of most everyone, and whether you have symptoms or just worry, people are looking for ways to take a test for the disease. Throughout the city and county, a number of free or paid test sites have opened.

Harris County is looking at an escalating count of positive cases of COVID19 flu, according to health officials. The 19 county area around Harris County has registered about 4,600 cases, as shown in the chart, and about 75 deaths. These figures have doubled in just a few days.

The county area has about a dozen locations where people can get tested for the virus. The most recent are located at 5230 Aldine Mail Route and in Cypress. MD Medical, which has clinics in both locations, will test you for free if you have insurance, or $165 without. Prescreening is required, by calling 1-888-776-5252. Results are texted to the patient in a day or so. Tests are available Monday thru Friday, 8am to 5pm.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee opened a third private drive-thru test site at Forest Brook Middle School last Thursday, working with UMMC, the United Memorial Medical Center. Testing at this site is free, and does not require prescreening. This is the third site she has opened in the area, including a site at 510 West Tidwell and another at the Smart Financial Centre in Sugarland.

Jackson said, “We have done this to save lives.” She said the choice of Forest Brook Middle School as a site was because census data indicated a high number of senior citizens who live in the area.

Aldine Deputy hospitalized with virus


ALDINE – One of the favorite deputies serving the East Aldine District has been hospitalized with the COVID-19 flu, according to the Sheriff’s office.

Sgt. Ray Scholwinski was listed in the ICU unit, in critical condition, according to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

Members of the Harris County Sheriff’s office held a prayer vigil last Wednesday evening, and two of Scholwinski’s sons attended. One read a note on behalf of the family, thanking the community for its support.

Scholwinski is assigned to Precinct 2 in Humble, and has been with the Sheriff’s office since 1994. He is part of the contract deputy group that serves the East Aldine District. There are 13 deputies and 2 supervisors in the group. Scholwinski was a presenter of crime statistics at the last Sheriff’s Forum held in February at the East Aldine offices.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extends “Stay Home Work Safe” order to April 30

Harris County, Texas – March 31, 2020 — As the region continues to see growth in COVID-19 cases, County Judge Lina Hidalgo today announced she will extend the county’s Stay Home-Work Safe order to 11:59 p.m. on April 30. The order advises nonessential businesses to shut down and for residents to stay home except for essential activities.

“During this critically important time for our region, we need to maintain our efforts to drastically reduce public gatherings and activities,” Judge Hidalgo said. “The increase in cases we have coming into our hospitals, the projections from our healthcare leaders show this is by no means the time to go back to normal. We all see the case rate growing. Texas Medical Center CEOs commended the county’s decision in a joint statement, saying the extension is necessary to save lives and protect our patients, families and the region.”

The Stay Home-Work Safe order, which was first issued on March 24, allows “essential” businesses and workers to continue operations as long as social-distancing practices are in place. “The intent behind this order is to drastically limit public gathering and activities – a practice we know reduces the spread of COVD-19,” Judge Hidalgo said. “Any uncertainties that arise from this order should be resolved in favor of staying home or staying closed.”