AUSTIN – May 18, 2020 — Governor Greg Abbott today announced the second phase of the State of Texas’ ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase II, restaurants may increase their occupancy to 50% and additional services and activities that remained closed under Phase I may open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Additionally, the Governor announced that public schools in Texas have the option to provide in-person summer school so long as they follow social distancing practices and health protocols laid out by DSHS. These classes may begin as soon as June 1st.
“Today, tomorrow, and every day going forward is one step closer to medical discoveries that can treat and protect people from COVID-19—but until that day comes, our focus is keeping Texans safe while restoring their ability to get back to work, open their businesses, pay their bills, and put food on their tables,” said Governor Abbott. “By continuing to use safe practices, we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable. Now more than ever, we need to work together as one Texas. I ask all Texans to continue heeding the guidance of our state and federal medical experts and do their part to protect public health. If we all unite in our resolve, we will overcome this challenge.”
Via Executive Order, the following services and activities may open under Phase II.
HOUSTON – With a sense of urgency, because TxDOT is intending to enter the next phase of planning for the rebuilding of Interstate IH-45, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner sent a letter to TxDOT Commissioner Laura Ryan last Monday, asking for a review of their plans and a reconsideration of their final design plans.
Turner said that after a year’s study by a special committee, the city recommends that TxDOT plans follow guidelines that would cause the least disruption to existing neighborhoods while still increasing the number of persons that could be moved from point to point.
The Mayor’s letter emphasized a more comprehensive design to improve lifestyles, not just highway design. It addressed flooding, landscaping, neighborhood preservation, and safety, as well as limiting construction to the existing right-of-way where possible.
There are three segments to TxDOT’s plan, and construction on Segments 1 and 2 are scheduled to start in2021. This is the roadway from downtown to Beltway 8. Segment 3 is parts of IH-45 that are downtown and will be rebuilt on a different right-of-way.
It is an incredible honor to receive top honors throughout a student’s educational journey. The senior with the highest weighted grade point average (GPA) is selected valedictorian and the senior with the second-highest weighted GPA is chosen salutatorian.
Aldine ISD has 18 students in the Class of 2020 who have achieved valedictorian or salutatorian honors. To obtain this recognition, the students had to work exceptionally hard, maintain focus throughout high school.
“We are excited to honor and recognize 18 outstanding senior students in the Class of 2020 as our valedictorians and salutatorians,” Superintendent Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney said. “I am happy to acknowledge our valedictorians and salutatorians for maintaining an impressive academic record during their educational journey. We applaud you and we are confident that each of you will continue to be successful in everything you choose to do.”
The Aldine ISD Board of Trustees approved a resolution to establish updated guidelines to that create local policy guiding class rank and honors during their March 24 board meeting. The action was taken to guide parents and students while the district is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is specific to students who are part of the Class of 2020.
HARRIS COUNTY — A memorial funeral service, and “End of Watch” ceremony were held Thursday, May 14 for Harris County Deputy Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski in Humble. The service was held at First Assembly of God on FM 1960.
Scholwinski, 70, died last week after battling COVID-19.
Dozens of officers from across Texas, as well as family and friends, came to honor Scholwinski, a 39-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office.
It was a somber and moving sight as fellow deputies carried his flag-draped casket into the church.
Friends and family described Scholwinski as a humble servant and kind, caring human being who was willing to help anyone.
“That’s who Raymond was: he was pure gold,” said Scholwinski’s captain, Mike Koteras with HCSO District 2.
His adult children said his diagnosis and death from COVID-19 was not in vain.
“The medical staff came to us at the very end and said, ‘We have learned so much about his condition that it went on to help so many other people,'” said his son, Anthony Scholwinski. “Even in that hospital bed, that man wanted to help others.”
Harris County, TX — TODAY, Harris County Commissioners Court passed an expansion of the Homestead Exemption for seniors, disabled veterans, and homeowners living with disabilities. The increased Exemption now applies to qualifying homeowners with homes valued up to $286,250.
The plan passed by a vote of 5-0. It eliminates county property tax liability for seniors 65 years of age and older, as well as disabled homeowners, and disabled military veterans, with homes valued at $286,250 or less. Qualifying homeowners would save at least $500 next year (and annually going forward) on their property tax bills. The plan takes effects for next year’s tax bills.
As Virus cases increase, Health officials want more testing, more tracking
HARRIS COUNTY – Two new sites for testing of the COVID-19 virus opened last week and this week, as health officials said that more tests are required to combat a rise in the count of affected persons and those who have died.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has led the effort for the last two months to get more test sites, and she was present for the opening of these two sites, along with Dr. Joseph Varon, the president of UMMC, the United Memorial Medical Center, who has been providing the medical personnel and tests for these free sites.
While the medical profession is calling for more test sites, and warning that the virus pandemic is not contained or under control, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has expanded his order to open businesses to the public. On Tuesday, May 5th he added hair and nail salons, wedding venues, tanning salons, swimming pools, and on May 18 office buildings and gyms may open, with appropriate restrictions on distances. The order also allows non-essential manufacturing to open.
Abbott originally said that Phased openings would depend upon the rate of infections and deaths from the virus decreasing, but data from last week indicates that Harris County and the state of Texas had its highest number of deaths since the epidemic started. The governor did not comment on his decision to enlarge the opening of businesses, except to note that Texas has one of the lower per-capita death rates in the nation.
HARRIS COUNTY, MAY 7 – It is with deep regret that this week we say goodbye to our brother and teammate, Sergeant Raymond Scholwinski. He passed away Wednesday after a courageous battle against coronavirus.
Sgt. Scholwinski began his service with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy in 1979 and then went on to serve as a full-time officer for 26 years. His most recent assignment was as the day watch Contract Sergeant in District 2.
Sgt. Scholwinski represented the best of our HCSO family. Whether he was on patrol, making a neighborhood association presentation, or in the field during hurricanes, tropical storms, and other disasters, Ray consistently delivered for our residents.
With heavy hearts this morning Sgt. Scholwinski was escorted from Memorial Hermann Hospital in The Woodlands to a funeral home in Houston. Please keep Sgt. Scholwinski’s family in your prayers during this tremendously sad and difficult time.
GREENSPOINT – Houston City officials and residents were mourning the loss last week of an HPD officer in a helicopter crash in the Greenspoint area. One officer was killed, and the other officer is in critical condition after a Houston Police Department helicopter crashed early Saturday, May 2, 2020 in an apartment complex in north Houston.
The HPD crash was reported at about 2 a.m. at the Biscayne At Cityview Apartment complex located at 17050 Imperial Valley Drive, near the Greenspoint neighborhood.
Authorities identified Jason Knox, 35, as the tactical flight officer involved in the crash, he later died at the hospital. Knox had been with the police department for eight and half years and had been with their air unit for one year and three months.
The second officer, Chase Cormier, 35, was airlifted to Memorial Hermann hospital for treatment. At a news briefing Saturday afternoon, Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo said Cormier was out of surgery and conscious.
According to HPD, Cormier was sworn in as an HPD officer in July 2006. He is currently assigned to the Air & Marine Division. Cormier has been with the air support unit for three years.
According to officials, the two officers were in the 75 Fox helicopter from the Houston Police Department’s Air Operations Unit and were investigating reports of bodies floating in a bayou.
U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, along with Aldine ISD Superintendent Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney, announced the opening of the first coronavirus drive-through testing location in the Greenspoint on Friday, May 1.
The drive-through testing location is located at Merlin D. Griggs Primary School, located at 801 Regional Park.
The testing is free and is being conducted by United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) and will take place Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The testing facility at Griggs Primary is the only one in Houston between 610 and Beltway 8.
During a press conference in front of the school on May 1, Congresswoman Lee thanked Dr. Goffney and Aldine ISD for making Griggs Primary available as a testing sight.
“I am thankful to Aldine ISD to allow us to go into neighborhoods where no testing has come,” Lee said. “Greenspoint has not had free accessible testing and we are delighted to start testing there because All of Houston should be tested. It is imperative that we continue increasing testing opportunities at a rapid rate.”
Dr. Goffney was joined at the press conference by Board President Paul Shanklin, Assistant Secretary Dr. Kimberley Booker, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Selina Chapa, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services Dr. Charlotte Davis and Assistant Superintendent of Community and Governmental Relations Abel Garza.
Dr. Goffney said Aldine was more than willing to step up to support the Greenspoint community.
“Aldine ISD is happy to answer the call to help keep our communities safe and healthy during this crisis,” she said. “The Greenspoint area is part of our Aldine community. Of the 22,010 Aldine students who live in apartments or mobile homes, more than half of those students reside in the Greenspoint area.
“As the stay-home order comes to an end and businesses in our community reopen, we know that our area is vulnerable due to a lack of nearby testing sites in our community. More than 80 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged, and we have been working side-by-side with our partners to meet the needs of our community. I thank Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and UMMC for thinking about our Aldine ISD families and providing this opportunity.”
Testing is free and open to all individuals seeking to get tested, with our without symptoms. No preregistration is required. Testers may be asked for proof of identification or medical insurance; however, neither is required to complete the testing.
The screening is designed to quickly test as many people as possible. A health care professional in protective gear will screen community members from their car. Anyone who tests positive will receive a call from the Harris County Health Department.
The testing site at Griggs Primary School will run as long as there is a need.
Michael Bourn knows there are a lot of people hurting financially because of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
That’s why the Nimitz High grad and former Major League Baseball player is doing what he can to help those in need.
Bourn, who played 11 years in the majors and spent three years with the Houston Astros (2008-10), owns three apartment complexes in Houston. To assist his tenants who might be struggling financially to provide necessities for their families, he waived their rent for April and May.
Precinct 2 County Commissioner Adrian Garcia learned of Bourn’s gesture and had a resolution passed by the Harris County Commissioner’s Court on April 28 to recognize his act of kindness.
Bourn said it didn’t take him long to decide to reach out to his fellow man.
“We are all in this together,” he said. “I just felt like they (his tenants) could benefit from taking a break from paying their rent. I don’t know everyone of my tenants, but I do know some of them have been laid off. I believe if you are able to help someone else, you should.”
Bourn said he hopes his kind gesture helps during this difficult time for so many Houstonians.
“There are so many things they can buy, so I thought it was right to lend them a helping hand,” he said. “If they can buy extra groceries or clothes, then that’s great.”
Bourn, who graduated from Nimitz High in 2000 and then attended the University of Houston on a baseball scholarship, played in the majors from 2006 until 2016. He began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies, and played for the Astros, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, the Arizona Diamondbacks and completed his career with the Baltimore Orioles.
He was a two-time All-Star (in 2010 with the Astros and in 2012 with the Braves) and twice led the National League in stolen bases in 2009 and 2010 and led the American League in steals in 2011 with Toronto. In 2014 he led the American League in triples while playing for Cleveland.
Today, he is a businessman and father who enjoys watching his son and daughter participate in youth sports.
He has also returned to Aldine to speak at career days at Nimitz and Teague Middle School.
“It’s nice to go back and see where I came from,” Bourn said.
And thanks to Michael Bourn, he’s made life a little bit easier for folks who are going through tough times.