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Posts published in “Columns”

Harris County Judge Moves COVID-19 Threat Level to Level 2: Orange

Key COVID-19 Trends Continue Downward Trajectory; Hidalgo Commends Community for Driving Indicators Down By Getting Vaccinated, Urges Continued Vigilance and Action to Reach Non-Vaccinated Population

Harris County, Texas – May 18, 2021, Judge Lina Hidalgo today announced that she is moving the county’s COVID-19 Threat Level Indicator from Level 1: Red to Level 2: Orange, the system’s second highest threat level. The move comes as a variety of indicators demonstrate significant progress in reducing the threat of COVID-19 and the availability, administration, and efficacy of vaccines for eligible age groups.

Over the past several weeks a convergence of factors has led to the lowering of the threat level. Among them, a variety of key indicators used to inform the county’s threat level system made significant improvements. These include hospital population trends, hospital usage trends, case trends, and positivity rate. Additionally, the on-demand availability of vaccines, their efficacy against variance, an increasing number of individuals getting vaccinated, and updated CDC guidance regarding mask usage and testing. These indicators have been used by the county in conjunction with health experts to make decisions about policy changes and community guidance.

“Thanks to the hard work of our residents, we have made substantial progress in turning a corner against this virus,” said Judge Hidalgo. “This is not a mission accomplished moment, but we should feel encouraged that these vaccines have helped us finally trend in the right direction. Let’s continue to pull together and help persuade friends, family members, and others those who haven’t been vaccinated to do their part.”

Precinct 2 Brings Vaccines to You

By Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia

You may have noticed recently that there’s no longer a vaccine waitlist at vaccine mega-sites like Harris County’s at NRG Stadium. Now, at ReadyHarris.org you can pick the day and time that works best for you, and those who want a COVID vaccination don’t have to spend hours and stress waiting online for the very moment slots open. Most vaccination sites now are accepting walk-ins without previous registration and appointments! Just as Precinct 2 mobilized quickly for the first wave of vaccinations, now we’re quickly adjusting to reach and vaccinate people who might be less able to visit shot sites and are perhaps hesitant about getting the shots that will save lives.

Many Precinct 2 residents can’t get to mega-sites like NRG Stadium twice in a month for their shots. For readers of Northeast News, Highlands Star-Crosby Courier, Barbers Hill-Dayton Press, or North Channel Star, committing three or more hours on a workday to get to a vaccine site isn’t feasible. Worse yet, many others don’t have access to effective transportation and struggle with limited Metro routes, especially at the outer edges of our precinct.

For these reasons, I’ve tasked the Precinct 2 team to bring vaccines directly to the communities I serve.

THE POSTSCRIPT: Out Like a Lion

By Carrie Classon

March is winding down and my sister-in-law, Lori, is going with it.

There is too much food and too many flowers because that is what we do when someone is dying, when we don’t know what else to do as, gradually, the unthinkable becomes accepted and even ordinary. We make more food and bring more flowers. But there is too little time. There is always too little time.

Lori is spending most of the time she has left sleeping, which means she is not in pain but also that no one can talk with her and we miss her already, while she is here among us.

There are circles of grief, as I’ve heard it explained. Her husband, Robert, is at the center, and one ring out are her children and my husband, her brother. I am a bit further out in orbit, in Lori’s solar system of sorrow, missing her ready laugh and irreverent observations.

We are so close to beating the virus

Harris County Judge Hidalgo

We are Texans, and the concept of freedom is an essential piece of our identity. We all want the freedom to go out to eat and to socialize, the freedom for our economy and our schools to open without the fear of getting deathly ill, the freedom to use amazing science and vaccine developments to our full advantage. But taking away critical public health interventions that we know are working in the name of personal freedom won’t make our community safer, nor will it hasten our return to normalcy. The state’s decision on Tuesday to end the statewide mask mandate and increase business capacity to 100% is a threat to all of the sacrifices and progress we’ve made, as well as to everyone who has not yet received a vaccine. At best, Tuesday’s decision is wishful thinking. At worst, it is a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of state oversight of our power grid.

Every time COVID-19 public health measures have been pulled back, we’ve seen a spike in hospitalizations.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo: “This is not the time to give up”

Harris County Judge Hidalgo

This Wednesday, the state’s decision to open everything at 100% and eliminate the mask mandate comes into effect.

For the vast majority of the community who have been following public health recommendations from the beginning, the state’s ending COVID-19 precautions is a gut punch. As I said in a recent TIME Magazine Op-Ed:

“It is a heavy burden for a community to carry, to continue to sacrifice in spite of false hopes being offered at the highest levels of the state… I hope that people of this county won’t allow pandemic politics to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and that we won’t throw away a year of pain and sacrifice so that politicians can have their ‘mission accomplished’ moment.”

I have received a lot of questions about what that means for Texans, and what our community should do.

The bottom line is this: This is not the time to give up.

Our positivity rate is sky high and still rising.

Brady goes for 7th Lombardi, Mahomes second in what could be a very real ‘Super’ Bowl!

By Mike Keeney

I guess that Tom Brady guy still has something left in the tank.

After spending 20 years in New England and leading the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick to six Super Bowl titles, Brady moved south to sunny Tampa, FL and proved he’s not washed up at 43 years of age.

In Kansas City, Chief fans have once again put their faith in 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes, who led their beloved team to the Lombardi Trophy last year and is making a return trip this year to go after a second straight title.

Insurrection at the U. S. Capitol A Teachable Moment

Dear Aldine Community,

Yesterday’s events in our nation’s Capitol and its images left many of us speechless. It seemed surreal to see mayhem, riots, and horrifying unrest unfold.

These events have created confusion, hurt, fear, disappointment, and even anger, no matter your political beliefs. January 6 will be a day we collectively remember as a sad day in history. What happened is unacceptable.

It is fitting that my word for 2021 is Forward. While I believe in the importance of reflection, we cannot get stuck reliving the past. We have to look to the future with hope and move forward.

That said, we must learn from what took place at the Capitol yesterday. It is a teachable moment. Democracy and civility are fundamental to our nation’s success. These are values we must instill in our children to ensure they are preserved in future generations. Hate and violence have no place in our American democracy.

I still believe in the words “United we stand, divided we fall.” We need each other to navigate through volatile times. Together, we are stronger. Together, we can do better and move forward.

Keeney’s Korner: Aggies left out of CFP; Texans’ miserable season comes to an end

The powers that be have spoken and Texas A&M fans are not happy about the decision that was made by the College Football Playoff (CFP) Committee to exclude them from the playoffs this season.

Many will argue that Jimbo Fisher’s team deserved one of the four CFP slots, but those went to Alabama (No. 1), Clemson (No. 2), Ohio State (No. 3) and Notre Dame (No. 4). I don’t have any problems with three of the four selections, but I do with Ohio State’s selection.

Yes, the Buckeyes did finish undefeated and won the Big 10, but they only played six games (and the Big 10 had to alter their own rules to allow OSU to play in the conference game. League officials mandated that a team must play a minimum of six games to be eligible for the league title game, but due to cancelations because of COVID-19, Ryan Dayne’s team was left with just five conference games, so league officials changed the rules just for them. Isn’t that special!).

Granted, it wasn’t Ohio State’s fault that they could not find enough healthy teams to play a six-game schedule. A&M finished 8-1 in the best conference in the country, won seven straight games and appeared to be getting better week-by-week. But their 52-24 loss at Alabama was a big negative and perhaps the committee thought a rematch with Nick Saban’s team would turn into another route.

You can’t fault the committee for giving Notre Dame one of the four CFP berths. The Fighting Irish defeated then No. 1-ranked Clemson at home and easily handled a ranked North Carolina team on the road. The one blemish on their season was their 34-10 loss in the ACC title game two weeks ago. Things won’t get any easier for Bria Kelley’s team when it faces No. 1-ranked Alabama in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Oh, by the way, the Rose Bowl won’t be played in Pasadena this year, but in Arlington at AT&T Stadium. At least some fans will be able to attend the game.

The second national semifinal will pit Clemson against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The winners will meet on Monday, Jan. 11 in Miami in the CFP title game.

The Aggies had to settle for a trip to Miami to face Mack Brown’s North Carolina Tar Heels in the Orange Bowl.

The NFL concludes its regular season this weekend and it can’t come soon enough for the Texans. Two weeks ago, the Texans fumbled away another shot at a win over the Colts when wide receiver Keke Coutee fumbled inside the Colts’ five-yard line to prevent Houston from tying and game up and sending it to overtime. The Texans host Tennessee on Sunday at NRG Stadium in a game the Titans will probably need to win to earn either the AFC South title or a Wild Card slot, so don’t expect head coach Mike Vrabel to sit any of his star players until this one is safely tucked away in the win column.

The AFC North title could very well be up for grabs when the Browns host the Steelers. Let’s hope NBC flexes that game to Sunday Night Football because it should be a good one between two long-time rivals and this time there is a lot on the line.

Before we take a look at those games and a host of others, let’s review last week’s record. A 6-5 week brought the season record to 98-51 (66%).

Now, onto this weekend’s games, some which will be the first of 2021.

STATE CAPITAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Chris Cobler

Texas to get 1.4 million COVID vaccine doses

Texas is ready to distribute 1.4 million doses as soon as the COVID-19 vaccine receives federal government approval. Gov. Greg Abbott said the vaccines should be arriving the week of Dec. 14 and would be distributed to qualifying providers. Health care workers are the first in line to receive the medication, which needs to be given in two shots. Also first in line are residents of long-term living care centers, the Texas Department of Health Services announced.Texas’ population is about 29 million, so the line is long. The state agency also announced the list of 109 hospitals in 34 of Texas’ 254 counties that will receive the first doses. “The State of Texas is already prepared for the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine and will swiftly distribute these vaccines to Texans who voluntarily choose to be immunized,” Abbott stated. “As we await the first shipment of these vaccines, we will work with communities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Applause for our Voters and Poll Workers

Harris County, you never fail to impress. Across the country, people are buzzing about the incredible numbers of voters we have had during our early vote period. By the time early voting shut down last Friday after 18 days,1,435,221 (or 57.85% of registered voters) had cast their ballots. That is well beyond the total number of voters for each of the entire 2016 and 2018 elections! You have come through this election season by volunteering to help folks register, working the polls, and generally offering one another the support and encouragement we all need to believe that we can make a difference. We are a strong, resilient, and driven community and we are determined to have our voices heard, both within Texas and across the country. I have never been more proud of our residents and our tireless poll workers who are making this incredible movement of civic participation happen.

And while you all are showing up for this election like never before, Harris County government has been working harder than ever before to make your voting experience what you need it to be.