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Posts published in April 2020

ABBOTT ORDERS END TO VIRUS “STAY HOME”: Governor reopens Texas on May 1

Businesses that open subject to restrictions

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott on Monday, April 27 announced the first phase of the State of Texas’ ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase I, certain services and activities are allowed to open with limited occupancy. The Governor also outlined special guidance for Texans over 65 and detailed a comprehensive mitigation plan for nursing homes in Texas. The Governor also announced a statewide testing and tracing program developed by the Department of State Health Services that will help public health officials quickly identify and test Texans who contract COVID-19 and mitigate further spread of the virus.

The Governor’s announcement is accompanied by a 66 page manual, Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas available to download at gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas.

“This strategic approach to opening the state of Texas prioritizes the health and safety of our communities and follows the guidelines laid out by our team of medical experts,” said Governor Abbott. “Now more than ever, Texans must remain committed to safe distancing practices that reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we must continue to rely on doctors and data to provide us with the safest strategies to restore Texans’ livelihoods.

All retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls are permitted to reopen on Friday, May 1. These services must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. Within shopping malls, the food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed.

All museums and libraries may open under the same 25% occupancy limitation, but interactive areas of museums must remain closed. State libraries and museums will open by May 1, and local public museums and libraries may reopen only if permitted by the local government. Single-person offices may reopen as well.

Churches and places of worship remain open. Outdoor sports are allowed to resume so long as no more than four participants are playing together at one time. Local government operations, including county and municipal government operations relating to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, may reopen as determined by the local government.

Essential services such as farmers and ranchers, grocery and drug stores, banks, and gas stations will continue to operate. Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed through Phase I. Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities must remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance.

The Governor also established increased occupancy protocols for certain counties with five or fewer laboratory confirmed cases of COVID19. Those counties may, on an individualized basis, increase occupancy limits to up to 50% for restaurants, retail, shopping malls, museums and libraries, and movie theaters if they meet certain criteria.

Phase I will begin Friday May 1 and continue until at least May 18. The Governor will continue to evaluate next steps for the state.

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Food drive helps feed 500 families

Volunteers who helped pack and distribute food bags pause for a group photo.

Community volunteers feed many

HIGHLANDS – With much of the population observing “Stay Home” rules, or temporarily without a job, food availability has become a major concern.

A number of local groups, including Precinct 2, organizations such as Rotary, churches, and individuals have been collecting food and distributing it to anyone in need.

Last week Food Drives were held at a number of Precinct 2 community centers, including Highlands.

Tonya Kostka told the Star-Courier about the drive in Highlands. “What a great day! Lots of hard work from great volunteers! Thank you first to Monument Chemical, Gloria O’Bannon, and her team, for the generous donation to our Community.

Also thank you to all of the following: the Highlands Rotary Club – Avid students from GC Memorial High School, Wendy Rembert Morgan with San Jacinto Storage and her help from BCA, Debbie Reeves for organizing the event, Missy Marshall Norton’s beautiful girls, my family Shelby Russell, Brandon Rhoden, Brianna Kostka, Chad E Henderson, Haley Maxey, Dustin Kostka, Casie Russell, David Kostka and his crew from Kostka Auto El Tiger Jeff Leeth.

Also everyone behind the scenes that help make this a success!

500 bags of food given in an hour and a half. It takes a village!”

Rotary bags food, feeds firemen

HIGHLANDS – Rotarians were out bright and early last Wednesday morning, bagging food for the food distribution held at 11am at San Jacinto Community Center. Thank you Monument Chemical for your generous donation! The food was distributed drive-thru style and was handed out on a first come, first served basis. There were 500 bags of food distributed.

Earlier in the month theRotary Club had prepared and served a hot meal to all the on-duty fire and EMS crews working at the Fire Department on Good Friday. This was a THANKS to all the first responders for their hard work during the lockdown.

Complications in Arkema trial

HOUSTON – Arkema SA’s U.S. arm has the dubious distinction of being one of few industrial companies charged with criminal behavior related to exploding chemicals and the fumes that came from those explosions after Hurricane Harvey.

The case will test if the states can hold companies, their decisions makers and personnel accountable for not handling their products safely.

Arkema’s Richard Rowe, the U.S. Chief executive of the company, and Leslie Comardelle, the plant manager, are charged with reckless emission of air contaminants. Michael Keough, then Vice President of Logistics, who helped coordinate the response to a situation in which some chemicals would explode was charged with assault on first responders who inhaled fumes after “a controlled explosion,” alleging that it was an assault on a public servant after select chemicals exploded.

The threat for these executives is a possible five years in jail for endangering the public and the company could be fined about a million dollars. All pleaded not guilty in court.

Related cases have made everything somewhat complicated. Arkema Inc. wants a pretrial consolidation of eight law suits for 750 plaintiffs that allege harm by chemical releases. On April 20, the company asked Texas Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation to appoint a pretrial judge to oversee the pending cases now in six district courts within Harris and Liberty Counties against 63 defendants. Defense attorneys say similar complaints are related to failure to prevent the release of the toxic fumes.

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Houston, Harris County appoint ‘Recovery Czars’ to lead relief from Covid-19 crisis

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 COVID-19 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.”

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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.

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Mobile virus test site opens in Humble, free total sites now number 18

Drive-Thru Coronavirus test swab technique.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Mobile coronavirus testing sites temporarily in the Tomball and Humble area starting this week, the Harris County Pct. 4 Commissioner’s Office confirmed Monday.

Harris County Public Health is running both sites, which are temporary and only available for pre-approved residents. Officials said walk-ins will not be allowed.

Harris County Public Health will be testing 100 pre-approved residents a day at each location.

The Tomball site will doing tests through April 14 – 16 and April 27 – 29.

The Humble site will be doing tests through April 20 – 22 and May 7 – 9.

Commissioner R. Jack Cagle said each site is able to complete as many as 100 tests per day, but these numbers expected to increase daily.

Residents must do pre-screening at checkforcorona.com/harriscounty or call 713-439- 6000 for information. Those deemed to be at-risk for coronavirus will be given a code and phone number to call. After a telephone consultation, those still deemed to be at risk will be given another unique code and information on where and when they are to be tested.

Crosby’s rodeo, concerts cancelled but auction, cook-off still on for now

Scheduled to play for the Crosby Fair & Rodeo Cook-Off in early June.

CROSBY – According to a letter from the Crosby Fair & Rodeo Board the entertainment and rodeo has been cancelled for this year but the livestock auction is still to be held.

According to Gene Hicks a board member, the Cook-Off is still to be held and the performing act “Bag Of Donuts” from New Orleans is still to play for one of the two nights. Of course, this too is subject to change based on developments of the COVID 19 struggle and governmental regulation.

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Crosby EMS is Front Line against Virus

This accident occurred on US Hwy 90 Westbound at Janacek Rd. at 12:38 pm on April 6, 2020. One patient endured entrapment, calling into play an array of first responders, equipment and subsequently a Life Flight was made to rescue a mother. Call volume overall for Harris County ESD #5, Crosby’s ambulance service, decreased since the beginning of the quarantine. But motor vehicle accidents remained consistent.

CROSBY – Crews of first responders are thrust into the front lines of the war on COVID-19. Locally, Harris County ESD #5, Crosby’s ambulance service (ESD#5), are medical troopers working with local fire departments and law enforcement for the safety of our community.

Asking Medical Chief and Director of Operations Christy Graves, CCEMT-P, how are treatments and procedures changing nowadays, will get this response: “So, we are having to maintain our normal emergency response work and also respond to sick and possible COVID-19 positive patients. We have had to stay alert as well as change our protocols often, sometimes daily, in order to provide the best care for all citizens during this pandemic. This includes the PPE we wear to protect everybody because of how close we interview the patients. Obviously, we have to touch people to provide emergency care. We have developed very stringent guidelines to do this including limiting the number of care providers inside the ambulance with patients. We are no longer allowing extra riders including family members to increase safety. The driver of the ambulance is also completely sealed off from the rear area of the ambulance. This creates a closed ventilation system to help in decontamination of the ambulances.”

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San Jacinto River Coalition holds virtual meeting

Jackie Young Medcalf on
THEA video report.

HIGHLANDS – The San Jacinto River Coalition and its sister organization, THEA held its monthly meeting last Tuesday night by video instead of its usual in-person meet.

The group had skipped its March meeting due to the scheduled wedding of its president, Jackie Young (now Young Medcalf). Then they were faced with the inability to have its April meeting at the community center, due to the lockdown of county facilities because of the Covid-19 flu epidemic. Undaunted, Ms. Medcalf recorded a report which included news of the SJR Waste Pits, the Superfund Jones Road site in Cypress, and even her wedding.

A major question on the minds of many of the Coalition members, and others in the community, is whether the Covid-19 lockdown will affect the schedule of removal of the waste pits. Jackie has discussed this with the EPA project manager, Gary Baumgarten, and reports that work is continuing at the EPA, the engineering consultants, and even on-site remedial repair work. There is no indication of a major delay in the milestone dates of the project, he said.

On-site work is in the river just beyond the north edge of the cap, where the storm Imelda caused erosion of the river bed. Contractors are repairing and restoring much of the material that washed away, to protect the cap. The company in charge of the onsite work has submitted an addendum to their Health and Safety work plan to the EPA, indicating additional protection for their workers from the Covid-19 virus.

THEA’s short term goal is to protect the public and the environment from any contamination from the toxins in the waste pits. Their long-term goal, Jackie says, is to continue work on removal and relocation and storage of the dioxins and other toxic materials.

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Construction of FM 1409 new extension begins

Front (L-R) County Engineer Cory Taylor and Commissioner Pct. 3 Gary Nelson on the back a Texas Sterling foreman at the groundbreaking of the new construction.

Mont Belvieu, Texas – The FM 1409 extension has officially started construction last Monday, April 6, 2020. The new road will extend FM 1409 from FM 565 in Old River to FM 565 in Cove. The extension will provide a two-lane undivided highway which will eventually cross over 1-10. Phase 1 of the project consists of both FM 1409 from N. FM 565 to IH 10 westbound frontage road and FM 1409 from IH 10 eastbound frontage road S FN 565; which is slated to be completed by November of 2021. Phase 2 consists of the FM 1409 Bridge; which will be out for bid this year. The project manager is Dannenbaum Engineering and Texas Sterling is the contractor.

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