State of the County focuses on COVID-19

HEB president Scott McClelland and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo presented the annual State of the County address in the style of a “Fireside Chat.”
HEB president Scott McClelland and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo presented the annual State of the County address in the style of a “Fireside Chat.”

Judge Lina Hidalgo’s discusses her ideal pandemic re-opening strategy

By Jada Mier

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and H.E.B.’s President Scott McClelland discussed some important topics at the Annual State of the County “Fireside Chat” held over Livestream. In a 33- minute conversation, the issues discussed were the pandemic, racial justice, and the Ike Dike coastal barrier.

Harris County has a total of 170,835 confirmed virus cases and 2,322 deaths; Judge Lina Hidalgo thinks it’s time for a “necessary pullback.” The number of new cases has increased by 40 percent, Hidalgo says. She feels that Harris county would benefit more from a gradual re-opening plan. Stating that she no longer has the authority to enforce this, she thinks what the country needs is a threshold re-opening strategy with scientifically based parameters. Addressing our suffering economy, Hidalgo says Covid-19 safety measures and the economy’s health are synonymous. “When folks know it’s safe out there, they’ll have the confidence to go out and engage in the activities that are going to improve our economy.”

McClelland pointed out the ongoing struggle students have to adapt to their new online school environment due to the global pandemic. In response to Harris County’s lack of connectivity, the county has invested more money to bridge this digital divide. People are noticing the lack of broadband and cellphone towers in more impoverished areas, which leads to an inability to access the internet, Hidalgo said.

When asked about what sort of call to action people should take from the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death, she replies, “Stay on Us.” Encouraging people to stay informed and vote, she says, “I knew we succeeded when she saw that 1.7 million people in Harris County had voted in the general election.” “It has been very important, necessary and, I hope impactful to see George Floyd’s hometown come together and demand change” she said.

Hidalgo also commented on misdemeanor bail reform, immigration, and the need to promote minority-owned businesses. On the topic of immigration, she mentioned the court’s recent approval of an affirmative action program for county vendors and $2.5 million to help poor immigrants fight deportations.

Briefly discussing this year’s narrow escapes from hurricanes Laura and Delta, McClelland addressed the possibility of a coastal barrier to better protect the region from a hurricane’s effects. Although Hidalgo says that the Ike Dike coastal barrier has her support, it should be noted that since the project could take decades to complete; policy makers should pursue smaller-scale flood mitigation projects.