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Posts published in “Columns”

Get Vaccinated; let’s move the Threat Level to Green

COUNTY CONNECTION
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

Since the COVID-19 virus was first detected in Harris County, we have been working non-stop to beat it. We stayed home, wore our masks, maintained social distance, and sacrificed many, many moments with friends and family. When safe, effective vaccines became available, Harris County Public Health rushed to acquire and distribute them equitably, establishing over 100 vaccination sites, including a mega distribution site at NRG stadium that has become a model for the nation. Many of our residents are getting vaccinated, moving us closer to a place where COVID-19 is no longer a major threat to vulnerable populations and our hospital capacity. Thanks to all of this hard work, we have made substantial progress in turning a corner against this virus.

Last week, based on this progress and the meeting of the relevant thresholds, I moved the county’s COVID-19 Threat Level from Level 2: Orange to Level 3: Yellow, the system’s second-lowest threat level. We should all be proud of reaching this significant milestone. Under the Yellow threat level, unvaccinated individuals should continue to mask and social distance. Fully vaccinated individuals, however, may resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where otherwise required.

We are making considerable strides, but our success is fragile.

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.

COUNTY CONNECTION: Have You Signed Up for a Vaccine Yet?

By Judge Lina Hidalgo

Last week, I followed my own advice and got vaccinated! I want to thank every frontline health worker and Harris County Public Health employee who has been working to save lives for the past year. Now more than ever we have reason to be hopeful and proud of the work we’re doing together to beat the coronavirus. More than 1 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Harris County. Over 750,000 people have signed up for our waitlist and our call center has fielded more than half a million calls and registered over 27,000 people by phone. Our Health Department is vaccinating a larger proportion of vulnerable groups compared to others. This is what progress looks like.

But as County Judge it’s my job to look beyond the immediate challenges of limited supply of vaccines and toward our next obstacle. If you look around the corner you’ll see evidence that there is a very large proportion of our community that remains wary of getting vaccinated. One national survey shows that up to 40% of Texans say they will either not get a COVID-19 vaccine or are undecided on whether or not to do so. So here’s the bottom line — Harris County will never reach herd immunity if up to 40% of our residents refuse to get vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy is a clear and present danger to our collective health and our ability to pull through this crisis. We need to do more than just offer vaccines and hope folks will show up to receive it.

Middleton against Taxpayer supported lobbying

OPINION, by Mayes Middleton

Last month, the Chambers County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution opposing the ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying (HB 749). In a time when Texans in Chambers County are suffering in the wake of a worst winter storm in a generation, the Commissioners Court decided a main priority for the county was taking more of your tax money to give to insider Austin lobbyists.

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
Lina 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. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever when it comes to our hospital population, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. Even more troubling is the revelation that Houston has the unfortunate distinction of being the only city recording every major strain of COVID-19. Our positivity rate is still sky high and moving up, not down — we’re now at 13% positivity. We’re still seeing hundreds of new cases a day. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we’re finally inching closer to the finish line of this deadly, destructive pandemic — now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve. We’re able to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel now because of the common sense steps we’ve taken to prevent the spread of this virus, like wearing masks. We can’t take one step forward just to take two steps back.

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

Harris County Judge Lina 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.

Just Between Us: One Thing I Didn’t Expect About Motherhood

By Kristan Hoffman

One Thing I Didn’t Expect About Motherhood: How much I would think about bodies. My body. My children’s bodies. The way they grow, stretch, scar and heal. Their softness and their strength. Through pregnancy, birth and recovery, I’ve become more forgiving toward my body, though it hasn’t always felt like mine. Its changes aren’t easy to accept, nor are the demands to share it so frequently. I marvel at my children, so awkward and elegant. Why are we drawn to embrace so often? Why does touch offer such comfort? I am not religious, but since becoming a mother, I have learned to worship. Our bodies are holy.

This piece was originally published in the New York Times in July 2020 as part of their “Modern Love: Tiny Love Stories” series. Reprinted with permission.

Kristan Hoffman is the daughter of this newspaper’s publishers, an author, and a columnist for this newspaper.