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Posts published in “Columns”

Sen. Carol Alvarado on Gun Safety Reform

Austin, TX — The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus sent the following letter to Governor Abbott:

Dear Governor Abbott:

The members of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus urge you to immediately call an emergency special session to address gun violence in Texas in the wake of this latest gut-wrenching tragedy. We demand that this special session include passage of legislation that would:

• Raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21;

• Require universal background checks for all firearm sales;

• Implement “red flag” laws to allow the temporary removal of firearms from those who are an imminent danger to themselves or others;

• Require a “cooling off” period for the purchase of a firearm; and

• Regulate civilian ownership of high capacity magazines.

Cornyn Statement on Russian Invasion of Ukraine

AUSTIN – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

“America stands with Ukraine, and we will do everything we can to help them defend themselves against the Russian Federation.”

“The United States has played no part in creating this crisis, but we have a responsibility to support the Ukrainian people as they fight to defend their own sovereignty.”

“Putin has tried to get away with as much as he can, and it would be naive to think that he will stop at Ukraine. Ukraine is on the front line of a crisis, but the security of Europe is also in question.”

“This is not just about Ukraine. This is not just about Europe. This is about America’s credibility and that of our friends and allies around the world and our willingness to stand up for our values and defend our freedoms.

Dealing with COVID-19 in a New Year

County Connection by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

A new year is a time for new beginnings, and I know we are all ready to start fresh. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 epidemic has not slowed down over the holidays. With the emergence of the Omicron strain fueling the fire, a new wave of infections are once again raising our numbers. Hospitalizations are slowly rising and approaching problematic levels, infections are spreading rapidly across our County, and this week our numbers have pushed our threat level back to red. The possible exposures from travel, holiday celebrations, and gatherings on top of the return of children to school this week could trigger a very difficult month ahead in terms of hospitalizations and the strain on our medical system. It is clear that we will be living with this virus indefinitely.

But here in Harris County we are not giving in – we have more tools available and more knowledge on this virus than at any previous point during this pandemic. And we know that vaccinations are the best protection for you and your family against this virus. If there has ever been a wake up call to get vaccinated and get your booster, that time is now. You can find all the information you need on how and where to get vaccinated and your booster at readyharris.org.

Essential to get our Children vaccinated

County Connection
by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

So many Harris County residents who have gotten vaccinated still have feelings of anxiety about COVID, and it’s understandable. Children under the age of 12 have been ineligible to receive the vaccine and remained unprotected from this pandemic that has taken so many lives. This week finally marks the end of the wait — the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have approved the vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, an essential piece of our response to COVID-19 that is long overdue.

And, though many parents are eager to get their children vaccinated, others may still be hesitant. Parents should know that the vaccine is safe — the side effects adults have experienced, like a short-lived fever and cold-like symptoms, are less likely to affect kids. It’s also effective — it has a 90% effectiveness rate in preventing children ages 5 through 11 from contracting COVID19. Although younger children are less likely to be hospitalized or lose their lives from the virus, they can still suffer from various long-term effects of COVID-19. If you want to protect your kids from getting sick from COVID-19, there is no reason to delay signing up for this vaccine.

Abbott sued over mask mandate ban

A growing number of school districts, counties and cities have defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike due to the delta variant and a low rate of vaccination among Texans.

As KUT.org reported, officials in Dallas and Bexar counties won a first round in court in requiring masks in public schools and most government buildings. School districts in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, among others, are requiring students, teachers and staff to wear masks.

Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are appealing the initial district court decisions and have vowed to sue any government official who defies the governor’s order.

HOSPITALIZATIONS, COVID-19 CASES CONTINUE TO RISE

Meanwhile, the number of new cases of COVID-19, overwhelmingly among unvaccinated Texans, continues to rise with 98,383 reported in the past week along with 628 deaths, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations are approaching the peak levels of mid-January, with 11,381 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, up 27% from the week before.

As students return to classrooms across the state, the number of children in Texas hospitalized with COVID-19 is at one of its highest levels since the pandemic began. In the 19- county region around Dallas and Fort Worth, there were no staffed pediatric beds available late last week, according to KUT.org.

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.