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Posts tagged as “public health”

COVID-19 SPREAD CONTINUES: Harris County raises threat level to ‘Severe’, advises masks, stay home

Judge Hidalgo Urges Residents to Stay Home, Leave Only for Vital Needs

Harris County, Texas — June 26, 2020 — Today at noon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo updated the county’s COVID-19 public threat level from significant (orange, level two) to severe (red, level one). Level one indicates a “severe and uncontrolled” level of COVID19, meaning outbreaks are worsening, contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded, and healthcare surge is likely. The elevation to threat level 1 – the highest in the system – comes as a variety of data demonstrate alarming trends that are on track to overwhelm the local healthcare system.

“The harsh truth is that our current infection rate is on pace to overwhelm our hospitals in the very near future,” Judge Hidalgo said. “We hope this serves as a wakeup call to everyone that the time to act is now. I’m calling on all residents and businesses to take immediate action to help our medical community get this virus back in check before it spirals beyond control and more lives are needlessly sacrificed. Stay and work from home except for essential business. Wear a face covering if you absolutely have to be out. We’ve flattened the curve before, and we can do it again, but we need to buckle down and do this together.”

Under a level one threat, the public is urged to:

Stay home, except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine

Avoid and cancel all gatherings of any size.

Essential workers practice special precautions to prevent spread.

All vulnerable individuals (65+ or with pre-existing health conditions) stay home.

Self-quarantine for 14 days if in close and prolonged contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19. Wear face coverings to protect others.

Avoid non-essential business and personal travel. Avoid public transportation where possible.

Cancel visits to nursing homes, long term care facilities, and hospitals.

Avoid and cancel all indoor and outdoor gatherings, including concerts, rodeos, large sporting events, etc. Schools and after-school activities for youth close, as directed by educational authorities.

Area hospitals have reached their full ICU base capacity and are now relying on surge space to treat patients. The number of daily cases and hospitalizations have also reached their highest point since the beginning of the pandemic.

Judge Lina Hidalgo self-quarantining after potential COVID-19 exposure

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that she is self-quarantining after being potentially exposed to COVID-19 last week.

The exposure came on Monday from a member of the Harris County Judge’s office, who tested positive and now is self-isolating.

Hidalgo and staff who were potentially exposed will be tested and are self-quarantining for 14 days from exposure until Monday, July 6, following the CDC guidelines. Hidalgo has not shown any symptoms.

“Given what we have learned, I will be quarantining at home. The reality of it is, there are thousands of residents across Harris County that are increasingly finding themselves in the same position I am in today,” said Judge Hidalgo. “There are rising numbers of residents testing positive for this virus, and more and more requiring hospitalization.

County mandates masks; Governor refuses statewide order

LEFT: Judge Hidalgo wearing a mask. Harris County and Houston have issued orders requiring masks for businesses, employees and customers.Violating Businesses are subject to $1000 fines. RIGHT: Governor Abbott wears a face mask on Tuesday at a press conference, where he urged voluntary wearing of masks and social distancing, but refused to issue an order making them mandatory.

As hospital admissions for COVID-19 continue to climb across the county, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed an order requiring businesses to generate, post, and implement health and safety policies which include, at a minimum, a requirement that workers, customers or visitors wear face coverings. The order took effect on Monday, June 22, 2020 and runs until Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

The order directs all commercial entities providing goods or services to require that all employees or visitors to a business premise wear face coverings in areas that involve any proximity to co-workers or the public. Face coverings may include homemade masks, scarfs, bandanas, or a handkerchief. Commercial entities must post the health and safety policy in a conspicuous location sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors of all health and safety requirements.

“There’s no magic wand government can wave to make this virus go away, but we can take steps to ensure that we provide our community with the guidance and tools it needs to fight back,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “This isn’t just the right thing to do for our health and safety, it’s also good for business. We owe it to our community to ensure that those who do have to go out can have the confidence in knowing that the businesses they are patronizing are looking out for their customers, workers, and community as a whole.”

To support the development of health and safety policies, Harris County is making available a sample health and safety policy and additional guidelines for businesses. Businesses that fail to develop, post, and implement a Health and Safety Policy are subject to a $1,000 for each violation.

EXCEPTIONS TO FACE COVERING ORDER

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia exposed to deadly virus, self-quarantined

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (Photo by Allan Jamail)

By Allan Jamail

Houston, TX. – June 16, 2020 – Today Congresswoman Garcia told NC Star writer Allan Jamail that she’s in self-quarantine because of being exposed to a family member who had recently tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

After consulting with her physician and the Attending Physician of the United States Congress, the Congresswoman went into self-isolating for the period of time recommended by the CDC.

Today Garcia said, “I’m thankful my #COVID19 test came back negative, but I still need to self-isolate and watch for symptoms out of an abundance of caution.”

“Working on behalf of the people of the Texas 29th Congressional District in the midst of this pandemic is my highest priority and I will be taking the necessary precautions to make sure I can continue fighting for our community. I want this to serve as a reminder for everyone in the Houston region and across the country that we are still combating COVID-19 and that everyone should be following public health guidelines that will help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy,” she said.

Two COVID-19 deaths in Chambers County

Chambers County reports its first two COVID19 related deaths.

The first decedent was a male, aged 70 to 80-year-sold. The second decedent was a female, aged 40 to 50-years-old. Both had underlying health conditions.

In order to protect patient privacy, Chambers County Public Health is unable to release any additional information.

“We are deeply saddened to report this news and we offer our deepest heartfelt condolences to the families of these patients during this difficult time,” said Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia.

These deaths come after climbing numbers of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Chambers County.

“We continue to see an exponential increase in case counts in Chambers County and throughout the Region,” said Local Health Authority W. Clay Brown, MD.

Governor announces phase III to open Texas

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today announced the third phase of the State of Texas’ plan to safely open the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase III, effective immediately, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with very limited exceptions. Business that previously have been able to operate at 100% capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

As with previous phases, the Phase III plan is based on the advice and support of the four doctors on the Strike Force to Open Texas medical team. Via Executive Order, Phase III begins immediately.

“The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID19 and keeping our state safe,” said Governor Abbott. “As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants. Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business. As we begin Phase III, I ask all Texans and Texas businesses to continue following the standard health protocols and to heed the guidance of our state and federal officials who continue to closely monitor COVID19.”

Between May 26th and June 2nd, over 45% of new cases came from jails or prisons, meat packing plants and nursing homes. There are currently 1,487 Texans hospitalized due to COVID-19. There are 20,679 active cases in the state and 45,858 Texans are estimated to have recovered.

Effective June 3:

Harris County Judge extends stay-at-home order to June 10

HOUSTON, Texas – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extended the Harris County’s ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ order until June 10 with new set of rules.

“No construction worker should appear at work sick because they fear retaliation,” Hidalgo said. “No restaurant worker should work without a face covering.”

When it comes to manufacturing and construction workers, some of the rules include that companies should provide 15 minute breaks at least every four hours. Another rule includes allowing breaks for to take care of hygiene needs.

Rules for public-facing service workers include rest breaks once an hour to take care of hygienic responsibilities.

According to Hidalgo, manufacturing businesses and public-facing services companies should designate a safety monitor to oversee these guidelines.

“In Harris County, no one should have to decide on being sick and putting food on your table,” Hidalgo said.

Governor Abbott announces phase two to open Texas

AUSTIN – May 18, 2020 — Governor Greg Abbott today announced the second phase of the State of Texas’ ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase II, restaurants may increase their occupancy to 50% and additional services and activities that remained closed under Phase I may open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

Additionally, the Governor announced that public schools in Texas have the option to provide in-person summer school so long as they follow social distancing practices and health protocols laid out by DSHS. These classes may begin as soon as June 1st.

“Today, tomorrow, and every day going forward is one step closer to medical discoveries that can treat and protect people from COVID-19—but until that day comes, our focus is keeping Texans safe while restoring their ability to get back to work, open their businesses, pay their bills, and put food on their tables,” said Governor Abbott. “By continuing to use safe practices, we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable. Now more than ever, we need to work together as one Texas. I ask all Texans to continue heeding the guidance of our state and federal medical experts and do their part to protect public health. If we all unite in our resolve, we will overcome this challenge.”

Via Executive Order, the following services and activities may open under Phase II.

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.

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.