Harris County Judge Announces Vax Registration Portal

Finally!

I’d been wondering why there wasn’t some registration portal available that would allow folks to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine, instead of the usual race-to-the-needle registration for a limited amount of shots, which most people miss out on for a number of reasons.

Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that a portal will be launched January 26, 2021 at ReadyHarris.org, along with other pertinent information, in order to prioritize those who fall under the 1A and 1B categories. Those outside of these categories will still be able to register. All will be advised by e-mail once their appointment is made and will be given a code to utilize at the vaccine location when their turn is up. There is also a registration by phone option for those without internet.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t be a matter of who can hit refresh on a browser the fastest, or who has the most free time to sign up while others who work long hours miss out. That’s why we’ve designed this system to maximize fairness, equity, and efficiency.

Judge Lina Hidalgo, 1/25/21

Judge Hidalgo reminds everyone that Greg Abbott and the State of Texas continue their slow release of vaccine, thus, we may still need to wait our turn for a while. At the very least, the stress and inequality will be lessened because of the randomization of appointment-setting. The portal, according to Hidalgo, will allow for equality of opportunity to register, as well as geographic equality as it will be easier to determine the location of vaccination sites. Hidalgo also reminds us that no system is perfect and that any issues with this new system will be dealt with as they come.

Judge Hidalgo stated in her press conference that, currently, Harris County Public Health is receiving 9,000 shots per week with the hopes of that number increasing. Currently, there are 2,000,000 Harris County residents who qualify under groups 1A and 1B.

When asked regarding leftover doses, Hidalgo states that out of 30,000 doses received thus far, only 25 doses have been deemed wasted–20 because two vials fell after a gust of wind pushed them off the table, and five because there weren’t five extra people to vaccinate at the end of a day.

At this point, the best way to avoid COVID-19 is to either stay/work at home, wear a mask, social distance, and wash hands. You know the drill.

Frankly, I think this portal will provide some peace of mind. I’d rather be registered and wait, than miss an opportunity because I wasn’t on social media to find out when to register for a limited amount of shots.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance recognizes this weird feeling it has as “hope” as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Offthe Kuff observes that the COVID vaccine rollout is pretty bumpy so far.

SocraticGadfly discussed ways that President Joe Biden could get a de facto federal mask quasi-mandate.

Dos Centavos is proud to unveil DC’sTop 10 Posts of 2020.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Reform Austin looks ahead to education-related bills in the Legislature.

Jeff Balke describes the clash between neighborhood activists and TxDOT over their I-45 expansion plans.

Texas Monthly excoriates the “COVID Nineteen”.

Heywood Sanders advises the city of San Antonio to give up its delusions.

Michael Conklin studies the question of whether Dan Patrick owes someone a million bucks for his “voter fraud” reward.

Eric Berger and Matt Lanza look back at the year in hurricanes. Finally, for fans of old-school blogging,

Vagabond Scholar presents the Jon Swift Roundup for 2020.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance says good-bye and good riddance to 2020 as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff took a deep dive into the appellate court races that include Harris County. Complete with photo off camera,

SocraticGadfly offers some humanist philosophical thoughts on the Great Conjunction.

DosCentavos teaches you how to warm yourself up with his piping hot, homemade Menudo and even takes you through his first batch of homemade tamales. There’s still time to make these during the holiday season, and, anytime after, too! If you learn to make these recipes, you will win elections!

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Bloggess says it’s okay to not be okay.

Mean Green Cougar Red provides his analysis of the 2020 election.

Kiko Martinez gives the origin story of the South Texas “cholo” version of The 12 Days of Christmas.

Simone Carter informs us that we have a Shelley Luther biography to look forward to in 2021.

State Rep. Vikki Goodwin has a few questions about Greg Abbott’s plan to take over the Austin police force.

DCs Top 10 of 2020

Thanks to all who still visit DosCentavos.net. It’s been a year, that’s for sure. And for DCs 15th year, it’s actually been a good one. So, let’s keep it going to see where we end up as we head into the vaccination part of the COVID-19 season. Here are the Top 10 visited posts of 2020:

  1. COVID-19 in a South Texas Town
  2. The Pandemic Poetry Project
  3. Fired HC Deputy Chauna Thompson Up For Post in Somerville
  4. Just Another Kill for the LE Trophy Case (George Floyd)
  5. DC’s Primary Picks (and Run-Off)
  6. Tortilla-Making in the Time of COVID
  7. Latinos and COVID-19
  8. Varon: A COVID-19 Treatment That Must Be Approved
  9. The Ghost of HD142
  10. DC Reviews: The Mavericks – En Español

Honorable Mention: My COVID-19 Early Voting Experience

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes all who celebrate a very Merry Christmas as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzed statewide judicial numbers and the trends from the last three Presidential elections in Harris County.

From his arts and philosophy blog, SocraticGadfly offered a hearty Happy 250th Birthday to Beethoven, including YouTube tracks of favorite orchestral, chamber group and soloist performers of some of his music.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Jef Rouner talks to Dr.Peter Hotez about the forthcoming anti-vaxxer backlash.

The Texas Signal commemorates Harris County’s first election under the new Elections Administrator.

Texas Monthly takes a closer look at Austin-based SolarWinds, the company at the heart of the massive Russian cyberattack.

Michael Li explains the SCOTUS dismissal of the challenge to Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census.

Therese Odell contemplates the “Trump is literally dragged out of the White House” scenario.

Reform Austin reminds you that the pandemic-inspired grace period for renewing expired drivers licenses is coming to an end.

40th Annual Tejano Music Awards Winners

Song of the Year – Ahora Sigo Yo – Stevie D

Male Vocalist – Jay Perez

Female Vocalist – Shelly Lares

Album – Jay Perez – 25th Anniversary Contigo

Conjunto Album – Los Desperadoz – Calm Before The Storm

Collaboration – Shelly Lares and Ernestine Romero – Estupida

Best New Male Artist – J.R. Gomez

Best New Female Artist – Monica Saldivar

Best New Group – J.R. Gomez & The Conjunto Bandits

Video – Stevie D – El Primer Tonto

The TMAs are usually a fancy affair with red carpet arrivals, live performances, interviews, and all that, but 2020s pandemic forced the usual crowd of Tejano Music fans to watch it from their couches at home. Thanks to the Texas Talent Musicians Association and FIERRO HD Radio, the TMAs went on virtually with live nom and winner announcements from radio personalities Johnny Ramirez, Bo Leo Gonzalez, and Bo Corona, along with pre-recorded performances from performers like Gary Hobbs, Jay Perez, Shelly Lares, Isabel Marie, Monica Saldivar and others.

Along with the celebratory awards, fans were offered a Selena tribute video of one of her Astrodome performances, an amazing rendition of America the Beautiful by various artists, and a heart-wrenching In Memorium to remind us of all those industry greats lost this last year.

All in all, I enjoyed the festivities. I didn’t have to rent a tux, I drank hot cocoa in my jammies, and connected my laptop to the big TV. I’m all for virtual concerts right now and I am in no hurry to run into an unmasked crowd at a club. Kudos to Bino Gaona of TMAs for reminding us to Mask Up, wash hands, and to distance so that we can head back toward some sort of normal.

Congrats to all involved and congrats to all the winners and nominees.

Also, just want to say that I picked Jay, Shelly, JR, and Los Desperadoz in my TMA nominee post. So, I guess I still know my Tejano talent.

Tejano Nation has a more comprehensive look at the event.

Tacho’s Pandemic Tamales

The last time I participated in a tamalada was in 2013. It was also the last time our Flo (Mom) was able to participate in one as age and arthritis were taking their toll. So, while Flo supervised, my sisters, brother-in-law, and I went through the process of preparing the meat, the masa, and the hojas, before becoming an assembly line which smeared the masa on the hoja, filled it with meat, and closed the hoja before setting up several dozen of them in a big olla (steamer) for cooking. It was a fun family experience that I’ll always remember because Flo was just so happy.

These last seven years, though, it’s been all about experiencing community, listening to others’ chisme, and seeing other things one sees in the North Side of Houston by standing in line at Alamo Tamales. Sometimes, it was about ordering a few dozen for the season and other times, we’d get into the double digits so we could give out to friends and neighbors. Alamo’s are my favorites–the homestyle ones that are made by an assembly line of ladies in the back and not the machine made ones.

This year, although a lot of businesses are hurting because of the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot more time in my tiny kitchen making my own meals and experimenting. Not trusting COVID-19 protocols (or their customers) at restaurants, I’ve found myself remaining careful and avoiding them. And this year, that includes avoiding standing in line for tamales. Although I do hear Alamo has some sort of protocol to make things safer, I decided a few weeks ago to make my own tamales for my family.

Unfortunately (very), the family-style assembly line would not be possible as distancing and staying quiet while making them is impossible. Too much chisme and politics of which to speak and too many arms crossing to grab spoons and hojas. So, it was up to me and my sister, Sylvia, to get the job done.

The night before, I chopped up a pork loin, along with an onion, a few garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and some low-sodium chicken broth to cook in the crock pot overnight. By 4AM, the aromas emanating from the kitchen were waking me up. After six hours in the pot, I removed the meat and set it aside to shred. Also, the night before, I took a bag of corn husks (hojas) and set them in a huge pot of water so they could soften overnight.

Since I prefer Tamales rojos, I made a red chile paste made of dried guajillo, ancho, and pasilla chiles. I boiled them with garlic, onion, and a little salt, then pureed them in the blender. I kept a third of it to add to the masa, and the rest for the meat. Later, I needed more for the second batch of masa, so, I made some more paste.

Once I shredded the pork meat well, I added the red chile paste to it and cooked it some more in a giant pan, drained any excess fat, and set it aside for the assembly line.

The masa is a whole other experience. After already buying a couple bags of Maseca, I saw that Kroger was actually selling bags of masa. Growing up in Cristal, the only masa we ever used was from El Molino that was behind my childhood barber shop. Since it’s hard to find a molino in West Houston, and after not trusting the masa at the store, I decided that Maseca was the way to go. I unded up using 7 or so cups of Maseca, a 1 lb block of lard, baking powder, salt, and the rest of the chile rojo paste, then added 6 or so cups of warm low sodium chicken broth, making a huge bowl of masa by continuously mixing by hand until it seemed pliable and soft enough to squish out of your hand. If it was soft enough, it would spread easily on the hoja.

By now, you realize that the masa is not only the most important part, but the most challenging part of the process. That’s until you start spreading the masa on the hoja. Memories of my Mom and Pop came up as I tried spreading my first hoja. They made it seem so easy, but it wasn’t. Maybe I just don’t have the talent. So, I went to YouTube and found a Mexicana from the barrio telling me that “it takes years to achieve the talent of spreading masa on an hoja.” Thankfully, this is when my more experienced sister, Sylvia, joined the two-person process. Thankfully, she was faster than me and spread a lot more of the masa than I did.

We like our tamales meaty, so, that’s how we made them. After adding the meat and rolling them up (we didn’t put a hoja ribbon around each–too much work!), it was time for the steamer. I have a huge 24 quart steamer I found at a local market, but I decided to do two different batches (5 dozen total) to allow enough room for the steam to cook the tamales. After adding water to the steamer, to just below the steamer plate, I set up a huge coffee cup wrapped in foil in the middle, then stood up each tamal against the cup and continued placing them around as if forming a teepee of sorts.

We gave each batch two hours to cook. They came out tasty and spicy. Obviously the filling and the chile in the masa are important, but ensuring that the masa is well-cooked is key so that the tamal rolls out of the hoja. After leaving them out to set and cool, we wrapped them up in foil. They were ready to travel, eat, and also to freeze for later.

Sunday morning, I traveled to the ‘burbs to deliver a bunch to my other sister, Toni. We had a good breakfast of tamales and a side of eggs. Brother-in-law made a chile in the molcajete that was hot and that just made you hungrier for more tamales. There seems to be enough for the Christmas weekend and I even kept a dozen in my freezer in case I get the urge.

My first experience making tamales from start to finish was an experience. It’s a process. And if you want them to taste good, you must be meticulous about every part of the process to ensure success. That means it’s time-consuming and work-heavy. Or, as my Pop would say, “es una chinga.” Because after everything is done, you still need to wash everything and put it away for future use. So, don’t complain when someone tries to sell you some expensive tamales!

As my sis and I laughed about some of our mistakes, the lights going out in the middle of the process during the morning storms, and about all the memories with Flo and Pop, we decided that it was all worth it and that it’ll remain a thing we do.

I’m happy with my latest accomplishment en la cocina. And I look forward to a bigger tamalada post-pandemic with the whole family and maybe one-or-two COVID vaccine-inoculated friends, if it is deemed safe. But with Greg Abbott and his followers acting like fools…anyway.

Have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday. COVID-19 may be at a scary point right now, but if you continue to mask up, distance from those not in your household, and practice good hygiene, your risk will be decreased. And this is worth it, too.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance once again congratulates President-elect Joe Biden as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzed the Presidential vote in Congressional and State Rep districts in Harris County.

With the FDA granting Pfizer an EUA for its coronavirus vaccine, SocraticGadfly presents his most recent roundup of coronavirus-related news, which discusses likely vaccine efficacy in the real world, distribution to problematic impoverished rural areas like the “Big Rez,” and more, including how long the vaccine’s protections may, or may not, last.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The 19th interviews Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo about COVID, racial justice, and more.

Steve Vladeck gave a simple explanation of the Ken Paxton overturn-the-election lawsuit, then explained the SCOTUS order.

Grits for Breakfast lists the top ten Texas criminal justice stories of the year.

Christopher Hooks attempts to explain Ken Paxton to a new audience.

Paradise in Hell sides with HEB against anti-maskers.

Elise Hu listened to 252 TED talks so you don’t have to.

Update on UMMC COVID-19 Vax

NPR posted an interview with Dr. Joseph Varon, the medical director at United Memorial Medical Center on 12/16/2020. In it, Dr. Varon states that he was told by the Mayor that UMMC would receive their COVID-19 vaccine for their frontline workers sometime next week.

INSKEEP: Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday on the program that maybe caseloads will start to go down significantly when half the population is vaccinated, which is something that is a good number of months away. Let me ask about your hospital specifically, though. The first people getting vaccinated have been, in many cases, health care workers. Do you know when your staff will get vaccinated?

VARON: I was told by the mayor just a couple of days ago that we’re going to be getting our vaccine next week.

INSKEEP: Next week.

VARON: Yes, sir.

INSKEEP: What do the staff have to say about that?

VARON: Oh, they were very happy because they – you know, they were actually kind of annoyed that we didn’t make the first round of vaccination. But apparently, that was done on the basis of how big the hospitals are. Our hospital is a small community hospital that has less than a thousand employees, and therefore it was not chosen to receive the vaccine on the first round.

INSKEEP: We’ve heard about health care workers, along with people in the population at large, who are skeptical about the vaccine. Do you have anybody on your staff who’s pushing back?

VARON: Well, gosh. Yesterday, I had a – not a fight, but, you know, I had a friendly argument with more than 50% of my nurses in my unit telling me that they will not get the vaccine. And, you know, of course, I pushed the concept that people should get vaccinated. And I asked, why not? And, you know, at the end of the day, like I have said before, coronavirus has become a political toy, and most of the reasons why most of my people don’t want to get the vaccine are politically motivated.

INSKEEP: Do you trust the science when it comes to this vaccine?

VARON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

NPR 12/16/2020

When half of his nursing staff is making the decision to not take the vaccine based on Trump politics, ones hope for the future sort of wanes. But it’s just not hospital staffers.

Kuff touched on how tough it will be to get everyone effectively vaccinated. Just within my own friends list, there have been a few who question everything about the vaccine. Some of it based on crap one reads on the internet, but also some based on US History of testing on people of color. There is a lot of mistrust and misinformation; most of it, because of the orange buffoon that is still in the White House who didn’t really care to carry the ball on fighting the pandemic. But US History is not kind to black and brown folks, either.

That said, I agree with Dr. Varon when he states that the current state of the vaccine does not help matters at the moment. A few thousand frontline workers and some elderly folks being inoculated is not going to help the current state of test positivity, hospitalizations and ICU admits. Americans must continue to practice COVID-19 measures–masks, wash hands, stay away from gatherings, etc.

It’s good to know that UMMC staffers will have access to the vaccine, though. The excuse they were given (having a lower number of employees) for not being amongst the first to get it was pretty weak.

UMMC Skipped Over in COVID Vax Distribution

United Memorial Medical Center, the hospital on the north side of Houston which has served mostly Black and Brown COVID-19 patients, has been skipped over by the feds in the initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers, according to a report at ABC13.

“Initially, I was told it was because of the number of employees UMMC has, which is less than a thousand,” Medical Director Dr. Joseph Varon said.

He also said they have tested more than 300,000 people among all of its testing sites and even taken in some patients from other places such as El Paso, but it was not enough for the small hospital to stand out among the rest. His staff is baffled and upset.

“Every day [I get asked], ‘Dr. Varon, are you getting us the vaccine?’ You can imagine how impotent I feel,” he said. “My staff is getting sick. I had a nurse that got sick twice that just didn’t sound right.”

ABC13

In an interview with Univision, Dr. Varon also stated that he hopes that UMMC receives it in the second round of distribution. Obviously, word needs to get to Congressional leaders to speak up about this.

It is pretty classist that hospitals in the medical center, where health insurance (and international cash) is king, are on the priority list, but a small hospital which has served minority populations during the pandemic–with or without insurance, isn’t even on the fed’s radar. I only wonder how rural hospitals are being treated.

Call your members of Congress and demand equity in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

UPDATE: Thankfully, the folks at Ben Taub and LBJ (Harris Health hospitals) received their allotment.

UPDATE: UMMC will receive vax allotment next week.