Category Archives: City of Houston

Yes, Another COVID-19 Week

Did You Order Your Free Test?

The Biden Administration’s 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests are now available for all to order at COVIDtests.gov. Also, if one is insured, get information on how to get reimbursed by ones health insurance at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website. Since we’re Texas, there are different and varying ways in which workplaces are dealing with in-house infections (or trying to avoid them), so, there is an unfortunate chance that one can get infected if some boss or co-worker is walking around unmasked and coughing up a lung at work. PCR Testing is probably better to get to the bottom of ones status, but if one is showing symptoms, then an at-home rapid test could be helpful. Get Vax’d/boosted, wear a mask in public places, and avoid crowds.

Free N-95s?

The Biden Administration also announced that 400 million N-95 masks will become available to the public starting next week. Higher level masks, like N-95, KN-95, and KF-94 masks increase the time for COVID-19 to spread; meaning, if you’re in a workplace setting with a lot of people or a crowd, these masks can be more effective.

The plan consists of working with pharmacies and community health centers to distribute the nonsurgical masks, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile. The administration will begin shipments this week and hopes to have the program fully operational by early February, the White House official said.

That’s nice and all, but I wish there was a way for Biden and company to lower the costs of higher-level masks. No sooner had I ordered a batch of 50 KN-95 masks at a good price, Omicron arrived in full-force and so did the profiteering, thus, doubling + the price within days. Instead, Biden is making stuff available from the stockpile while manufacturing capacity has somewhat increased, but costs have not been controlled.

It’s Getting Better?

Notwithstanding several exposures that required more than one test in my own family over the last month, there are reports that COVID-19 measured through our Houston wastewater is seeing a decrease, and hospitalizations might be waning in a few places. That kind of talk worries me because people begin to act like fools as if they can go back to their most recent “normal,” which means unmasked mass events with people beyond their circle of trust. Don’t! It’s going in the right direction, but we’re still at almost 40% positivity.

Bottom line, we are still in the thick of it. With schools and universities reopening after the holiday, the “end” of this surge may be delayed. If schools have access to testing, masks, and vaccinations, then there is hope. But it will not be an easy task.

Many state universities are doing “soft openings,” which will begin with online instruction before going back to full capacity. For all the complaining about having to go back to virtual learning, if people wore masks indoors all the time and got vaccinated/boosted, and if higher ed leaders were to stand up to the likes of Greg Abbott, we may have had a better shot at keeping things open. But even the simple tasks are too much for people at all levels.

As always, mask up, get vax’d and boosted, and stay away from big crowds.

We Suck Even More! Back at Red

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has placed us back at threat level RED–the highest level. All while blaming record hospitalizations and the unvaccinated.

DosCentavos.net will add that the vaccinated and unmasked attending all sorts of holiday parties and continued mass events in this new year helped drive the percentage of COVID-19 positive tests to almost 40% of those testing.

From the County Public Health Office:

Today, Office of County Judge Lina Hidalgo increased the COVID-19 Threat Level Indicator from level 2 (Orange) to level 1 (Red). Unvaccinated individuals should continue to mask, physical distance, and avoid all gatherings. Vaccinated individuals follow the latest local public health guidance on wearing a mask while indoors in public places, in crowded outdoor settings, and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated. We urge all unvaccinated people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Visit vacstrac.hctx.net or call 832-927-8787 for scheduling and appointments are not required, although recommended.

I think it’s better to just have one blanket suggestion to not go to crowded settings and to always wear masks. One may hang out with someone who is vaccinated, but we never know where that vaccinated person may have been. I think that’s one reason why so many vax’d people got Omicron after attending holiday parties and mass events. And I’m just tired of rewarding bad behavior.

Hopefully, more workplaces will be pushing vaccinations and masking in the office if forcing employees to sacrifice themselves at work. Otherwise, let’s hope for at least some lower density work environments calling for split shifts and a couple of days of working at home. And hope that managers aren’t up the hindside of Greg Abbott.

And do we really think the unvaccinated are going to avoid crowds, wear masks, and get vaccinated? We don’t hear about it until their family members start their GoFundMes with, “Covid ain’t no joke.”

Because of comorbidities and other issues, I’ve remained at RED since Day 1. Don’t expect me to be out and about. (There have been a couple of nervous attempts at patio dining pre-Omicron.) As far as deciding on whom to vote for in the Democratic Primary, my only source of information will be unmasked (-vs- masked) selfies and blockwalking pics on Facebook and/or Instagram.

My policy of not giving to GoFundMe funeral fundraisers for the unmasked and unvax’d will remain in place. Those who die from being vax’d, yet unmasked and endangering themselves, will go through a committee vote.

In other words, stay masked, get boosted, and stay away from gatherings for now. And if you’re an elected official or candidate, be a damn example. I’d like for whom I am voting to not get COVID and die while in office.

Kuff adds a similar sentiment while asking if anyone is listening anymore.

Y’all Suck! We Are Back At Orange!

Looks like we are back at Code Orange in the COVID-19 threat level in Harris County.

“Due to the explosive growth of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus across Harris County, public health officials are strongly urging all eligible Harris County residents, especially individuals 65 and older, to get their booster shots as soon as possible,” county officials said in a statement released Monday. “Residents who are not vaccinated are cautioned to do so immediately. Regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask and get tested before attending holiday gatherings.

I don’t like to second guess leaders that I support, but the masking/testing suggestion for all should have continued, instead of going “Yellow.” Instead, we’ve seen so many maskless mass events attended by the unmasked, yet vaccinated, as holiday parties and graduations have been celebrated and, unsurprisingly, the numbers took a turn for the worse in a very bad and quick way. Some of our Democratic stars are getting breakthrough infections. My worry is also with workplaces who have “fully opened” and have gone unmasked as they follow Greg Abbott.

Let’s not forget that when we went to “Yellow” the other day, word of Omicron surfaced. And what we know about Omicron now is that we will have more breakthrough infections. And the worry is that many of those breakthrough infections will hit hospital and medical staff.

We should have remained careful. Hell, I did and continue double-masking and avoiding maskless crowds, but that’s because I have my own comorbidities and I have family members who are immunosuppressed that I’d much rather hang-out with than all other humans. I’m not going to risk them.

I know leaders want to provide citizens some sort of incentive or reward or relief from masks for bringing numbers down, but, with so many still unvaccinated and unmasked scoffing at our leaders who are trying to do something good, well, idiocy should not be rewarded. Certainly, the maskholes didn’t feel the need to vax and mask while those of us who have done our part were the ones who were actually being rewarded.

President Biden will speak on Omicron on Tuesday. While I hear chatter from some considered experts that “COVID-19 is here to stay” and that “we will all get it, eventually,” I hope leaders at the very top don’t listen to them and actually lead. Some of us just don’t want to get sick, no matter how “mild” the symptoms.

For more, here’s Kuff.

The Omicron Wave is Upon Us

We’ve known about the Omicron variant for a few weeks now and the health authorities have been prompt at gathering information regarding how well the COVID-19 vaccines will work against it. Unfortunately, its existence hasn’t done much to make people cautious and cognizant of its ability to spread faster than other variants, so, the numbers of people testing positive and being hospitalized for COVID are increasing locally, according to a report in Houston Public Media.

Methodist confirmed a total of 307 positive COVID-19 tests on Monday and Tuesday of this week, according to the hospital. That’s up from 76 positive tests reported last Monday and Tuesday. Additionally, the hospital confirmed on Wednesday that 54 cases of the omicron variant have been identified by Methodist’s sequencing lab since early December.

Unfortunately, some people are still acting like the pandemic is over because they are fully vax’d or boosted. That’s their prerogative, I guess. They’re OK with getting infected and suffering through mild symptoms, so they attend all the big christmas gatherings with people not in their immediate circle. Just don’t expect to ever be around me. Your mild infection can still affect those with other health concerns.

As I drove around my area this week, I’ve noticed lines at testing kiosks and facilities. So, some folks are either sick or getting worried about Omicron enough to test themselves.

But there is a concern that even if omicron doesn’t affect most people, even a small percentage of patients could quickly overwhelm hospitals in the Houston area, Boom said.

“If this spreads so rapidly that there are massive numbers of infected people, even if on average they’re very mild, if that hits the vulnerable in our population and they end up hospitalized, that can still be an incredibly challenging time,” Boom said.

So, the push for vaccination and boosters continues, but Texas is still ass-backward Texas with folks complaining about a tiny needle and a shot that’s been tested on hundreds of millions of Americans. My new motto for the holidays: My money is not going to your DeathFundMe accounts for funerals because of your stupidity.

Speaking of, I’ve seen too many unmasked events going on from folks on my side of the aisle. Like I said, it’s their prerogative. But how easy is it to spread disease? Well, anecdotally, one local workplace I was told about had some unmasked fool walking around, supposedly vaccinated. He got sick because he was probably unmasked at a gathering, tested negative and then was coughing up a lung at work. The person finally tested positive and protocols went into effect. Thankfully, because most co-workers were vax’d and masked at work despite Abbott’s no-mask-mandate idiocy, COVID-19 tests are coming back negative for the co-workers, thus far, but what an inconvenience! But all it takes is one person, even among folks you see everyday at work and who think they’re invincible to spread it to unmasked others. So, mask up!

I must give out a tip of my Stetson to State Rep. Penny Morales Shaw (148) for turning an in-person fundraiser to a Zoom-only event because of health concerns for the people she serves. The politicians I respect the most are the ones who set examples for the community. So, give her a few bucks for her efforts.

2:50PM Update: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner just announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He has mild symptoms and will rest. He’s been to a lot of unmasked events, so, how does the contact tracing work in this situation?

So, yeah, y’all need to stop with the unmasked events.

Commissioners Go With Internal Astroworld Investigation

Some have mixed feelings and others don’t know how to feel about it, but I think it was a bad move by county commissioners to keep things internal when it comes to investigating what occurred at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s vision for an investigation was about outcomes to make events safer. Given HPD and its chief’s press conferences soon after the tragedy, I don’t have confidence in their investigation being of any use to what needs to happen regarding event safety.

As far as Commissioner Garcia’s fear of lawsuits, well, they’re coming. They are already happening. And they will do a deep dive into things and they will be quite public in pushing out their version of the details. Hell, their intent is to win.

An independent investigator would delve deeper into the county’s and the Sports Authority’s affairs regarding events, perhaps getting ahead of the lawsuits. An independent eye would also not have political worries of investigating the people who are really in charge, including political appointees, who make the decisions (or as they call it “oversight”) regarding event safety and management. Grieder at the Chron seems to be thinking this way.

Anyway, there have been a few BS moves that placed the Democratic majority in a bad light and this is one of them. Not good during an election year.

Tomas Q. Morin’s Machete

While I am awaiting the arrival of my copy of Tomas Q. Morin’s latest book of poetry, Machete, the Texas Standard provides us an interview with the accomplished poet, Rice U professor, and personal friend of mine from our days at Southwest Texas State University.

In his new collection, “Machete,” Mórin questions how to prepare his son for life in modern America. He explores the country’s legacy of racism and the importance of joy as a survival tool.

Texas Standard

Morin is currently on a virtual tour giving readings of his latest work and will be in Houston on November 2 at the Houston Public Library in conversation with recent Houston Poet Laureate Leslie Contreras Schwartz. More details soon.

Click here for interview. Purchase book here. And read the first poem in the book at Poetry Society, I Sing the Body Aquatic, as well as a few words about it.

Death Rate Soars Among Latinos in Harris County

And, yes, it is because of COVID-19.

Harris County Public Health District Deputy Director Gwen Sims said in 2020 the death rate among Hispanics jumped 46.6 percent from the previous year of which 22 percent of deaths were contributed to COVID-19.

County Commissioner Adrian Garcia said they must address disparities affecting this group and it starts with getting vaccinated.

Garcia said COVID-19 vaccine will save lives.

“It’s not like a hurricane where swift waters are taking someone and we we’re trying to figure out where’s the rope, where’s the ladder, who is the first responders to dive in and rescue a life,” Garcia said. “We can rescue lives today by those who are not vaccinated stepping forward.”

No doubt, the vaccination rate among Latinos in Harris County could be better, while Latinos also make up almost 30 percent of Harris County’s COVID-19 positivity these last few weeks. The weekly percentage of total residents of Harris County getting vaccinated has held steady at around 46% for Latinos. Almost half of vaccinations are going to residents age 12 to 29, according to the weekly average stats.

And Garcia brings up a good point that access to health care is a major issue in all of this as Latino deaths of all causes also rose 22%. Which means, if Latinos do not have access to take care of illnesses and comorbidities that are exacerbated by COVID-19, things will not improve.

I guess it’s a good time to remind Greg Abbott that expanding Medicaid will help in this regard. I guess we should remind voters, too, that Greg Abbott has done nothing but help worsen the death rate among all Texans.

Anyway, get vaccinated, mask up, and stay away from crowds and people outside of your circle.

Leaders Defying Greg Abbott

It’s been heartening to see school and local leaders begin the process of standing up to Greg Abbott’s mask ban; especially as schools begin to open up to students and staff.

Bexar County and Dallas County have won temporary restraining orders that allow them to call for masking up of schools. Last night, Harris County Commissioners voted to authorize the County Attorney Menefee to attempt the same.

Both judges cited public health needs in their decisions. Arteaga said she did not take her decision lightly. She cited the start of the school year and public guidance given by Woo concerning the need for masks in public schools as the highly contagious delta variant contributes to a surge in coronavirus cases across the state. Parker, meanwhile, wrote that “Judge Jenkins cannot be precluded from implementing the mitigation strategies he believes are sound, reliable, and backed by scientific evidence.”

Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton’s responses seem to be coming out of those frontier days when their own ancestors were spreading small pox to the original inhabitants of Texas. They both choose to go full on racist and blame brown people, instead. The facts are on our side, though.

Obviously, Abbott and his minions will appeal and place children and Texans in danger.

The worsening COVID-19 numbers are telling us that we need to mask up again and follow CDC guidelines for distancing. They’ve been telling us this for a while before many wanted to admit it. Over 10,000 Texans are hospitalized and hospitals are in crisis mode regarding room availability and staffing.

Greg Abbott’s “strong encouragement” of personal responsibility is coming late as vaccination immunity will still take time to improve the situation. Action is needed now and masks are the answer to slow the spread, as well as encouraging people to stop acting like fools and filling up venues and restaurants.

Keep masking, folks. Avoid crowds. Keep clean. And if you haven’t yet, get vaccinated. The City of Houston alone has over 30 locations around the city.

Just Like That, We Are Back At Red

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has placed us back at COVID-19 Threat Level RED (SEVERE) as the infection and hospitalization numbers are expected to worsen.

According to the threat level system, “severe” is enacted when there is a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19, outbreaks are present and worsening and testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded.

Some hospital emergency rooms are indeed operating at full capacity amid the surgent and rampant spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.

It seems that those targeted by this threat level change are the unvaccinated since most cases of new infections are indeed from the unvaccinated. It calls for the unvaccinated to stay home. Seriously? But the threat does remain for the vaccinated.

“Breakthrough cases” among those who have been fully vaccinated are inevitable, especially among those without strong immune responses, Shuford said. “We know that no vaccine is perfect. They never will be.”

As I stated earlier, half of the country lives with illness, comorbidities, and/or are immunocompromised. There’s a reason why some of us were spending hours on our laptops trying to get a vaccine as soon as possible. I wish those in power would stop downplaying breakthrough cases and instead promote safety for all. Judge Hidalgo spoke to this reality that infection and spread can happen to the vaccinated, but simply targeting the unvaccinated is not enough. Hands must be held, or we are just doing a different brand of Greg Abbott’s “personal responsibility.”

While we are seeing more vaccination activity, the reality is that some are on their first shot, or on their only J&J shot and will take a couple of weeks to over a month (if 2 shots are taken) or so to reach their immune potential. I agree with the experts, like Dr. Hotez, that we need a vaccine mandate more than anything, but thanks to Greg Abbott’s “freedumb” campaign, it is not going to happen. Obviously, we need something that includes masks and other safety alternatives while the vaccinations happen.

Thankfully, Judge Hidalgo has also shown leadership in asking people to wear masks when indoors and around others, and that includes the vaccinated. At this moment, while we wait for people to reach their immune potential, masks are just about the only way to cut transmission–even a little. Either that, or stay home. For the most part, I intend to do the latter, even contemplating cancelling a vacation that I really need.

I won’t sugar coat how I feel. I’m really pissed off.

As the vaccinations were rolling out early on, I cringed at all of these vaccinated leaders appearing at events unmasked when we had not even reached 50% vaccination. Local self-proclaimed “leader” groups who claim to represent underrepresented people were hosting large events, unmasked, without even a clue as to an event’s vaccination rate when it is the underrepresented who are the least vaccinated! The White House also failed at incentivizing vaccination by unmasking the vaccinated to entice anti-vaxxers toward a shot. Hope springs eternal, but we were nowhere near a post-COVID reality.

The reality is that the unmasking of the vaccinated was too damn soon and incentivized behavior that only weeks before was considered bad or a threat to public safety. It didn’t help that businesses were opened up by Greg Abbott in the same manner with little vaccination effort on his part. You cannot declare victory when it’s not even half-time and this certainly didn’t encourage businesses to re-open slowly as everything seems to be a super-spreader, now.

As far as some of these self-proclaimed “leaders” are concerned, don’t call yourself one if you’re not willing to lead by example. And these leader failures are happening in organizations, school districts, universities, corporations, you name it. No one is willing to take a stand against Greg Abbott and right-wing republicans and for the people they are serving. And most are not leading by example when it comes to at the very least promoting and encouraging mask-wearing and vaccination. We aren’t talking shut-down, we are talking public safety.

Mayor Turner’s employee mask mandate and HISD Superintendent House’s move toward one for students have potential to spread leadership potential to others. Leaders must stand up to Greg Abbott.

The only way these recent and future vaccinations will work in the near future is if people lead today.

Kuff has more.

The Delta Variant Is Real

As I see certain local groups having unmasked mass events and Tejano music concerts filling up venues, I wonder: What’s the vaccination rate in the room?

For me, vaccination has not affected my mask-wearing as much. I still wear it while at the store or at places with a lot of people. Even during a ride on the trails when humans would mass up in certain areas, the mask gets pulled up. Given Harris County’s 50% fully vax’d rate, I’m not too trusting of anyone who gets in front of me.

The other day, I sort of left my guard down when I was at a restaurant (my first time) for a quick lunch during a med center area visit and actually removed my mask to eat. It was 30 minutes of nervous chewing and wondering if the maskless coming in the door were vax’d or anti-vax maskholes.

Obviously, I took the original COVID-19 seriously from the get-go. Even stocking up on Elderberry gummies to maybe pump up my immune system while waiting for my shot. After vaccination, I’ve still been careful, I’m still exercising, and other than the restaurant visit, still cooking at home. But the Delta variant has me nervous. And back on elderberry gummies.

While the government worries about vaxxing the unvax’d door-to-door (Biden wants to vaccinate people; Republicans want more death), I wonderered how being around those fools (those that choose unvax/unmasked life) would affect me, the vax’d one. Well, I’ve always known that the COVID-19 vaccine was not made to make one immune as much as it was made to reduce chances of hospitalization and death. So, the vaccinated can still get infected, though, the effects may not be as bad. Maybe. Bottom line: I don’t want it and the only way to reduce my chances of getting it is mass vaccination. Yes, even door-to-door to reach those with no access to vaccines. The idiots who whine and moan about masks and shots? They’re a lost cause and I still walk around them at the stores and in life.

So, I’m still not attending large, unmasked events. Even to Democratic Party events whose members seem to have a higher vaccination rate than most other groups. As the majority of people are going back to the office and vaccination rates stall, we cannot let our guard down. Mask up at work–even if your boss is walking around as if invincible. Alas, even the Biden administration’s rush to re-open has convinced many more that they are now invincible, if vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna are now calling for vaccine booster shots for those who have already been vaccinated because of the increase in Delta variant cases and how fast it spreads. And because the effectiveness of the shots wanes after time passes. Sure, you may avoid hospitalization and death, but, again, you can still get infected and spread it to the unvax’d and others. The CDC (and Biden’s) nonchalant attitude toward this call for boosters worries me. Sure, they have the unvax’d to worry about, still, but some of us who were so responsible that we were online for hours searching for vaccines early on wouldn’t mind a boost.

And, don’t even get me started on folks who are immunocompromised, some who are already on a hard-to-get booster with hopes that its effectiveness lasts. There is a segment of the US population that lives in fear, but we don’t hear much about them from anyone at any level of government.

Anyway, I’m still masking. I’m still distancing. And I’m still playing it safe and avoiding large crowds, especially anti-vax maskholes.