Category Archives: City of Houston

Thoughts on Viernes – -0232022

Getting Antsy

We are a little less than 50 days out of Election Day and the earlier than usual repetitive political ads are already making me antsy to get my vote done. And it’s not just the “Blame Everyone Else But Me” Republican ads and the ones where republican fear-mongers take advantage of crime victims. The Dem ads are getting to me, too. Perhaps it’s because I think there is a lot on which to attack Republicans. I know, I know…it’s about consistency in messaging, but some of us are tired of Republican practices on most issues here in Texas and not just one or two.

Hate Group Messaging Infiltrates Texas Sheriff Depts

No surprise. Dem and Republican sheriffs are pretty much united in blaming immigrants for everything so that Abbott can keep funding the border boondoggle. Hate group, Federation for American Immigration Reform, held a klan meeting in DC regarding the border featuring border cops and other bigots. FAIR was created by white supremacist John Tanton. Despite being deemed a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center, they are still “legit” in the eyes of Republicans and cops who want to use their data created out of their hind sides to legitimize their own bigoted practices. Bottom line: Everything we hear coming out of Republicans, from Greg Abbott to Alexandra Maga-Mealer and Mattress Mack in Harris County and Texas, is tied to bigots who thrive on causing fear among Texans.

The New COVID-19 Variant

There are some new variants of COVID-19 that are on CDCs radar.

The BA.5 variant that dominated the summer wave of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations has now fallen to 83.1% of new cases, according to estimates released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Three rival strains – the BF.7, BA.2.75, and BA.4.6 variants – have now climbed to make up nearly 1 in 5 new infections nationwide, according to the federal estimates. 

Even though people seem to continue ignoring health experts, instead following Biden’s “it’s over” advisory, mask up and play it safe, even if you are boosted. We don’t know how these new variants react–even to the latest booster.

Is It Over?

I can’t say I got the warm and fuzzies when President Biden declared the pandemic “over” on 60 Minutes last night. He also mentioned that COVID-19 is still an issue that is being dealt with, so, at least he reminded folks. But the strongest statement was that the pandemic was “over.” I think that statement was irresponsible.

NPR reports that worldwide, there are still reports of over 400,000 cases daily. There have been significant increases between August 16 and September 17th in various countries, including the United States, though, I think the lower numbers in the US have more to do with lack of reporting of home tests than anything. News flash: People are still dying. So, COVID-19 is still here.

In Houston, we seem to have finally gone below 20 percent test positivity and continue to trend downward. And we even have a new 3-tiered COVID threat scale of Low-Medium-High. We are currently at Medium, which tell us: “If you are at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions.”

So, listen to your doctors…if you have access to one. Or have insurance. And if you really care about your high risk relatives and friends, mask up!

My worry continues to be about the immunocompromised and the frail whose relatives seem to continue going unmasked, as President Biden celebrated on 60 Minutes, stating, “Everyone looks in good shape.” or something like that.

Even more disturbing is an inflamed debate about what constitutes a “COVID death.” Dr. Monica Ghandi at UC-San Francisco seems to say it is just like the flu, now. Dr. Fauci disagrees.

“I’m sorry — I just disagree,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s medical adviser, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The severity of one compared to the other is really quite stark. And the potential to kill of one versus the other is really quite stark.”

Fauci states that at the current pace, COVID-19 could still kill 125,000 more people in the next year.

“COVID is a much more serious public health issue than is influenza,” Fauci says, noting this is especially true for older people, the group at the highest risk dying from the disease.

The debate then turns to if people are dying of COVID-19 or of a pre-existing disease. I’d think that with medical advances, people are living longer even with pre-existing disease, but COVID-19 exacerbates it because of its inflammatory nature. So, it’s still COVID-19 that is the killer. Unfortunately, it becomes a public relations debate about lowering numbers versus truth in numbers.

Anyway, we’re still in this. I’m still masking in public spaces, like stores and doctor’s offices. I made a return to patio dining and even went into a restaurant, masking up while walking through it and unmasking while eating and drinking. Ultimately, I just don’t want it.

So, stay vigilant.

43rd Festival Chicano – The Schedule is Out!

My heart skips a beat whenever the schedule for the Festival Chicano is released. Three days of the best Tejano music in a great venue with an amazing sound system. And it’s FREE! thanks to some great sponsors, the City of Houston, Miller Outdoor Theater, and efforts of local legend Mr. Daniel Bustamante and volunteers.

The King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe has played in everyone of the festivals, except one, during his storied 60 year career. He never disappoints and the crowd will definitely sing-along. Jay Perez is currently touring in support of his Freddie Records release, El Maestro. Elida y Avante is one of the top live acts en la onda on her Block Party Tour. Pasadena’s own La Fiebre is supporting its latest album Historico and puts on the equivalent of a Tejano rock show. David Farias of the famous Hermanos Farias brings his own band while also supporting his latest album, Volando Alto. Finally, The Most Wanted Man, Ram Herrera is touring with his new band of top flight musicians and a new album, Back on Track. This is a pretty hard-core line-up ready to give folks new and classic hits.

Here’s the release from the FB event page:

The “43nd Annual Festival Chicano” is a reflection of the artistic creativity that has developed in the Chicano cultural experience after centuries of influence from native peoples, Mexico, Europeans, and the U.S.A..

Chicano music has been historically shaped by many diverse styles such as Mexican rancheras, corridos, mariachi, orchestra, tejano, conjunto, big band, rhythm and blues, country, rock and roll, and many others.

The festival is a celebration of culture through the musical expression of countless generations of artists. It is truly a unique, original American sound.

Thursday, Oct. 6

Jay Perez
David Farias Band

Friday, Oct. 7

Elida Reyna y Avante
La Fiebre

Saturday, Oct. 8

Little Joe y La Familia
Ram Herrera

All performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre are FREE!

The Friday, October 7th Performance Will Also Be Livestreamed.

It’s also a ticketed event, so get yours here: http://www.milleroutdoortheatre.com/get-tickets

Photo Credit: DCMedia/Stace Medellin

El Prez Is Back; COVID-19 Still Here

CNBC

The good news is that President Joe Biden has tested negative for COVID-19 and he is back in the Oval. Thankfully, he has in-house medical and the ability to clear a hospital, if needed, for himself. Good thing he was able to get what he needed at the White House.

At today’s COVID-19-Neg presser, the President was promoting vaccines and boosters, at-home tests, paxlovid (if infected), and even wearing masks indoors. He really promoted the fact that these treatments and vaccines are free and available. Masks, I’d still suggest N-95, KN-95 and KF-94 one can find on Amazon and at grocery stores.

Biden also mentioned that things have advanced in the fight against COVID-19, reminding us that his orange predecessor had to be helicoptered to the hospital to get treated, while President Biden was treated effectively in-house with no need for a media circus involving waving from an SUV or endangering Secret Service.

That said, Houston Health reported a miniscule decrease in the positivity rate (down to 32.1%), as well as a drop in the wastewater viral load (down to 774%). While the wastewater number gives some hope because at-home testing doesn’t go reported as PCR tests do and this much of a decrease is noteworthy, a closer look at specific areas of town where they are taking these measurements show some increases, with some areas at over 1000% of the baseline.

Needless to say, COVID-19 is still with us and we still need to avoid it by masking up, avoiding large crowds, and even avoiding indoor activities with crowds. Oh yeah, and try not to get MonkeyPox, either! The side effects can be scary!

UPDATE: El Prez has tested positive for COVID-19 again. Apparently, he has a rare rebound case which are known to appear after treatment with Paxlovid. Hopefully, we’ll get some anecdotal knowledge of the effects of such a positive test.

Not Giving Up On Avoiding COVID-19

Houston Health’s latest report has us at 30.4% positivity on COVID-19 tests. I’m pretty sure we’ll reach one-third of tests soon, at least officially. Because of home tests and lack of individual reporting (c’mon, people, there are various apps on which to report it!), the number is likely higher.

My fear about the Texas Dem convention may have come true as I’ve seen a few friends and FB acquaintances return with positive tests. Another relatively smart FB acquaintance basically stated that we’re all gonna get it, since that person got it while on other unmasked exploits. ((Eye Roll)) I’m not giving up, but, then again, I don’t feel the need to be everywhere maskless during a pandemic. If I do get it, it’ll most likely be because of a failed mask in a room with some infected, unmasked mouthbreather.

The combination of COVID-19 vaccine avoidance due to widespread conspiracy idiocy and those who insist on going unmasked for fun and in the workplace are the reasons we’ve back-slided. The lack of any messaging regarding the latest surge from CDC, FDA, POTUS, and anything other governmental minions shows a lack of concern and also contribute to the current situation. There’s a good article about the current mess in Rolling Stone.

There’s a lot the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can do to slow the BA.5 subvariant and prevent deaths.

But both the FDA and CDC have dragged their heels. The FDA still hasn’t taken arguably the most important steps — approving both second boosters for Americans under age 50 and new booster formulations for subvariants such as BA.5. The CDC meanwhile isn’t clearly communicating to the public just how serious BA.5 is.

Whether it’s outdated COVID-19 maps, definitions of “community transmission” of late, or just a lack of concern based on low hospitalization rates (which say more about severity than spread), it is really looking like failure on the part of government officials. I wouldn’t expect any new mask mandates a few months before the election, but lack of a mandate (or lack of a strong recommendation) has contributed to people being lax and willfully ignorant about reality.

Anyway, I’m officially done with excursions to restaurants and other small events, though, they were few and far between. If I visit a friend by chance, I’ll definitely be masked because I don’t know where anyone not in my immediate circle has been. It’s not just the getting it that worries me, it’s the ongoing effects post-infection. I wish people would take it seriously.

COVID-19: CDC Says Mask Up Indoors, Again!

Well, if you haven’t paid attention to my COVID-19 posts of the last couple of months, or the steady climb of test positivity during the same period, it looks like the Feds are recognizing COVID-19 as a problem, again. Surprise? Hardly.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows about one-third of the U.S. population is now living in a county with a “high COVID-19 community level,” which means the agency recommends universal indoor masking.

Johns Hopkins University reports new COVID-19 cases rising slowly, which 108,000 new cases reported every day over the past two weeks. That is up 6% from the two weeks prior.

A recent pre-print study based on health records from the Veteran’s Administration shows that catching COVID-19 over and over again appears to increase the chances a person will experience new and sometimes lasting health problems after their infection.

People who had two or more documented infections had more than twice the risk of dying and three times the risk of being hospitalized within six months of their last infection.

Houston Health reports positivity is at 29.2% (probably undercounted) and that hospitalizations are indeed increasing. Moreover, Houston Health is now telling folks to mask-up indoors no matter their vaccination status based on CDC recommendations. The Texas Tribune and local news outlets also report that hospitalizations have doubled in the last week. All of this because of the newest variant that seems to be among the majority of infections.

But the omicron variant, which doctors say appears to be as contagious as the measles, could wind up sending more people to the hospital than during previous surges — even if it is a milder version of the virus — simply due to the sheer volume of people it’s infecting, Dr. Jason Bowling, epidemiologist at University Health in San Antonio.

Omicron has become the dominant variant in the state less than a month after it was first detected. The delta variant took several months to become dominant in Texas. That means the state’s medical community could be in for a bumpy ride this month as the virus infects people at an unprecedented rate.

Frankly it pisses me off that pundits continue to say that current numbers are “lower than last year’s peak,” as there are still people getting sick and spreading it a lot easier than with past variants. People are still acting as if this is over and it is pretty obvious it is not. Waiting for the numbers to get bad, instead of staying vigilant and proactive, is the problem. This new data that shows people infected multiple times have a higher chance of dying or hospitalization is pretty scary, too.

Now (or during the last few months) is not the time to continue to be lax in preventing disease. If masking had still been pushed while the numbers were lowering, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this current uptick in infections. But, hell, when people at the highest levels of government went unmasked at mass events, including some of our favorite Democrats, they ceased to be an example of prevention to the people. If anything, they were the excuse people needed to flick off their masks. And any new push by them to have the people mask up, I predict, will faceplant because of this.

What pisses me off even more is that the immunocompromised are still under constant threat. People still need to work and are in unmasked workplaces that insist on putting employees in danger. Mass events are being held with little to no recommendations for masking. Look, no one is telling you to close down, but mask the hell up! I really don’t need to see y’alls faces.

I preferred the politics of COVID-19 when Greg Abbott’s ineptitude wasn’t getting the help of everyone else in politics.

Texas Heat: Conserve Energy Today!

Greg Abbott’s unfixed electric grid seems to be sputtering as demand for electricity will be going over its peak today to the point where rolling blackouts may occur. Sunday’s record heat broke records all over Texas.

With a punishing heat wave across Texas driving record high power demand, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas late Sunday sent out a request that Texans cut back on their energy use on Monday.

ERCOT, the state’s power grid operator, asked Texans to turn up their thermostats and postpone running major appliances between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday. ERCOT has also called on large electric customers to lower their electricity use.

Total forecasted power demand is expected to surpass 79 gigawatts on Monday, ERCOT said — which would set another record.

Also, ERCOT tells us that “no system wide outages” are expected. That doesn’t mean it won’t go down in certain areas.

While ERCOT is asking big electric users (corporations, manufacturers) to bring down their electric use, I’m pretty sure the rest of us will get the blame if there are blackouts. So, what to do to conserve?

  • Set your thermostat at 78°F or higher – every degree of extra cooling will increase energy usage six to eight percent.
  • Use ceiling fans and portable fans to circulate the cool air.
  • Install patio covers, awnings, and solar window screens to shade your home from the sun. Shade south and west windows with plants or trees to block the heat during the summer.
  • Close interior blinds, drapes, or shades to block the sun and heat during warm weather.
  • Use a clothesline instead of a clothes dryer.
  • Outside air conditioning units, or condensers, should be shaded.
  • On warm days raise your thermostat to 80°F or higher if leaving for more than four hours.
  • Setting your thermostat to a lower temperature than normal will not cool your home faster.
  • Try to save heat and humidity-generating activities (cooking, laundering, and dishwashing) for early morning or evening hours.

Also, get your generators (if you have one) and small chargers ready! And DO NOT forget about the elderly and infirm.

Needless to say, I woke up early today and put some clothes in the washer to get it done early. You’d be surprised how a dryer will heat up an apartment! I usually put my A/C at 78, so if the “E” goes out, it’s not my fault, people! My apartment management will throw me out if I put up a clothesline. The blinds are always closed during hot days. And I have ceiling fans and oscillating fans going all day in the living room.

So, conserve!

Also, mask-up! COVID-19 is still out there and the numbers keep growing. Better to stay away from the heat and the people.

Another Sad COVID-19 Report

It didn’t take long for Houston Health to change the local COVID-19 risk level from “MEDIUM” to “HIGH.” What was it? A week?

The COVID-19 positivity levels are now at 23.9% and the viral load in the wastewater is at 556% of the baseline. And they added this, but it isn’t really being pushed with urgency.

With cases and hospitalizations up, please consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, and get tested if you have symptoms.

Consider a mask? Just freakin’ do it! If not for oneself, do it for the relatives you insist on hanging around with who may be at even higher risk.

Unfortunately, people are still having mass events with no mask required as if it’s 2019 and people are attending them. I’m seeing more people I know getting hit with COVID-19, some even suffering through it. I’ll say it again: Those who go around self-proclaiming “leadership” status are far from being leaders if they aren’t being an example to the community.

Anyway, mask up with a KN-95 or a KF-94, or something! We know what to do. Surely, we’ve gone unmasked long enough that we aren’t whining about being masked all those months, right?

Houston Back at Medium Risk for COVID-19

The Houston Health Department quietly announced that Houston is back at “Medium” risk for COVID-19, while this week the positivity rate reached 21.1%. Harris County still has us at “Yellow,” which they call controlled levels.

The best advice given by Houston Health is to “consider” wearing a mask if one is at high health risk. They have also stopped using “low” to describe the positivity rate, while pushing vaccines to help lower the numbers. The good news about vaccines is that children under 5 have been cleared to get the COVID-19 vaccines. Whether parents will do the responsible thing and get them vaccinated is to be determined.

Among the famous to report testing positive now is White House COVID-19 advisor Dr. Fauci himself. He’s experiencing mild symptoms and is on paxlovid, the anti-viral med approved to fight COVID-19. One story on the drug is that it is most effective on folks at high risk for severe symptoms based on health and age. That’s 50% of the people around the world. The hope is that better antivirals will be produced to help alleviate symptoms for all categories of people.

Well, all of this time later, people should know the drill. Masks help, especially the good ones like KN-95s and KF-94s. Staying away from crowds is even better. Encourage your bosses at work to get back into the masking groove to protect employees and lower workplace risk. Diving head first into a crowd of strangers unmasked is probably not a good idea. Sure, you might live if you’re vax’d and boosted, but why even get sick? Just be safe.

Expanded Trail On The West Side

I was quite happy to read that the Brays Bayou trail will finally be connected at the West Belt.

Officials on Thursday announced the start of construction on a 7.7-mile segment of trail along the bayou, from Braeburn Glen Park near Gessner and Interstate 69 to Archbishop Fiorenza Park at the Westpark Tollway and Eldridge Parkway. The $20.5 million project completes trail work along Brays and is the longest segment in the Bayou Greenways plan.

What’s exciting are the added options regarding which direction one can go when on this trail. Although, the trail will go through Chinatown and Arthur Storey Park, then snake west to Fiorenza Park, a stormwater detention parkland between Highway 6 and Eldridge, and beyond, there will be a connection to the Westchase Trail, which I use a lot for recumbent triking. That I’d be able to head west is a great option, though, heading east to the Medical Center is nice, too.

This project won’t be completed until the end of 2023, so, there’s no telling where I’ll be at that point in time, but I’m glad for the folks on the West Side of town who need this completed alternative transportation route. Walkers, runners, and cyclists will definitely enjoy it.