Category Archives: City of Houston

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.

COVID-19 Creep-Up Continues

The latest 14-day COVID-19 positivity report from Houston Health now has us at 14.5% and the viral load in the wastewater is at 242%. I’m a little confused as to whether they call this “low,” or if they are saying vaccines will keep the number low. Well, I’m still back in 2020 when 5% positivity was causing freak-outs and freaking out that people are still allowing the rate to increase by staying unvax’d and/or unmasked.

I did a couple of reportable by app at-home tests last week. I got hit hard by something last week that laid me out, at least for parts of a few days. Fatigue, low-grade fever, chills, sinusitis, but no COVID-19 positivity. Thankfully, I’m doing better and I’m glad that it wasn’t COVID-19. Still, quite a few friends and acquaintances report they’ve been hit by COVID-19. I try not to be mean and ask, “Are you still wearing masks in crowds? Because I see your partying selfies without masks.” So, I just wish them well and hope they get through it quickly.

I still mask up at stores, at restaurants while I wait for my order, or in any kind of crowd. Too many unmasked folks out there! I’ve opened my life to a few more friends in my vicinity, and while it warms the heart, I still worry. Thankfully, those I associate with are not anti-maskers, don’t get offended by masks if I wear one, and are very much vaccinated. And that’s how I keep fighting against COVID-19.

The summer is just starting and things may worsen for some. Get vax’d and boosted, and do what you can to promote mask-wearing and staying away from crowds.

Another Disappointing COVID-19 Report

Houston Health reported Monday that the COVID-19 14-day positivity rate has jumped from 6.1% last week to 8.1% this week. They still call it “low,” which boggles the mind since infections are probably higher and deaths continue, but at least they are promoting testing and vaccination. Not that the needle is moving on vaccinations.

Among the popular folks that are reporting they tested positive is Congresswoman SJL. I wish her a speedy recovery. Whenever I see her, she is masked up while working a crowd or an event giving out baby formula. Unfortunately, and as Dr. Hotez recently attested, these new variants will catch you when you are not being careful.

Anyway, N-95, KN-95, and KF94 masks are accessible and affordable at the moment. Stock up and wear them in stores, workplaces, and crowded areas. Stay out of crowds, if possible. And order your next round of Biden COVID-19 tests so you can get ahead of it if you indeed get sick.

All levels of government aren’t doing much in Texas and even local leaders seem to continue jumping into COVID spit clouds at events, so, those of us who really don’t want to get sick are on our own.

COVID-19 Creep-Up Continues

Yesterday, the City of Houston reported that the 14-day average in COVID testing positivity has reached 4.4% and the wastewater load is at 79%. They call it “low,” but there is no doubt that the creep-up continues.

It’s not surprising that this is happening. Masks seem to have come off for most at stores and especially at large events. With the mask mandates on public transportation coming off, I see more and more unmasked folks at Park and Ride buses headed for the ‘burbs.

Why should we be worried? Well, at one point in time, the World Heath Organization called 5% positivity too high; high enough to tell governments to consider stronger restrictions. Some would say that things are different since we have vaccines which lessen symptoms for some people and we have a high number of people who have already been infected, but with variants still creating themselves, anything can happen. And, oh yeah, some of us don’t want to get COVID-19–even with “mild” symptoms.

Speaking of anything can happen, Texas Democratic candidate for Governor Beto O’Rourke self-reported that he has tested positive. Talk about unsurprising. He’s the type of candidate that literally throws himself into a crowd. That it didn’t happen sooner is the more surprising part of this story. While O’Rourke states he “tests frequently,” testing doesn’t help you not get it, nor does it stop you from spreading it while you wait to “surprisingly” test positive. Masking up and requiring masks at your events does–at least it lessens the risk.

As someone who has always sought examples on how not to get COVID-19 from our leaders, I’m disappointed that many continue to push the envelope, mixing in with larger crowds, exercising close contact, etc. If a skinny, boosted, healthy, and well-insured dude can get it (Beto), imagine someone with comorbidities and/or immunocompromised systems. And I do see these folks in all the FB event pics.

There are ways to participate in “the re-opening” that do not expose you to COVID-19. But people seem to refuse even that. Meanwhile, these kind of events lead to workplace exposures and that just increases the probability of spread, not to mention negatively affecting the economy and productivity. If that sounds familiar, it’s what we went through early on. Two years later, one would figure we would know how to act.

Anyway, that’s today’s COVID-19 report of disappointment.

THIS JUST IN: The VP has it, too.

Update 4/27/22: Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia reports she tested positive.

Is COVID-19 Creeping Back Up?

Based on folks running around at various unmasked, high-attendance indoor events, I’m pretty sure no one has noticed the COVID-19 positivity rate creeping up these last couple of weeks. Houston Health Department reported this morning “slight” increases from last week’s rate, but they still call it “low” at 3.5%.

The City of Philadelphia noticed their cases creeping up and has decided to reinstate its mask mandate in a week while hospitalizations remain low in order to keep them that way. As their Mayor Tenney stated, “Our city remains open; we can still go about our daily lives and visit the people and places we love while masking in indoor public spaces.”

And that’s the general attitude that we have needed here in Texas, but leaders–elected and community–have failed us by going around unmasked to mass events as if this thing is over. They have failed to be an example of what leadership is while proclaiming themselves leaders. I always chuckle when I see their social media posts.

The Gridiron Club dinner in DC where 72 attendees, including members of Congress left infected, is an example of what can occur in an instant when one jumps right into an unmasked event. One member of Congress stated he avoided COVID-19 these last two years only to get it by going unmasked while boosted. In other words, if you’re around an infected person, you can get it.

Thank your shots and boosters all you want, the goal should still remain to NOT get sick, rather than getting it and spreading it to vulnerable loved ones, while still surviving yourself.

To further make this point about caring about the vulnerable–the elderly, the immunocompromised, those with comorbidities–here’s a good op-ed from the NYTimes, which points to the lack of caring for vulnerable populations at all levels of government and now in both parties in this race to re-open.

After a couple of weeks of watching the positivity rate go below 2%, I dove into society a little, attending a lunch with friends in a nice uncrowded restaurant, I ate lunch at Dot’s with family on the way to Hobby (a little scarier because it was packed), and I ate lunch at a restaurant in Sharpstown (Taqueria Mexico Lindo) to enjoy some menudo and tripas tacos. I walked into all places masked, masked up when the staff came to the table, but unmasked while eating. It’s still a scary experience for me because I tend to trust no one. Still, I enjoyed myself. But I think I’m done once again while this creep-up occurs. At the very least, I’ll stay masked wherever I go.

I was hoping to time my 2nd booster for the next color-code change, but I may need to do it sooner.

If you’re indoors, mask-up. Get double boosted. Keep clean. No one is telling you to shut things down, but just be cognizant of how you can affect your loved ones. It’s about personal responsibility.

Kuff has more.

Chris Hollins is Running for Mayor

It just got interesting!

After an announcement by State Senator John Whitmire that he was running for Mayor while running for re-election, it seemed like the 2023 mayoral race would have less oxygen without any other major candidates.

Chris Hollins, the former interim County Clerk who led the county through some innovative reforms in how elections are run, announced yesterday that he, too, would run for Mayor. He’s definitely a breath of fresh air in what would be a race where most of the hopefuls have been around local politics for a long time.

Hollins, a Texas Democratic Party official who temporarily served as Harris County clerk in 2020, rose to prominence two years ago by championing efforts intended to make it easier for people to vote during the pandemic, including 24-hour drive-thru voting and a bid to send applications for mail-in ballots to more than 2 million registered voters in Harris County.

Hollins, the son of a former police officer, states that his focus would be public safety.

“Our community at large cannot thrive unless we’re safe and, just as important, we feel safe in our city,” Hollins said. “So whether that means addressing issues of crime, flooding, housing or the pandemic, Houstonians have to be able to trust that our mayor is committed to protecting residents and to fostering a safe community.”

With only a week before the start of early voting for the 2022 primary, this certainly puts a focus on Whitmire, who has recently promised to run one race at a time. I also agree with Kuff that pressure will be placed on anyone else who wants to run for Mayor and start raising money. There are other names we’ve heard and activity we’re seeing from a few others who sure are acting like future mayoral candidates. Frankly, they hadn’t interested me as much as Hollins.

Just a reminder that we still need to give our attention to 2022.

Stay tuned, for sure.

Did You Know We Had Elections?

Yes, but most of us couldn’t vote in them. Even here in Houston.

Houston Dems were definitely engaged in trying to get the vote out in very Republican Houston City Council District G for Piper Madland. Unfortunately, she earned just under 30% against recent GOP loser for DA Mary Nan Huffman, who got just under 54% running against four opponents. Since my district is just across Westheimer from District G, I did drive by plenty of signs and polling locations with lots of signs. It was a good try for Dems in what is one of those hard-to-win districts in Houston.

In Austin, immigration attorney Jose “Chito” Vela bested six other opponents in his race for Austin City Council District 4 in a special election to replace Greg Casar who resigned to run for Congress-TX35 in the Primary. Vela earned around 60% of the 3600+ voters who showed up with a nod from Casar and Labor, not to mention a healthy bank account. Kudos to my FB friend Monica Guzman for giving it a good run and coming in 2nd. Vela will serve his constituents well.

The endorsement contests for the Harris County Democratic Primary are going full force if anyone is paying attention. The clubs sure are! If you want to keep track of the endorsements and/or who is running for what in the Dem Primary, check out Erik Manning’s spreadsheet. It really is the best source of info out there.

Don’t know if I’ll do my usual “Stace Slate” of endorsements. If I do, just remember, no money was exchanged for said endorsements and no memberships were required to be purchased. It’s just one Chicano voter (with the help of his hermanas) deciding for whom to vote. If you can’t trust 3 Chican@s whom have voted in every Democratic Primary since they were each 18, who can you trust?

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.