Category Archives: Health Care

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.

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.

Varon, FLCCC: A COVID-19 Treatment That Must Be Approved Now

Dr. Joseph Varon, of Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, and a team of researchers/physicians/ICU Specialists who have been working on COVID-19 patients, held a press conference last week regarding the treatment and even prevention of COVID-19 through a protocol developed through their own research.

According to Varon, one medication that has been effective in treating COVID-19 is Ivermectin. This drug has been around for over 40 years to treat parasitic infections and it’s affordable. Varon states that Ivermectin has been used as part of the I-MASK protocol to treat patients who are post-exposure, early stage, and even late stage, with some success and safety. A major find is that the drug is also preventative. The drug is not only anti-viral, but also anti-inflammatory.

The press conference was more of a call to action to request medical authorities at the federal and global level to study and authorize this treatment, and to update protocols of treatment, which has not occurred since August, 2020. In fact, it was in August that the FDA authorized Ivermectin for clinical trials. With the data already collected, they feel it is time to update the treatment protocols.

According to Dr. Pierre Kory of St. Luke’s in Wisconsin, multiple studies have shown decreases in mortality and positive treatment outcomes. As a prophylactic, it has been successful in preventing COVID-19. He states that lives are being saved.

Dr. Varon stated at various points that the group of physicians are in no way affiliated with the drug companies and that they have no conflicts of interest in supporting this method of treating and preventing COVID-19.

Professor of Medicine Dr. Paul Marik offered a global call to action for health authorities to look at the clinical trial data on Ivermectin, validate the data, and push for its use as we reach a critical point in the pandemic in which better treatments are needed. Marik stated quite emotively, “We must act now, we must act with conviction, and we must act with compassion.” Federal leadership has so far ignored the request.

Dr. Marik also pointed to clinical outcomes and benefits of various medications utilized and debated about, including Hydrocloroquine, Remdesivir, and others. They found that only Ivermectin had benefits for pre-exposure, post-exposure, and pulmonary/inflammatory/hospitalization phases of COVID-19.

Dr. Varon added that medical providers are tired of the death and destruction by COVID-19 and they have developed this treatment to not only help patients, but to help medical providers. When asked regarding competition with the billions of dollars already invested in vaccine development, Varon offered a dose of reality: 60% of the world will need to be vaccinated to reach some level of immunity and he has heard from his own patients and others that they are not willing or trusting of the vaccine enough to take it. What FLCCC offers is an alternative, as well as a way proven through their own research, to address COVID-19 now to compliment the vaccination process. As Dr, Marik put it, “It’s not a competition.”

Watch the press conference here, which includes Q&A with media for more information. One can also go to the FLCCC website to read the studies and other pertinent information. Here is the press kit that was also provided.

Dr. Varon: Next Six Weeks Will Be A Dark Period

Dr. Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Medical Center, who has done a lot of good work hunting and fighting COVID-19 in underinsured and ethnic communities of Houston, stated in a recent interview with TVV in Miami that the next six weeks may be a dark period in Texas’ big cities.

Citing what is called “covid fatigue,” Varon states that people are letting down their guard as they tire of hearing about the disease, which is the reason for the uptick in infections. Varon points out that while people ignore the disease in order to have their fun, the disease is not ignoring the people.

Varon also states that if the people do not change their ways of visiting restaurants, going to concerts and gatherings, etc., it is expected that by February, 2021, there will be over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Over 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas, thus far.

The doctor states that a big challenge in fighting COVID-19 is the information and disinformation that people get from various sources, which has led to confusion. I’ll add that certainly the outgoing occupant of the White House has made the fight more difficult. Varon adds that Texans seem to think that they are above COVID-19 and any restrictions and shut-downs because, well, we’re Texas and we prefer freedom over safety and wellness. He’s not wrong about some of these freedom-promoting idiots, which unfortunately include Texas’ governor and lt. governor.

Anyway, we must listen to the experts, like Dr. Varon, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hotez, and the CDC. We must continue to mask-up, stay away from large gatherings, wash hands, and stay put!

IN OTHER NEWS…

Since, I’m a huge Tejano music fan, I follow a lot of the bands and happenings in the genre. Recently, I’ve noticed more concerts occurring around the state. I’ve also noticed some legendary musicians and performers announcing they’ve contracted COVID-19 while exposing other musicians. Who knows what’s happening within the crowds as there is no physical distancing and very few masks in the photos I’ve seen. The concerts need to stop. I know the livelihood of performers has been threatened and affected, but thumbing one’s nose at reality is not a long-term solution.

Biden States Case For Latino Support

credit: Alamy

Joe Biden stated his case for the Latino electorate with a lengthy article stating where he stands on issues affecting Latinos.

President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. His assault doesn’t just reveal itself in the betrayal of the Dreamers or in the pardoning of a sheriff who has terrorized the Latino community. It’s in the underfunding of schools, in attacks on labor and the ability of workers to bargain for their worth, and in the neglect of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American.

Generally, he promised the following.

Biden will:

  • Invest in Latinos’ economic mobility.

  • Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.

  • Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.

  • Combat hate crimes and gun violence.

  • Secure our values as a nation of immigrants.

Specifically, he talked about supporting a Latino museum at the Smithsonian and political appointees to his administration that will look like America. Included is a promise to expand Latino small business opportunities and jobs creation through infrastructure development. Within this, improving the treatment of workers and expanding worker protection is on his to-do list. To support Latino families, he would address lack of access to child care for essential workers and early education. Expanding Latino homeownership is on his list, too.

One important part of his plan is expanding access to health care through a public option for health insurance and ACA subsidies to make Obamacare more affordable. Most importantly, addressing the inequality experienced by the Latino community that block their access to health care. It’s not Medicare-for-all, but given his primary campaign, I didn’t expect it. Given how COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in health care and insurance, it should still be discussed.

In the realm of higher education, Biden is committed to increasing college graduation rates, tuition-free higher education including 2-year workforce programs, increased access to student financial aid, student debt forgiveness, investing in Hispanic-Serving Institutions, bringing HSI and HBCUs into high-tech research, among other commitments.

Pointing to Trump’s anti-immigrant nature, Biden promises to send an immigration bill to Congress on Day 1 which will modernize the immigration system and include a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents of the US.

On the detention side, Biden promises to decrease its use, passing on the case management responsibility to nonprofit groups while migrants go through the system. And Biden also promises to stop Trump’s policy of caging children in favor of family reunification. [I hope they aren’t reunified in family-style prisons.] Added on is a decrease in the use of 287(g) agreements to take out local law enforcement from the equation.

Really, folks, check out this article, which includes links to his policy pronouncements on his campaign website. It’s actually better than I expected, though, we will have conversations about his Latin America policy soon enough since it doesn’t seem to be any different than what Republicans offer:  More election meddling and coups in support of right-wing, murderous regimes who care little for the poor and indigenous.

Some of you will see articles about the Orange one making a play for Latinos, too. Basically, he’ll speak to the same self-hating, anti-immigrant, bigoted brown folk (including some of our relatives) who think they’re excluded from Trump’s anti-Latino hate. For some reason, they buy into it. So, Democrats should not waste time with them, instead concentrate on increasing the bottom line with folks who want a reason to vote for Democrats.

Yes, many of us feel like we’re just voting for the next guy we’ll be protesting. For sure, we will be making Biden accountable for these promises during the campaign and once in office. And another thing, Biden cannot be a repeat of the Obama years in which access for Latino activists to the White House was controlled by elitists not involved in progressive causes. Latino activists must be part of the discussion of issues, and not just inclusive of those content with invites to the White House Cinco de Mayo event and other photo ops.

And guess what? There will be Dems (brown ones included) who will be upset for the people demanding what was promised. But tough shit. We are only exercising our right to participate and to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Trump has expanded those grievances and “going back to normal” is not an option. It must be better.

The job for everyone who wants to rid us of the Orange one is to sell what Biden is offering, and NOT what Trump is doing or saying. Dems need to stop being a free ad for the Orange one where all they do is point a finger at how bad Trump is. Biden has stated his case and Dems need to back it up when trying to earn the Latino vote.

 

Latinos and COVID-19

The LA Times recently featured an article about COVID-19 in South Texas, specifically, the Rio Grande Valley. I wrote a post about bad state leadership and COVID-19 in South Texas in early May. I had hoped that people would realize that bad leadership and a pandemic do not mix and that they wouldn’t listen to awful leaders. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse.

We’ve all heard that it’s pretty bad down there and it is. Hospitals are overloaded, deaths are happening so often that even a transporter of bodies has earned a feature in some newspapers because of how busy he has become. For Mexican Americans and other Latinos, it is bad everywhere.

In 2015, 27% of US Latinos were uninsured. It’s safe to say that given the undocumented population and the economic effects of COVID-19, that number is even higher today. Latinos did not have access to adequate health care pre-Coronavirus. This in itself is a public policy failure, but if there was an underlying condition that caused underlying conditions to become exacerbated by COVID-19, it is the lack of access to health care and wellness.

The LA Times article quoted one of the Medical authorities in the RGV who stated that people were finding it difficult to avoid family get-togethers, especially during the season of Mother’s Day, graduations, Father’s Day, and 4th of July. An article in the NY Times also gave mention to Latino “culture” in the form of family get-togethers. In other words, events that bring families together are a cultural thing in South Texas and folks can’t seem avoid them.

Miya Shay at ABC13  reported on the Del Toro family whose patriarch contracted COVID-19, along with other members of his family, after a Father’s Day dinner.

It’s bad enough that there are failed Republicans leaders in other states who blame Hispanics for the spread of COVID-19, but let’s not forget the failed Texas leadership that downplayed COVID-19 realities and sped up a re-opening of Texas. Greg Abbott chose profits over people.

As I stated in a previous post, the people model their behavior based on the attitudes and decisions of their leaders, and Greg Abbott didn’t start panicking and reversing course until the body count started worsening in July. Until now, it was all about limited COVID-19 testing, a lack of medical resources and preparation, and fast-tracking the reopening of states. Trump continues hell-bent on reopening states and schools. Meanwhile, there are local leaders who actually are–whether in Houston or in the Valley–trying to shut down their cities, yet, are forced to add a disclaimer that their orders have no teeth because of Greg Abbott.

Well, now we are at this point where the whole state is considered a hot spot and it must be restated:  STAY HOME! And if you need to go to the grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment (and I don’t see any other reason other than essential work to leave your home), wear a mask, distance from others and wash hands. It’s not that difficult. It’s up to us. And, if you’re an essential worker, you also have a responsibility to stop the spread by practicing safe protocols and CDC guidelines beyond your work environment.

In other words, fellow Brown people, screw what may seem to you like “culture,” and take responsibility for saving our families! Culture also means taking care of our own families when there is danger.

And if you are a leader of a state agency, college, or university, or a company that has the ability to continue operations from home, then it is your responsibility to be part of the solution–Keep your employees home!

Given the situation with the Florida Marlins and outbreaks at various school gyms prepping for Fall athletic programs, school sports need to shut down, too. And that includes university sports programs. Hell, even professional programs that are supposedly “in a bubble” need to stop this folly of a season. If they can get sick in a bubble, they will spread it beyond the bubble. And it sets a bad example.

Still, the diversity of my Facebook friends list runs the gamut and it freaks me out to see people at get-togethers with people who don’t reside with them at the lake or at the beach or eating at restaurants (even if they are at whatever percentage they’ve been told to be by Greg Abbott) or getting haircuts…the list goes on.

Forget about the fear of schools reopening as that’s still in the future. What is going on now dictates what happens later and all we see in the future are more funerals and more despair if behavior and public policy does not change. We have a responsibility to ignore bad leaders like Trump and Abbott and do whatever it takes to stop the spread.

It’s getting to where the people who are sick and dying are people we each personally know and love. I‘d rather miss (or be missed by) my family members for a couple of months of lockdown than forever. 

Why So Surprised at Abbott’s Destruction of Texas?

The Chron, an avid endorser of Greg Abbott, wrote a critical op-ed about Abbott.

The Chron still supported Abbott after the multi-billion dollar shit show that has been the “border surge,” the billions cut from public education, and not allowing an expansion of Medicaid. So, who is “foolish?”

Well, now, Greg Abbott and republicans are failing Texas on mitigating the Coronavirus–big time! But we have enough beds for all the fools who go to bars and parties unmasked as Abbott re-opens the economy, y’hear? Maybe not.

Why are we so surprised? And why is he considered “failing,” now? We’ve known Republicans were out to get the poor, the infirm, immigrants, women, persons of color, the disabled, the LGBT, and many more for a long time.

Why the faux outrage toward him, now? Is it about YOU, now?

 

 

 

Abbott: Follow The Rules I Didn’t Impose!

UPDATE 4PM:  Well that had to be the most useless press conference ever. Abbott and his minions basically assured Texans that there are enough hospital beds for all the COVID19 patients and that the re-opening will continue.

When asked regarding a letter by Dallas County Judge Jenkins who requested more power to enforce mask use and other rules, an offended Greg Abbott blamed Jenkins for wanting to “jail” non-mask wearers and that he should go after bars and restaurants who violate Abbott’s re-opening capacity rules. Abbott has mentioned that TABC is supposed to be doing this, too, so, who’s in charge?

Anyway, Texas government lacks leadership, but has an abundance of power-hungry zealots, and that is nothing new.


So, Greg Abbott is supposed to speak sometime today (6/16/2020) on the increase in COVID19 positives and hospitalizations.

Harris County continues to lead the state with the most confirmed cases with 17,282 cases, 10,029 active, 6,969 recovered and 284 deaths as of Tuesday morning.

and

Harris County has surpassed the hospitalization peak initially seen on April 11 at 610 patients.

As of Sunday, Harris County now has 696 patients severely suffering from coronavirus.

A doctor with Memorial Hermann says they’ve seen a 30% jump in hospitalizations since the end of May.

Telemundo also reported that one testing center at the Mexican Consulate had a 20% infection rate of the 600 tested. And United Memorial Medical Center reported that 90% of new patients are Hispanic.

But, yesterday, after forcing Texas to Phase 3 re-opening last week, Abbott blamed any increase on young people who aren’t taking Coronavirus seriously.

“They are not wearing face masks, they’re not sanitizing their hands, they’re not maintaining social distancing,” he added. “And as a result, they are contracting COVID-19 at a record pace in the state of Texas.”

I fixed his quote, though:

“How dare you young’ns get sick after going to all the businesses that I re-opened and by refusing to wear masks that I didn’t require you to wear!”

Abbott is concerned, but not alarmed, at the increase in positives and hospitalizations. So, he’ll keep the re-openings going and he won’t enforce any rules regarding masks, looking away while pretending that adults will adult.  All this from the comfort of his own taxpayer-paid cocoon. Now, that’s leadership!

Is it true that mask-wearing is lacking? That distance is not being practiced? Of course. We’ve been saying this the whole damn time. But people take their cues from the leaders that satisfy their wants and needs. Whether it’s racist policies or some semblance of faux rugged individualism, you can count on Republicans to shovel it and blame others for the consequences.

Let’s see what he says today.

 

 

 

Re-Living History

I noticed some Tejano music nighclubs are getting ready to re-open. It’s too damn soon! I even read that Grupo Intocable, one of my favorites, is going to have a “drive-in” concert out in the boonies in Poteet, TX on my birthday. They all say CDC guidelines will be followed, but do you trust people to follow? And what can these places do to enforce them? The federal and state government won’t even enforce it. No, thanks! Stay home.

I saw the lifted tweet-turned-meme below and decided to rewrite it in modern day Vato. Enjoy!


Lots of raza in the club waiting for the Hometown Boys to take the stage. I’m out here in my car watching the scene like I look at the marranitos being made at the panaderia, but chale, I ain’t going in. I can drink a six pack at home and not get the ‘rona. ~ 2020 Rewrite in Vato speak.