Category Archives: 2020

The Harris County Vax Portal Worked For Me!

Was the Harris County COVID-19 vaccine registration portal a bit glitchy and overloaded? Yeah.

Did Judge Lina Hidalgo tell us during her Monday press conference that it may have some glitches that will be taken care of as they come? Yeah.

Did the media report that? Of course not! DosCentavos did.

And did over 50,000 register by end of business on Tuesday? Well, yes, and count me among those that registered.

As posted on the Judge’s FB page: “I know people are anxious to register for a vaccine and website glitches are frustrating. But we’ve designed the system to give everyone equal access. If you sign up in future days you’ll still be selected from a randomized pool. 53K+ people registered today online, with more via phone.”

Let’s face it, local and state governments were left to fend for themselves by the Trump administration. While Trump ordered vaccines, he didn’t do much to help states and local governments with timely funding for supplies and resources needed to educate and inoculate a few hundred million people nationwide (remember, he was threatening to veto all sorts of things because of some internet rule?). Each state and locality has had to come up with their own systems of distribution and storage. And the funding for supplies and resources is still slow-going, on top of the slow production and distribution of vaccine from the companies that produced them. And if it’s a state like Texas, equity isn’t even on the radar of their right-wing leaders (Greg Abbott, et, al).

So, that a local government is actually trying to get something done to give people peace of mind should be commendable, and not something about which to whine, as has been exhibited on the news and by folks who didn’t support Judge Hidalgo.

That people expect perfection locally while the national government is still very much in a transition of leadership and getting to the bottom of what Trump and republicans did to our nation in regards to COVID-19, well, I just need to tell those people to watch their privilege. Because if you’re lovin’ on Biden after only 6 days of signing papers, while whining about local leaders trying to do something that takes more than an executive order, well, you’re doing whatever you’re trying to do wrong.

That said, there are millions of people in Harris County who need the vaccine. At least 2 million fall under the 1A and 1B priority list. A quarter of Harris County residents are uninsured and are not patients under the care of the local big hospitals which were given priority by the state of Texas. I’m just saying there are systemic things that must be addressed that have contributed to where we are now for which we must be demanding systemic change.

Anyway, the registration site is up. If you get a “maintenance” message, just refresh. If there are thousands of people trying to get registered and it overloads the system every now and then, well, that’s a good thing that people want to get registered and actually want the shot. President Biden just ordered an extra 200 million shots that will not arrive until the summer, meaning, the original Trump administration order of shots hasn’t even begun to arrive in bulk fashion. Get registered at as many portals as you can find and wait.

As always: Stay at/work from home if you can. If not, wear a mask, wash hands, and distance from others!

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.

40th Annual Tejano Music Awards Winners

Song of the Year – Ahora Sigo Yo – Stevie D

Male Vocalist – Jay Perez

Female Vocalist – Shelly Lares

Album – Jay Perez – 25th Anniversary Contigo

Conjunto Album – Los Desperadoz – Calm Before The Storm

Collaboration – Shelly Lares and Ernestine Romero – Estupida

Best New Male Artist – J.R. Gomez

Best New Female Artist – Monica Saldivar

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

Video – Stevie D – El Primer Tonto

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

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

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

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

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

Tejano Nation has a more comprehensive look at the event.

Tacho’s Pandemic Tamales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paradise in Hell sides with HEB against anti-maskers.

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

Update on UMMC COVID-19 Vax

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

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

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

INSKEEP: Next week.

VARON: Yes, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

VARON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

NPR 12/16/2020

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

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

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

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

UMMC Skipped Over in COVID Vax Distribution

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

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

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

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

ABC13

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: UMMC will receive vax allotment next week.

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.

QEPD – Maria Jimenez, Leader and Activist

Maria Jimenez, 3/15/2011 – Texans Day of Outrage Rally

I was saddened by the news that local civil and human rights activist, Maria Jimenez, had passed away after a battle with cancer.

This bio on Chicana Por Mi Raza points to some of the history Maria made. No doubt, it was her stories about the Houston side of La Raza Unida Party that put a lot of the history in perspective. It wasn’t just about the local Cristal stories that I grew up hearing from my parents, but about something bigger. The best advice she ever gave me, based on my political campaign work at the time, was to never forget that the work is about addressing the issues and keeping the personalities involved accountable.

Throughout my twenty-two years in Houston, I’ve known many young activists and leaders of all walks of life who proudly point to Maria Jimenez as having been their mentor, shero, and supporter. It is the work of these newer organizers today that proves the impact Maria had at so many levels.

My heartfelt condolences go out to Carlos, Stalina, and Maria’s family–actual and causa-related. May we all gain strength from the memory and results of her good works.

Los Blogs de Tejas-TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy, safe, and socially-distant Thanksgiving as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff examined recent Presidential results in the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth areas.

SocraticGadfly had two pieces related to recent climate change news. First, does a new Norwegian-British study show the James Kunstler alarmist types might be right? Second, it appears we now have the measurement tools to implement a carbon tax PLUS carbon tariff, which must be a part of climate change control.

DosCentavos writes about one of his favorite performers, Max Baca, of the Grammy winning Los Texmaniacs, who has been in a fight against COVID-19.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs. Raffi Melkonian delivers a play-by-play account of Rudy Giuliani’s day in Pennsylvania court.

Robert Moore is very worried about El Paso’s short-term future.

Christian Wallace visits Loving County, the last county in the US to have no reported COVID cases.

Raise Your Hand Texas prepares for the next fight over school finance at the Legislature.

Elise Hu shares a brief pandemic reading list.

Mean Green Cougar Red enjoys a time lapse video of Dutch canals.