Tag Archives: covid-19

Code Orange = Strong Encouragement, Unfortunately

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo elevated the county’s COVID-19 code to ORANGE as hospitals address a significant spike in cases. Orange means “minimize all contacts unless fully vaccinated,” but is that even enough, now?

As I stated previously, I felt uneasy about the Biden/CDC’s unmasking of the vaccinated. Things just looked too comfortable and it certainly didn’t encourage those who needed to mask. Maskholes are still maskholes and I didn’t feel society should be rewarded, yet.

Maybe I preferred the visual of people acting responsibly, rather than the one of unmasked mass (and smaller) events leaving me to wonder what the vaccination rate was in the room. Thankfully, Judge Hidalgo called for masking to return.

Hidalgo said by not wearing masks, even those who are vaccinated are “normalizing” not wearing masks for those who are unvaccinated. She also reminded the vaccinated they can still spread the virus to the unvaccinated, who can get sicker from the virus.

KHOU 7.23.2021

That last line may have been a mild reference to breakthrough cases.

Another unfortunate matter is the fact that all the elevated code does is allow Judge Hidalgo and other leaders to strongly encourage good behavior rather than mandating it, thanks to Greg Abbott’s lack of compassion. Re-opening with little to no precautionary guidance is what has taken us backwards. Schools are reopening soon, and some universities are already open as students get ready to return, and Abbott is allowing bad behavior to exist–no masking, light encouragement of vaccinations if one chooses, etc. These education systems have a responsibility to practice good behavior despite having a crappy leader.

Although right-wing misinformation clearly exists on the airwaves, I found it encouraging to suddenly see more people in my area of town masking and acting responsibly, at stores and even while walking outdoors. Although it was just a tiny moment and area, I hope it continues all over.

As Kuff mentions in his post about the color code change, COVID-19 testing may become an issue as testing has been scaled down. It became pretty obvious to me when I saw an actual line of walk-up clients at a tiny testing temporary building (think 8×8 converted container) in front of the Aldi on Westheimer.

Anyway, mask-up, wash hands, stay vigilant. And tell your unvax’d people to get vax’d or you’re cutting them off.

Now, It’s About Personal Responsibility

“We’re past the time of government mandates, we’re into the time for personal responsibility, and that’s exactly what we will do,” said, Greg Abbott, the governor who didn’t mandate much of anything during the pandemic and helped cause over 50,000 COVID-19 deaths in Texas

Or, as Kuff starkly reminds everyone, “You’re on your own.”

Greg Abbott will not be mandating mask-wearing, not even for the least vaccinate–school kids.

“Everyone has had more than a year to master all the safe strategies that they can choose what’s best for them and their family members,” said the governor who has seldom encouraged safe strategies, particularly at all his campaign-like press conferences.

Meanwhile, the medical experts are predicting a fourth COVID-19 surge. More than half the state is unvaccinated because Greg Abbott reminds everyone that it’s their right to not get it. And it seems personal responsibility is the last thing on people’s minds as they are everywhere unmasked and in mass gatherings.

That’s today’s update on Texas government ineptitude.

And Then There Was Lambda

All the COVID-19 numbers in Houston, Texas, and the US are doing more than “trending in the wrong direction.” They are on the verge of…something. And, now, the Lambda variant is in Houston, because the Delta variant and COVID-classic just isn’t enough. And, yes, the vast majority are people who did not get vaccinated. But…

According to a CDC report, there have already been over 5,000 breakthrough cases around the country; meaning, the fully vaccinated. And due credit is given to having taken the vaccine by those who are only experiencing mild symptoms and not dying, but I’m of the opinion that the Biden/CDC should have split the difference on the guidelines by including a strong suggestion (if not mandate) for mask-wearing indoors, even if vaccinated. The suggestion that the vax’d could go anywhere unmasked just seemed too soon and politically motivated, in my opinion.

…the agency reported 5,492 patients nationwide with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infections had been hospitalized or died. According to the CDC, 75% of those patients were 65 or older and 19% of the cases resulted in death.

KHOU

Some will say that this is a tiny fraction of Americans, but that has been the Trumpian response to the entire pandemic. So, let’s just say I don’t get the warm and fuzzies when my side of the aisle says it either.

So, if you’re vaccinated, jump into a big crowd while unmasked, and get infected (with mild symptoms), you may end up infecting other unmasked, yet vaccinated, elderly folks in your family. Just food for thought while you attend unmasked concerts, social club parties, etc. Some may call me alarmist, but I’m just trying my damnest not to get sick of anything. Plus the docs and medical staff on TV are looking pretty worried and that’s always been an indication of things when leaders are avoiding reality.

Others affected and among those who died include those who are immunocompromised because of cancer, transplant, or autoimmune disease. I’ve already mentioned the need for boosters for this particular group of Americans. I wish there was more information on antibody testing to see if the first two (or one) shots took, on how to obtain a booster, and just plain ol’ information to reach this group for their own safety as it is estimated that they make up 3% of the population (probably more). It seems like the CDC is finally beginning to “consider” boosters for this group. For immunocompromised folks who have been informed and proactive, they are way ahead of the CDC and have had to go through hoops to get a booster after finding out the original shots didn’t take. If you’re among them, I’d suggest you get some advice from your specialist.

That’s OK, though, we’re offering prizes to convince the unvaccinated to get a shot. Apologies for the snark, but I’m really bothered by some stat I read that says 2/3 of the unvaccinated are anti-vax maskholes.

The latest Texas numbers show an increase in the weekly average of vaccinations. That’s good. Unfortunately, test positivity is above 10% statewide, and hospitalizations have also increased. While July 4 weekend has been cited as a cause for the latest numbers, one only has to see the nonchalant attitude of workplaces, grocery and big box stores, and entertainment venues to get an idea of what is to come.

At this point, I wish our leaders would add a push for mask wearing to the push for vaccination. “You won’t die” doesn’t help much, even if our Texas Lege heroes who are trying to save our democracy in DC are pushing that narrative after at least five of them contracted COVID-19. As proud of them as I have been, every unmasked selfie and crowded group photo sent a chill down my spine to the point where I am not surprised the infections happened. The last few pics some have posted have included masks, though.

Here’s hoping vaccinations continue to increase as we head toward schools reopening, too. The 12 to adult group is still lagging.

As always, if you’re within a big group of people, mask-up, distance, keep clean, etc. You all know the drill. At least I hope you haven’t forgotten as you have vaccinated, unmasked fun.

LA County Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate

I was glad to see LA County (CA) being proactive as the COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization numbers are seeing an increase. LA County has reinstated an indoor mask mandate, no matter what ones vaccination status is.

Given recent news of breakthrough cases among famous people (Fluffy) who have dived into the unmasked/unvax’d masses, I think it’s a good idea. I think strong encouragement by our local leaders would also help, since Gomer Fife, Texas Ranger (The Governor) would stop any real mask mandate.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo posted on FB that things are trending in the wrong direction and that people need to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, there was no sounding of an alarm, yet.

Still considered rare, breakthrough cases have shown the vaccines’ effectiveness at preventing severe illness and hospitalization. Comedian Fluffy Iglesias credited the vaccine to his symptoms being mild. Still, some of us don’t want to get COVID-19 or its variants and would rather feel safer than “not as sick as the unvaccinated infected.” Of course, there are also the immunocompromised to think about, but they seem to be the last on the priority list.

Anyway, I implore folks to run their own mask mandate–wear a mask in crowded places and tell those around you to wear one, whether in social gatherings or at work. Don’t allow your bosses and co-workers and those around you to dictate based on their personal feelings, thus, forcing you to feel unsafe. It is happening and there is nothing more annoying than hearing someone tell you, “Oh, I guess you can wear a mask.”

I’m not sure how any more people want to get vaccinated, given the number of unvax’d maskholes in Texas, but those that do not have access need to become a priority. While there are areas in Texas where vaccination rates are dismal (Kuff has more), numbers mean a lot more than percentages here in Harris County and half of the county is still not vaccinated.

If you or anyone needs a vaccine, find a location here.

Don’t Be A Maskhole!

While the Official State Bigot (Greg Abbott) is whining and blaming “the other” down in South Texas, his followers today begin to shirk their responsibilities and exercise their right to kill others as the Texas mask mandate no longer exists and Texas businesses have permission to open back up to 100% capacity in the middle of a pandemic that very much continues.

Regarding Abbott’s whining at the border, I remind all that people migrate from Central America because of the poverty and violence in their home countries. It doesn’t help that US policy in Latin America is a joke–no matter what party is in charge. Biden has proposed some ideas, but any assistance for those countries likely will come with rules–like whom they should elect as their leaders, instead of whom the poor and indigenous elect. And that’s a whole other debate. The US has only worsened the root causes of migration, whether in the form of political, military, or commercial intervention, and usually all forms at once. Abbott supports those policies, he just whines about how Biden deals with the effects of those policies because he longs to be the next Trump. The effects have always been the same, no matter who is in power, because the root causes remain in effect.

Meanwhile, we still have COVID-19 to address and Greg Abbott has been a complete failure in this regard. Thanks to the Biden administration, the vaccines are slowly increasing, as is access to them. The Democrats will finally pass a COVID-19 relief package that will bring the US closer to a safer re-opening (for most), if not normality. And this is Biden’s fault–I’ll give him that much credit. But I also see it as just simply doing the job that is demanded by the people.

Abbott’s and his followers tactics are all for the purposes of delaying whatever progress can be achieved while there are other challenges that must be addressed by the Biden administration–like immigration reform. The Republicans have always run on a delay and deny playbook when they are not in power (and a few “moderate” Dems have always helped them with that). Democrats should act like they have all the power in the world and make the changes that need to be made. Screw bipartisanship!

Anyway, MASK-UP! Practice physical distancing when out and about. Stay away from gatherings. Wash hands. And follow the CDC for the latest opportunities that may help open things up safely. Moreover, IGNORE Greg Abbott!

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.

Things To Do on Thanksgiving

Stay home!

Seriously, we should all stay home with those that reside within our household and be thankful that we’re still here. Call (or Zoom) those relatives you aren’t able to visit. Be safe.

According to Ready Harris, we’re still at Level 1 – Stay Home.

Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contacts with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.  

Ready Harris

Take it seriously, please.

If you’re in need of a good pie recipe, check out the Karo Corn Syrup recipe. It’s so easy, it’ll mix in 5 minutes. Add a simple 9 inch pie crust from the store and you’re on your way to scarfing down your food plate just to get to dessert. (I add a splash of Maker’s Mark Whiskey to ther recipe just to make things interesting.)

I’m off to make the green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, and a pie. Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE on PECAN PIE:

Performing Artists Take Multiple Hits During COVID-19

Los Texmaniacs at Heights Theater, Christmas 2019

Writing and reading about Grammy-winning performer Max Baca’s fight with COVID-19 had me thinking about the multiple hits (health and financial) artists and performers are taking during the pandemic. An article in the San Antonio Report about Baca and other musician’s struggles really hit me with this reality.

During the pandemic, Baca took care in keeping himself safe–virtual concerts on Wednesdays to make a few bucks via Paypal donations, and mostly living off of his savings. Eight months later, with savings depleted, Baca hit the road again to pay the bills and ventured into danger.

Trump’s promises that the pandemic was a temporary thing that would disappear were outright lies that fed into a disinformation campaign to keep people confused and acting stupidly; but, the reality is that it is long-term, cutting into most performer’s ability to make money and pay their bills. And that included Baca’s band Los Texmaniacs.

After whittling down his life savings trying to stay afloat while the coronavirus pandemic brought his live performances to a grinding halt, Baca knew he needed to look outside of his hometown of San Antonio for gigs to pay the bills.

That desperation took the guitarist and vocalist to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he found a few paying gigs playing with a stripped-down version of his Grammy Award-winning band Los Texmaniacs.

“I still gotta pay my mortgage because there’s no such thing as a deferred payment” from his lender, Baca said, noting that all his bills were urgently coming due.

It was a decision that has now put his career in jeopardy.

San Antonio Report, 11/22/2020

Baca contracted COVID-19 and has spent almost a couple of weeks in ICU recovering.

Another reality is that federal CARES funds that helped many small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic were quite complicated for musicians and performers to apply for and receive. The competition was fierce for the funds, not to mention that they were limited. And Baca, unfortunately, did not receive any funding. Now, he’s fighting COVID-19, on top of no performances, no health insurance, and the extra $600 in unemployment payments about to end.

For many performers, the gigs are their livelihood, and we have seen a recent uptick in live performances at clubs and event centers around the state. And all of this during the current COVID-19 surge. Are these the next super-spreader events that we are not hearing about in the news?

Because that is the reality: Crowded performances mean more infections if CDC protocols are not followed. And it seems the maskless and easily offended by the CDC always win in Texas, thanks to Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick. Still, venues and performers have a responsibility to enforce CDC protocols, including testing before performances–even requiring it for attendees of these indoor events. There is very little (or none) of this happening.

Houston recently announced a program dedicated to helping musicians and music venues get through the pandemic. Musicians are eligible for up to $5000, while venues are eligible for $50,000 to $100,000 depending on budget size. Unfortunately, we’re only talking about $3,000,000. But it’s something.

Some bands have built a good infrastructure to continue despite COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of them did not have the ability (or maybe confidence) to create a strong virtual presence. Bands like The Mavericks have taken to pay-per-view concerts based on a loyal fan base willing to pay the virtual door fee. Intocable were one popular band that were able to do a mini-tour of outdoor parking lot concerts in various parts of the state to some success.

And there are others in the Tejano industry who have done Facebook Live gigs asking for donations. Unfortunately, virtual gigs don’t give a band the feel of a live show with an energetic crowd. Still, it’s an opportunity that some of these Tejano bands have not fully utilized and that fans have not fully appreciated (through good donations).

There doesn’t seem to be much of a solution and as long as COVID-19 surges, there will be an eventual shutdown–or more limits on attendance. It is easy to tell these bands and venues that they have a responsibility to keep people from attending super-spreader events, but somewhere along the way, musicians were left to fend for themselves with little to no help. Thus, some are back on the road with no CDC compliance and a fan base that feels invincible to the disease (until they find out they aren’t). It’s a vicious circle.

While the HEROES Act passed by the Democratic US House sits in limbo because of a vindictive Republican US Senate and President, at the very least the $600 of extra unemployment benefits must be extended beyond Christmas. A better solution would be for Republicans and Trump to get off their asses and pass/sign a HEROES Act that takes care of gig-to-gig performers and artists whose talents have always been taken for granted.

Wear a mask. Wash hands. Stay home. And if you must work or be out and about, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance yourself from people outside of your home circle.

UPDATE: Los Texmaniacs report that Max Baca is now recovering at home. This is great news!