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FIGHTING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: County issues “Stay Home Work Safe” order

HARRIS COUNTY JUDGE LINA HIDALGO AND HOUSTON MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER MAKE JOINT ANNOUNCEMENT TUESDAY MORNING.

Effective thru April 3rd; Virus cases reach 284

HARRIS COUNTY – Faced with the reality of mounting cases of the infectious and potentially lethal Coronavirus known as COVID-19, local leaders have issued an order to “Stay Home Work Safe” which amounts to a shelter in place directive.

At a joint news conference Tuesday morning, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for all but essential members of the public to stay at home, not to travel and not to congregate in groups. Businesses were advised to have their employees work at home. The order is set to last ten days, until Friday April 3rd.

As of Tuesday, there were 284 virus cases in the greater Houston area that had tested positive. These include Houston 55, Harris County 79 including 1 death, Brazoria County 28, Brazos County 16, Fort Bend County 46, Galveston County 21, Matagorda County 8, including 1 death, Montgomery County 23, Chambers County 1, Liberty County 1, Grimes County 2, Wharton County 3, and Walker County 1.

The Order allowed the public to travel for necessities such as food and fuel, and allowed workers in 16 essential categories to continue to work. These include: Healthcare, Law Enforcement and Public Safety, Food and Agriculture, Electricity or Utility workers, Petroleum, Natural and Propane gas workers, Water and Wastewater workers, Transportation and logistics, including auto repair and postal service, Public Works, Communications and Media including newspapers, Government and Education, Critical manufacturing, Hazardous materials, Financial services including banks, Chemical workers, and Defense industries.

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3 Virus test sites now open

INFORMATION ON CORONAVIRUS TEST SITES:

• United Memorial Med Ctr. private site at 510 w. Tidwell, as seen above is free, and does not require pre-screening.

People tested at the community based testing site are provided instructions on how to obtain their test results. Positive cases will continue to be reported by local health departments.

Harris County and the City of Houston have announced that they have opened three drive-thru testing sites for Coronavirus tests, and plan to open several more in the next week. For all the public sites, pre-screening is required, and then those that qualify due to Coronavirus symptoms, or because they are in a high risk category, will be given an ID number and an appointment at one of the locations, that remain unidentified to the general public.

• City of Houston, at Butler Stadium, call 832-393-4220 for pre-screening. Also free. At both sites, only those with symptoms will be tested.

• Harris County has one site open in East Harris County, in the Baytown area. Prescreening is done at readyharris.com or by calling 832-927-7575.

• Harris County plans to open a second site in the Katy area this week.

Federal relief available for businesses and other tax filers impacted by COVID-19

Coronavirus Emergency Aid Package Signed

The legislation signed last Wednesday evening provides paid sick and family leave for some for U.S. workers impacted by the illness, expands unemployment assistance, includes nutrition assistance and increases resources for testing. Efforts are already underway to put together a third, larger relief measure that could total $1 trillion.

Deadline for Tax Filing extended to July 15th

Following President Donald J. Trump’s emergency declaration pursuant to the Stafford Act, the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS issued guidance allowing all individual and other non-corporate tax filers to defer up to $1 million of federal income tax (including self-employment tax) payments due on April 15, 2020, until July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest.

SBA to Provide Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Governor Abbott postpones Runoff Primary Election until Tuesday July 14th.

AUSTIN, TX — March 20, 2020 — Governor Greg Abbott today issued a proclamation postponing the runoff primary election until July 14, 2020 — the same date as the special election for Texas State Senate District 14. The runoff election was originally scheduled for May 26th, but has been postponed in conjunction with the state’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The postponement of this election serves to help fulfill the Governor’s recent executive orders mandating certain obligation for Texans that are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, including the encouragement of social distancing. Holding the runoff in May would cause the congregation of large gatherings of people in confined spaces and cause numerous election workers to come into close proximity with others. This would threaten the health and safety of many Texans.

Early voting for the postponed runoff primary election will begin Monday, July 6, 2020.

AREA FIGHTS AGAINST SPREAD OF VIRUS

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Health Director Umair Shah, at press conference on Coronavirus.

Number of Cases rises to 57; Officials close Schools, cancel Public Events

UPDATED – March 18, 2020 – Health Officials confirmed the 57th case of coronavirus in the Harris County region.. Officials said that they recorded 10 cases in Houston, 23 cases in Harris County, 12 cases in Fort Bend County, 3 cases in Brazoria County, 4 in Galveston County, 7 in Montgomery County, and 3 in Matagorda County, where a 90 year old man died. There were 12 new cases reported in one day. (NOTE: This number will change as days go by.)

HOUSTON – With 57 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases reported in the Houston and Harris County areas, the city and the county are on high alert. Most of the cases can be traced to either a vacation cruise on the Nile River in Egypt, or attendance at the Houston Rodeo cook-off. However, several cases have not been identified with these causes, and are being investigated.

Actions have been taken to prevent the virus spread, such as closures of the Rodeo, schools and colleges, athletic events, and entertainment. This week the closure of all restaurants and bars was added and groups were limited to less than 50 persons. The scope of closures is unprecedented in modern times.

In East Harris County, school districts were closed, and hot meals were being distributed at various schools. Colleges and many public facilities, parks and libraries, were also closed.

A call center has been opened to answer questions from the public. Houstonians can call the center at 832-393-4220 to speak to Health department staff and obtain information about the disease or get their questions answered.

The call center will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will return voice messages left after hours the following day on a first call, first served basis.

Federal action is expected later this week, with test centers and financial relief for those unable to work. The government has been criticized for a slow, late response to what the World Health Organization now calls a Pandemic.

Last Thursday, Mayor Turner updated the public on the city of Houston’s response to containing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at a press conference.

Harris County Health Officials recommend the following steps for people at higher risk. These steps are recommended until March 31, 2020 or until otherwise noted.

GUIDANCE FOR PEOPLE AT HIGHER RISK FOR SEVERE COVID-19 ILLNESS

People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. Gatherings of seniors or other people at higher risk of severe illness should be canceled or postponed. Those at higher risk include:

• People 60 and older.

• People with underlying health conditions (e.g. heart disease, lung disease, diabetes)

• People who have weakened immune systems.

• Pregnant women.

Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness should consult with their healthcare provider. Those without a healthcare provider should contact Harris Health’s Ask A Nurse line at: 713-634- 1110.

GUIDANCE FOR WORKPLACES AND BUSINESSES

Employers should take steps to make it more feasible for their employees to work in ways that minimize close contact with large numbers of people.

Employers should:

• Maximize telecommuting options for as many employees as possible.

• Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.

• Consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas (doorknobs, tabletops, countertops, phones, keyboards, etc.).

• Prioritize protective actions for employees who are at higher risk of severe illness.

EVENT AND COMMUNITY GATHERING CONSIDERATIONS

We strongly urge the organizers of any events over 250 people to cancel or postpone such events. Additionally, we strongly encourage organizers of events of any size in which people will be in close contact to cancel or postpone such events, if possible.

If you cannot avoid bringing a group of people together, we recommend the following guidelines:

• Anyone who is sick should not attend.

• Those who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness should not attend.

• Increase the frequency of sanitizing common touchpoints.

• Try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they are not in close contact as much as possible.

• Ensure an adequate supply of hand soap, disinfectants, tissues, and paper towels.

• Encourage attendees to follow increased hygiene, such as:

• Washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• If soap and water are not available, attendees should use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

• Avoid close contact with other people

• Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth

• Covering their cough or sneeze with a tissue – if available – or into their elbow

GUIDANCE FOR SENIOR LIVING AND ASSISTED LIVING

Senior living facilities, assisted living facilities, and other facilities with populations at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness should limit interactions with the general public as much as possible. These facilities should:

• Implement social distancing measures:

• Reduce large gatherings (e.g., group social events)

• Alter schedules to reduce mixing

• Limit programs with external staff

• Consider having residents stay in facility and limit exposure to the general community

• Visits should be limited and restricted to residents’ rooms

• Implement temperature and respiratory symptom screening of attendees, staff, and visitors.

• Implement short-term closures as needed (e.g., if cases are identified among staff, residents or clients who live elsewhere) for cleaning and contact tracing.

• Clean frequently touched surfaces daily.

GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOLS

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) is currently not recommending closing schools. If a case of COVID19 is diagnosed at a school, HCPH will work with the relevant school and district to determine actions to take, including potential closure of the school.

At this moment, Harris County Public Health is not recommending school closures at this time because children have not been shown to be at high risk for serious cases of COVID-19. When some schools briefly closed during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, children still gathered in group settings and thus still had exposure to one another. Additionally, closing schools would put a strain on our workforce, including healthcare and emergency workers who are essential to the COVID-19 response. As much as possible, children should be allowed to carry on with their education and normal activities. HCPH respects individual school districts’ decisions about closures or postponement of activities.

It is important for schools to limit potential spread of COVID-19 because infected students may still come into contact with those who are at higher risk for severe COVID19 illness outside the school setting. We are asking schools to take precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Schools should:

• Implement social distancing measures:

• Reduce the frequency of large gatherings (e.g., assemblies), and limit the number of attendees per gathering.

• Alter schedules to reduce mixing (e.g., stagger recess, entry/dismissal times)

• Limit inter-school interactions

• Consider distance learning and/or e-learning in some settings

• Consider regular health checks (e.g., temperature and respiratory symptom screening) of students, staff, and visitors (if feasible).

• Short-term dismissals for school and extracurricular activities as needed (e.g., if cases are identified among staff/students) for cleaning and contact tracing.

• Students at increased risk of severe illness should consider implementing individual plans for distance learning and/or e-learning.

• Prioritize protective actions for students, staff, and visitors who are at higher risk of severe illness.

Some children have underlying health conditions, such as weakened immune systems, that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Those without a healthcare provider should contact Harris Health’s Ask A Nurse line at: 713-634- 1110.

FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE SICK

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Do not go out in public when you are sick.

• If you are ill in any way, call your doctor’s office first before going in.

• Do not go to the emergency room unless you are experiencing a medical emergency. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.

• If you have symptoms like cough, fever, or other respiratory problems, stay home and self-isolate until you have contacted a healthcare professional.

FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.

• Even if you are not ill, avoid visiting hospitals, longterm care facilities or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities, limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if you are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

• Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.

• Clean household surfaces with standard cleaners.

• Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Visit ReadyHarris.org frequently for updates.

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

The outbreak of COVID19 may be stressful for people throughout the community. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Accordingly, we suggest the following recommendations:

• People with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment plans, stay connected with their healthcare provider, and monitor for any new symptoms.

• Call your healthcare provider if stress reactions interfere with your daily activities

• Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985- 5990 if you are experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19.

List of cancellations, postponements in area

Note: this list is changing daily, check with your event prior to attendance.

The containment of the Coronavirus has caused the following cancellations or postponements: Harris County and the City of Houston had adopted States of Emergency for one week, that have been extended to the end of March with the probability of longer.

EDUCATION:

The following School Districts have cancelled classes thru April 10: Aldine, Channelview, Crosby, Dayton, Deer Park, Galena Park, Goose Creek, Houston ISD, Huffman. Sheldon said they cancelled classes through March 20, subject to review. Free meals will be served by most districts on the days off. Many daycare facilities are staying open, with limited access.

Houston ISD, cancelled all classes and events until April 10th.

The Texas Education Agency and Governor Abbott have suspended the STAAR tests for this school year.

Lee College and San Jacinto College cancelled classes until April 23 at which time they will hold online classes, Lone Star College extended their break until March 25, Houston Community College extended cancelled classes through April 27, and the University of Houston will start remote classes April 23.

EVENTS:

Houston Rodeo cancelled. Most city sponsored events are cancelled for March.

Crosby Fair & Rodeo has cancelled the Rockin C RoundUp and the BBQ and Steak Cook-off.

East Aldine District Groundbreaking cancelled.

Highlands, Crosby, and North Houston Little League Parade and Opening Day Postponed. Reset for April 6th or later.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade cancelled. Also, the Art Car Parade is cancelled for this year.

Any public event with over 250 attendees.

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Community members opposed construction of The Hollows Apartments in Channelview

Channelview Health & Improvement Coalition Meeting Minutes

By Carolyn Stone

During December research of The Hollows found this $37,811,161 182 unit subsidized housing apartment complex was to be funded with $11,000,000 of Harris County Community Development Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG) funds along with mortgage revenue bonds and 4% tax credits for the investors. Community members were opposed to this project and began preparing a petition in opposition to present to Pct. 2 Commissioner Garcia, Judge Hidalgo and the other Harris County Commissioners.

On or about December 4, 2019 community members learned the developer, LDG Development, was holding a public meeting at Harvey S. Brown Elementary on Wallisville Rd. on Saturday Dec. 21st to announce The Hollows Apartments to the community. Despite this meeting being held four days before Christmas several hundred community members attended the meeting and were very vociferous in their concerns related to and in opposition to the proposed project.

In response to the community concerns and opposition to the complex Horace Allison from Housing & Urban Development lectured community members informing them they should be better people, but the most telling statement came from the developer, Mr. Dru Childre of LDG Development, who informed the community members, “You need to understand this is not housing for hard working individuals like yourself.”

Mr. Childre’s statement was applauded by the community members and taken as confirmation this complex would be a burden upon the residents of Channelview.

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OFFICIALS CONFIRM 14TH CASE OF CORONAVIRUS IN HOUSTON AREA

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Health officials and Rodeo officials, at press conference last Tuesday, announcing that the city and county were issuing Health State of Emergency notices for the month of March. The Rodeo closed immediately and most city events were cancelled.

Rodeo Cancelled, Stock Market Down

UPDATED – March 11, 2020 – Health Officials confirmed the second case of coronavirus in the City of Houston, and another in Montgomery County, making a total of 14 in Houston and Fort Bend, Harris and Montgomery County areas. (NOTE: This number may change as days go by.)

The female patient, in the 60 to 70 age range, is part of the same group of travelers to Egypt associated with recent cases announced in Fort Bend County and Harris County. She is currently hospitalized and stable.The patient in Montgomery County has officials concerned, because he is a man in his 40s that has no known travel. He is currently hospitalized.

Harris County has established several phone numbers that the public can use to gain up-to-date information, or help reaching a healthcare professional. If you are without access to healthcare, call 713-634-1110. If you want information, call the Harris County Health Department at 832-393-4220.

HOUSTON, Texas – Harris County Public Health (HCPH) confirmed last Thursday four more cases of Coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed or presumptive to 13 in areas surrounding Harris County.

CANCELLATIONS

As a result of the health concerns, and to avoid spreading the virus, many schools and groups cancelled events. Officials announced on Wednesday that the Houston Rodeo and all other city events had been cancelled for the month of March. The Rodeo closed immediately. The Stock Market dropped 15% in a week, but slowly regained some, and then fell again.

CHANNELVIEW ISD EXPOSURE

An employee with the Channelview ISD notified the District that a member of her family was under quarantine. The School District issued a statement saying they had been in contact with state and local health officials, and indicate there is little to no risk in the Channelview schools.

The new cases involved four people in their 60s who were exposed to the virus during a trip to Egypt last month. The 70-year-old from Fort Bend took the same trip and this case was confirmed last Wednesday by a Houston laboratory.

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First female to command Houston’s Northeast Division

Police Commander C. Hatcher

By Allan Jamail

Houston, TX. – The Houston Police Department made history when Lieutenant C. Hatcher a 27 year veteran of the police department was promoted to the rank of Commander. She became the first female Commander of the Northeast Division at 8301 Ley Road, Houston, TX 77028. Commander Hatcher has the responsibility for providing police service to three police districts with an estimate of 203,000 residents within an approximate 130 square miles.

Hatcher a mother of four children whose father wanted her to become a lawyer decided on a law enforcement career instead. In 1993 she went to work at the jail divison of the Houston Police Department. She graduated from the police academy in 2000 along with other cadets who were tagged the nickname, Y2K Babies.

She’s held the rank of Sergeant, Lieutenant and now Commander. In 2006 she passed the Sergeant’s test, six years later in 2012 she passed the Lieutenant’s test and in 2018 passed the Commander’s test. In order to be promoted for a rank increase a candidate is evaluated by test grade score, college education, years of service and assessment of your service record. Hatcher got a college education from the University of Houston and obtained a Masters Degree from Sam Houston State.

Commander Hatcher has a broad amount of experience having worked in the jail, patrol, juvenile divisions and in an Assistant Chief’s office. She was on the 2017 Super Bowl Planning Committee which began three years in advance developing plans for security, traffic control, crowd control and public safety.

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Water main breaks in East Houston, affects water supply throughout the city

A 96 inch wide water main, carrying water from the Houston water treatment plant in Galena Park to about half the city, burst on Thursday about noon. Workers from Harper Brothers were performing repair work on a small leak, according to authorities, when the whole pipe burst open flooding nearby streets and the six lane East Loop under Clinton Drive. Several feet of water covered the streets, stopping traffic and flooding about a dozen cars. Houston Fire Department said they conducted three deep water rescues. The location of the burst pipe was near the intersection of Clinton Drive and N. Carolina streets in the Clinton Park neighborhood, and buildings in that area had water inside, as outside it was several feet deep.

Water supply and water pressure were affected throughout the east side of Houston and into midtown. Schools and businesses were forced to close without water, and many indicated they would also be closed on Friday, until the pipe could be repaired and water quality restored. In the meantime, Mayor Turner called for a “boil water” advisory to everyone.

Jacinto City avoided the problem by switching from city water supply to its own well system, filling the city water tower and maintaining pressure and a safe water supply, according to City Manager Lon Squyres.

Authorities held a press conference near the break, to inform the public of the severity of the problem and what measures were being taken to solve them. Mayor Turner and County Judge Hidalgo expressed concern about water quality, and availability of adequate pressure in case of fires. Tank trucks with water were being sent to the area as a precaution, they said.

EXCLUSIVE ON-SITE PHOTOS BY ALLAN JAMAIL FOR THE NORTH CHANNEL STAR:

WATER CLOSES ALL TRAFFIC ON THE EAST LOOP AND CLINTON DRIVE

SITE OF THE BURST 96 INCH PIPE AT CLINTON DRIVE AND N. CAROLINA.

PHOTO BY KHOU SHOWS WATER FLOODING THE EAST LOOP AND CLINTON DRIVE. THE SITE OF THE BURST PIPE IS IN THE LOWER RIGHT OF THIS PHOTO.

New leadership installed at the 43rd North Channel Area Chamber Gala

2020 North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce Board.

By Margie Buentello, President & CEO

Christie Gates was sworn in as Chairman of the board for the North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, January 23, 2020 at the 43rd Annual Awards and Installation Gala. Harris County Justice of the Peace, Lucia Bates, performed the ceremony at Sylvan Beach Pavilion.

Additionally, other officers and directors took the oath that evening pledging to “promote business growth and quality of life in the North Channel Area.”

Gates is the Chief Administrative Officer in Sheldon ISD. In her current position, she leads the Administrative side of the district, which includes supervising campus principals, as well as overseeing the Advanced Academics, Personnel Services, Student Services, Transportation, Maintenance, Technology, Emergency Operations, and Communications departments for the district. Over the past year, she has worked with her leader-ship teams to successfully open two new campuses in Sheldon ISD. In August of 2019, the district opened a new elementary campus, Sheldon Lake Elementary, and in January of 2020, the district opened the doors to a brand new high school facility by relocating over 2,400 students into a newly constructed C. E. King High School campus.

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