The County Connection Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

May 4, 2020

The stakes are high. Yesterday, Texas reported 50 deaths statewide, the most in any one day since mid-March, and added more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest one-day increase in infections in three weeks. Keeping our distance, wearing face coverings, and staying home from work, school, and social activities is exhausting and feels interminable, and many of our residents are suffering financially as a result. We all want to get back to work, see our friends, hug our family, go out to eat, and resume our livelihoods. But the orders and policies we have put in place have thus far kept the virus in check, kept our hospitals from overflowing, and saved thousands of lives. 
The governor’s phased reopening will only have a chance of success if we do it that way – in phases. If a business is not “essential” under our order, or “reopened” under the governor’s order, it should not open. Most importantly, just because you *can* open, doesn’t mean you should. The resurgence of a virus that can knock us back down and put us right back where we began is right around the corner. 
We in Harris County are doing all we can to put our county in the best position to succeed. Earlier this week I announced three pieces of our overall strategy to contain this virus as our Stay Home, Work Safe order expires and some businesses begin to open. It’s a strategy focused on expanding Testing, Tracing, and Treatment, which you can read more about below. Today, we’re announcing the final, necessary piece to ensure that this strategy is successful: Teamwork. You will continue to play a huge part in the containment of this virus — without your help, we won’t succeed. Please, continue to work and play virtually to the greatest extent possible. Wear face coverings every time you leave the house. And if you are eventually contacted by a Coronavirus contact tracer, please cooperate so that we can ensure more people are not infected with this deadly virus.
We are all doing our part to flatten the curve, but we still have a long road ahead of us to end this epidemic. I want you to know that we remain committed to taking whatever actions are necessary to save lives — not just the lives of people with the virus, but the lives of anyone requiring a hospital bed. We will continue this fight to keep you and your family healthy as long as we have to. Here in Harris County, we are in this together.

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HFD to Reach Another Milestone in Reducing Age of Fleet

May 4, 2020
The City of Houston and the Houston Fire Department continue to work diligently to reduce the age of HFD’s fleet. For fiscal year 2020, the department will add 10 new fire trucks to its fleet. Eight engines and two new ladder trucks will replace existing trucks with an average age of 10 years or more. Under the department’s current fleet replacement program, this purchase will leave only 24 front line fire engines and 14 ladder/tower trucks that are older than 10 years. In addition, the department will purchase 3 ambulances to replace some of the oldest in the reserve fleet. 

This purchase represents a nearly $13 Million investment approved by Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council, and comes at a time when city resources are tight. The city recently announced it expects to lose more than $100 million in sales tax revenue as a result of the current public health crisis.“Updating HFD’s fleet continues to be a major priority. Maintenance costs associated with an aging fleet as well as safety issues with 15 to 20 year old vehicles is a problem we have worked diligently to address.  Like many departments, our replacement efforts are influenced by community demands and funding, and I thank Mayor Turner and City Council for their continued commitment and investment of taxpayer dollars to secure the purchase and deployment of new fire trucks and other critical equipment.” Chief Sam Peña, Houston Fire. 

Under the current administration, the City of Houston has spent more than $30 Million to purchase the following items for the Houston Fire Department: 19 fire engines,5 ladder trucks4 tower trucks24 ambulances7 Incident command crew cab vehicles and10 emergency rescue/support 4×4 crew cab units9- High Water Evacuation Vehicles10- 4×4 Crew Cab F250 Emergency/Rescue Support Units10- Double Stacked Evacuation Boats and trailers3- Rescue Boats designed for swift water operations1- Inmar Rescue Boat designed for search and rescue operations6- wave-runners7- Crew Cab F250 Incident Command Vehicles used by District Chief command officers3 drones were placed into service for aerial surveillance
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Mayor Turner and the City’s COVID-19 Recovery Czar encourage Houstonians to use caution as businesses reopen

May 4, 2020
Mayor Turner and the City’s COVID-19 Recovery Czar encourage Houstonians to use caution as businesses reopen
Mayor Turner discusses how Houstonians can support restaurants and retailers without compromising health and safety as businesses reopen beginning May 1. 
COVID-19 Recovery Czar Marvin Odum 
HOUSTON –  As retailers and restaurants, along with other businesses prepare to reopen, Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City’s COVID-19 Recovery Czar, Marvin Odum, on Thursday encouraged Houstonians to practice caution before returning to a normal routine.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order allows some businesses to reopen at 25 percent capacity on Friday, May 1. The city of Houston supports a safe and responsible transition to reopening the economy. 

“Do not stop social distancing or wearing face coverings because the virus is still prevalent in our city,” Mayor Turner said. “As businesses reopen, I will continue to stress the need for robust and ubiquitous testing.” 

On Thursday, the Houston Health Department reported 98 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. 

Recovery Czar Odum said he is working with local businesses and other stakeholders to develop plans to help Houstonians safety return to work. Odum stressed that contact tracing and testing are priorities. 

Additional guidance on reopening is available at the HoustonEmergency.org website. 

The city of Houston City will return to its normal schedule of operations on June 1, if there is no resurgence of COVID-19 during the governor’s phased-in approach to reopening businesses.

The city has modified the Stay Home, Work safe order and all city permitted and sponsored events are canceled through May. The Houston Public Library will remain closed, and all Houston Municipal Court trials, along with arraignments, hearings, jury duty, and parking adjudication hearings, also will be suspended through May.
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Suspect Arrested, Charged in 2019 Fatal Shooting at 9920 Nathaniel Street

May 4, 2020
Charges have been filed against a suspect arrested in the fatal shooting of a man at 9920 Nathaniel Street about 6:40 p.m. on January 1, 2019.  

The suspect, Kevin Silverthorn (b/m, 26), is charged with murder in the 176th State District Court.  He is accused in the killing of D’mereay Hogg, 23.  

A booking photo of Silverthorn is attached to this news release.  

HPD Homicide Division Detectives R. Moss, J. Caten and D. Higgs reported:  

HPD patrol officers responded to a shooting call at an apartment complex parking lot the above address and found Mr. Hogg had been shot.  He was transported by Houston Fire Department paramedics to an area hospital where he was pronounced deceased.  Two suspects were seen running from the scene.  

Investigators learned Hogg had an argument with an unknown male just prior to the shooting.  

Further investigation identified Silverthorn as a suspect in this case.  He was arrested on Wednesday (April 29) and subsequently charged for his role in Hogg’s death.  A second unidentified suspect remains at large.  

Anyone with information on the identity of the second suspect in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.  
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Statements from the Edwards family and Mayor Turner on the death of former State Rep. Al Edwards

Apr 30, 2020
HOUSTON – Today, former State Representative Al Edwards passed away. The Edwards’ family statement is below, followed by a statement from Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Edwards family statement
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that former District 146 State Rep. and Civil Rights Leader, Al Edwards Sr. died today from natural causes. He was an ordained minister, father, and grandfather that notably sponsored the legislation making Juneteenth the first legal Texas state holiday for African Americans. He was a proud graduate of Phyllis Wheatley High School and Texas Southern University. He will be sorely missed by all who loved him. He was 83 years old.”

 Mayor Sylvester Turner
“The Honorable Al Edwards worked tirelessly for the people of House District 146 and the state of Texas. During nearly three decades in the Texas House, he served with distinction on several influential committees. In 1979, in the face of considerable opposition, Edwards passed legislation to recognize the abolition of slavery in Texas as an annual holiday, earning him the well-deserved nickname “Mr. Juneteenth.”

“As a former chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, Edwards was instrumental in getting the Texas African American History Memorial installed on the Texas State Capitol grounds in Austin.
“Edwards and I served together in the Texas Legislature for more than two decades, and during that time, he became like a brother to me. I deeply loved him. And I will miss him greatly.
“On July 28, 2018, I had the honor of proclaiming Albert E. “Al” Edwards Day in the city of Houston. 

“Because of the COVID-19 public health crisis, his family and many friends will not be able to gather in person for a memorial service. But make no mistake, Al deserves a grand celebration for his lifetime of achievements.
“I look forward to honoring my friend and brother at the appropriate time”
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HOUSTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT PARTNERS WITH THE STATE OF TEXAS TO BRING COVID-19 TESTING TO SUNNYSIDE COMMUNITY

Apr 30, 2020
HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner announced today that the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Houston Health Department are bringing free COVID-19 testing to the Sunnyside community.

The free Mobile Test Collection Site opens April 29 at Worthing High School (9215 Scott Street, 77051) and will operate through May 3. The site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or until reaching its daily capacity of 150 tests.

The Sunnyside site requires appointments by visiting TXCOVIDTEST.ORG or calling 512-883-2400.

Nurses/Health care workers will screen people for fever and/or chills, cough, fatigue, body ached/muscle or joint pain, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, nasal congestion, and loss of taste and/or smell.

This Sunnyside site is the latest expansion of COVID-19 testing resources into vulnerable communities.

On Monday, Mayor Turner announced free mobile COVID-19 testing at strategic multi-service centers and a new free United Memorial Medical Center testing site in Southeast Houston.

Houstonians can visit HoustonEmergency.org/COVID19 for information on where and how to get tested for COVID-19. An interactive map of public and private COVID-19 test collection sites across Texas has been provided by the Texas Division of Emergency Management at http://covidtest.tdem.texas.gov/
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Suspect Arrested, Another Sought in Fatal Shooting at 4714 Ward Street

Apr 30, 2020
Charges have been filed against a suspect arrested in the fatal shooting of three persons and the wounding of another at 4714 Ward Street that occurred about 1 a.m. last Friday (April 24).  

The suspect, Tyler Pringle (b/m, 23), is charged with capital murder in the 184th State District Court.  A booking photo of Pringle is attached to this news release.

The identities of the three deceased victims, two males and one female, are pending verification by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.  

HPD Homicide Division Sergeant S. Murdock and Detectives M. Arrington, K. Heaverlo and A. Barr reported:  

HPD patrol officers responded to a shooting call at an apartment complex at the above address and learned one male was shot and transported to an area hospital in critical condition.  Upon entering the apartment, officers found two males and one female deceased from gunshot wounds. 

Two unknown suspects were seen entering the apartment and, after several gunshots were heard, the suspects were seen fleeing on foot, possibly to a nearby waiting vehicle.  The suspects were described only as two males wearing dark clothing.

Further investigation led to the identity of Pringle as one of the suspects in this case and, on Saturday (April 25) he was arrested.  The second suspect’s identity is not known at this time.   

Anyone with information on the identity or whereabouts of the other suspect in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS
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Statue of late U.S. Congressman George Thomas “Mickey” Leland unveiled in Hermann Park

Apr 27, 2020
HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Alison Leland and two U.S. Congress members on Saturday unveiled a statue honoring the late Congressman Mickey Leland, a global humanitarian who devoted his life to helping others.

Click here for video of  Saturday’s dedication ceremony. Please courtesy the City of Houston Municipal Channel.

The speakers – including Congressman Leland’s widow, Alison, and U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green – mentioned the importance of recognizing him during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that has created food insecurity in the country and also has highlighted the inequalities in the nation’s health care system, especially for the poor and people of color.

Congressman Leland, born Nov. 27, 1944, in Lubbock, and 15 others died in a plane crash on Aug. 7, 1989, while on a humanitarian mission to Fugnido, Ethiopia. He served six terms in Congress and six years as a Texas state legislator. He focused his political career on issues such as health and hunger. 
  
Saturday’s ceremony was held in front of the statue that was installed Thursday in Hermann Park on the west plaza of Miller Outdoor Theatre. The project was a partnership between Harris County Precinct One, City of Houston and its Parks and Recreation Department, and Houston First.

The project to erect the statue started in December 2018 when Harris County Commissioners Court, at the request of Commissioner Ellis, approved the sculpture’s creation. In April 2019, Commissioners Court approved a contract with artist Edward “Ed” Joseph Dwight Jr. to create the statue.

Dwight is a groundbreaking African American sculptor and artist.  He was also a test pilot in the Air Force and engineer. He made history when he was selected by the Kennedy administration to be the first African American astronaut trainee.
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Mayor Turner joins local celebrities to launch the Mask Up! campaign and announce mask distribution sites

Apr 27, 2020
Mayor Turner joins local celebrities to launch the Mask Up! campaign and announce mask distribution sites 


HOUSTON –  Mayor Sylvester Turner this week announced MASK UP!, a grassroots public health information campaign to encourage Houstonians to safeguard themselves from potential exposure to COVID-19. (mask distribution sites listed below)

The mayor, along with the Mayor’s Health Equity Response (HER) Task Force, recruited some of Houston’s top celebrities to serve as campaign ambassadors to help spread the  message.

Olympic gold medalist and world champion gymnast Simone Biles, Major League Baseball World Series Champion Carols Correa, and Houston rapper – the Boss of All Bosses – Slim Thug are doing their part to educate Houstonians on why face masks and social distancing are crucial in the fight against COVID-19



The public health campaign will focus primarily on the Complete Communities and other “at-risk” neighborhoods with large percentages of residents living with health conditions that make them vulnerable to contracting the virus. 
 Each Houston Council Member received surgical masks to distribute to their most at-risk constituents. The masks will be distributed while supplies last.
 Saturday, April 25

District D Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz
11 a.m. Sunnyside Multi-Service Center
9314 Cullen Blvd.

District F City Council member Tiffany Thomas 
4 p.m. Crump Stadium located in Alief ISD. 
12321 High Star Dr 

District I City Council Member Robert Gallegos 
9 – 11 a.m. Our Lady of the Sea Catholic Church
1401 Fidelity

Monday, April 27

District A Council Member Amy Peck 
9  – 10 a.m.(all locations) *Locations will be drive up only. 
Carverdale Community Center
9920 Porto Rico Road

Freed Park Community Center
6186 Shadyvilla Lane
 
White Oak Conference Center
7603 Antoine Drive
 
District D Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz
11 a.m. Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church
7817 Calhoun Rd.

District I Council Member Robert Gallegos
8 a.m – 1 p.m. The Tejano Center
2950 Broadway

9 a.m. 3 30 p.m. Community Family Center  
7524 Avenue E

Tuesday, April 28  

District K Council Member Martha Castex-Tatum
9 a.m. Fountain of Life Center
14065 Main St.

District J Council Member Edward Pollard 
10 a.m. Plaza Americas Mall
7500 Bellaire BlvdNot sure which council member represents you? Find out here: http://www.houstontx.gov/council/whoismycm.html
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HOUSTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT EXPANDING NURSING HOME COVID-19 OUTREACH

Apr 27, 2020
HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department is expanding its efforts to protect nursing homes, assisted living centers and similar facilities against COVID-19.

The health department is visiting more than 300 such facilities in Houston to provide comprehensive education and technical assistance. The department trained 20 Houston Fire Department firefighters to assist with the visits.

“Although COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus that can affect anyone, we know older adults and people with underlying medical conditions experience the worst outcomes, including death,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. 

The visits include an assessment tool focusing on resident and employee screening and monitoring, personal protective equipment, infection control, environmental cleaning and education.

The plan is the latest step in the health department’s ongoing outreach for the facilities. The department previously collaborated with the SouthEast Regional Advisory Council (SERAC) on a webinar, completed telephone assessments with nursing homes, and provides additional guidance upon request.

As of April 20, there were 11 Houston nursing homes and assisted living centers with more than one COVID-19 case and seven facilities with one case each.
 
When there is a COVID-19 case at such a facility, the Houston Health Department also provides CDC guidance on communicating to residents, friends, families and volunteers.
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