The County Connection
Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

These past few weeks, our lives have been uprooted as our community has taken crucial and extensive measures to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 epidemic. We have declared a public health emergency in Harris County. Large gatherings have been canceled, schools have closed their doors, and we have ordered restaurants to close their dining rooms. Those who are able to do so are working from home, many juggling full-time jobs and caring for and home-schooling their children. Too many are without a job and struggling to make ends meet. Countless others, from medical professionals to grocery store employees, are on the job risking their health and working harder than ever, preparing for what is yet to come.
 
While I know this is an incredibly difficult time, we are in a crucial moment in which our sacrifices will save the lives of our relatives, neighbors, and friends. Everyone must play their part to help us stop the spread of Coronavirus. Only by stopping the spread of the virus will we keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed and ensure that we get over this crisis and back to normality as soon as possible.
 
The number of COVID-19 cases within Harris County continues to quickly grow, and we must continue to do everything possible to temper these numbers. On Tuesday, Iextended the mandatory Stay Home-Work Safe order for Harris County. The order closes non-essential businesses and stops non-essential activities through April 30. This decision, and any other decisions we make, are based on science and data. Our North Star is the advice we are getting from our hospital leaders, who tell us rates are going up too quickly, but we are still in time to fare better than what we are seeing in other communities if we all do our part.
 
Please, follow the order and stay home as much as you possibly can. Keep practicing social distancing and following community guidelines. Support our local restaurants by ordering take-out or delivery. If you can, donate to the Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund to help our most vulnerable residents in this critical time of need. Stay informed by visiting the Ready Harris website for COVID-19 information, updates, and resources. Take some time to fill out your census. And take care of yourself — reach out for help if you or someone you know needs it.
 
We are in this together and we will beat this together. Stay strong.
 
Abrazos,
Lina Hidalgo

County News

Get Screened for a COVID-19 Test
 
On March 23, Harris County partnered with the City of Houston to launch a self-assessment tool for residents to determine their personal risk of having contracted COVID-19. The online tool walks the user through a series of questions about symptoms, travel history, and other risk factors to determine if they may have been exposed to the virus. Harris County residents who meet evaluation criteria are referred to a secondary phone screening with a nurse. After this second screening, residents determined to be high-risk are directed to a local Harris County testing facility. Residents are urged not to show up at a testing site without an appointment, as this slows the process for everyone.
 
The COVID-19 self-assessment tool is available at ReadyHarris.org. Anyone requiring technical assistance or translation services is encouraged to call the Harris County Public Health call bank, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., at 832-927-7575. Please note that this tool does not replace the services of healthcare providers. Residents in need of emergency medical care should dial 911 for immediate assistance. If you do not have healthcare coverage and need access to care related to COVID-19, call the County’s Ask My Nurse hotline at 713-634-1110. For mental health resources, call the Harris Center COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line at 833-251-7544.
 
Online Dashboard Provides Daily Updated COVID-19 Case Figures for Harris County
 
As part of Harris County’s continued efforts to ensure transparency in local government, Harris County Public Health has launched an online dashboard to provide the most updated information on confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths within Harris County. The dashboard provides the number of cases for both Harris County (not including the City of Houston) as well as the entire Houston area, and breaks them down by age, sex, and exposure type. The tool allows the County to provide all COVID-19 case-related information in one place and will be updated daily. To view the dashboard and other COVID-19 resources, visit ReadyHarris.org
 
Stay Home and Fill Out Your Census
 
Though the urgent mitigation of the COVID-19 outbreak is the priority in Harris County and across our nation, every household in the United States, including yours, is still responsible for completing a critical task: filling out the 2020 Census
 
“We’re at a critical moment in time as Texans and as Americans,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “The actions we take as a community right now will determine our ability to bounce back from this crisis. Staying home is crucial to the short term health and safety of our community. But filling out the Census is crucial to the long-term health and safety of our community. Federal resources for healthcare, transportation, education, and even post-Covid recovery resources will be allocated according to population counts. As you are home distancing, please take time to fill out your Census. Our future depends on it.” 
 
Your response to the census is now more important than ever. You can submit your response via mail, phone, or online. By law, the Census cannot share your information with immigration enforcement agencies or law enforcement agencies, or allow it to be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits. We have much to gain and even more to lose — please fill out your census today. Visit 2020Census.gov for more information.
 
Harris County Halts Eviction Hearings, Grants Three-Month Extension for Delinquent Property Taxes
 
Harris County Justices of the Peace have halted eviction hearings through mid-April. This order will ensure that families who are unable to pay rent due to loss of income resulting from coronavirus-related orders and restrictions will not lose their homes. The pause on evictions will remain in effect through at least mid-April. Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennet has also allowed a 3-month extension for payments of delinquent property taxes, moving the deadline to June.
 
Harris County Judge Approves Waiver Enabling HCC to Manufacture Protective Face Shields
 
Last week, County Judge Lina Hidalgo approved a waiver that will allow Houston Community College to use high-capacity 3D printing labs to produce mass quantities of protective face shields while operating as “Essential Critical Infrastructure.” The shields will assist M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Hermann Health System, and Baylor College of Medicine. HCC has two facilities that can provide high-capacity production of protective face shields while requiring minimal staff supervision. The IDEAStudio at West Houston Institute has 32 printers, which can each produce 600 face shields per day, and the Advanced Manufacturing Center at HCC’s Stafford Campus has 30 printers, which can each produce 600 face shields per day. 
 
“Medical workers are on the front lines and we need to protect them,” Judge Hidalgo said. “These are extraordinary times that require all of us to think creatively and offer up our resources, and I commend HCC for seeing this as an opportunity to help our hospital system fill a critical need.”
 
Manufacturers of ventilators, personal protective equipment, or other medical supplies and equipment necessary for the COVID-19 response may apply for an “Essential Business” exemption here. To donate to Harris Health System, Harris County’s public health system, email Jennifer.buck@harrishealth.org or call 713-865-0476.

About Judge Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people.

For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, click here.