Harris County ups public health budget, launches coronavirus rumor-control website

In response to a global coronavirus outbreak, Harris County launched a rumor-control website and increased Harris County Public Health’s budget for fiscal year 2020-21 in hopes of giving the agency greater capacity to deal with such diseases. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
In response to a global coronavirus outbreak, Harris County launched a rumor-control website and increased Harris County Public Health’s budget for fiscal year 2020-21 in hopes of giving the agency greater capacity to deal with such diseases. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

In response to a global coronavirus outbreak, Harris County launched a rumor-control website and increased Harris County Public Health’s budget for fiscal year 2020-21 in hopes of giving the agency greater capacity to deal with such diseases. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

In response to a global coronavirus outbreak, Harris County launched a rumor-control website and increased Harris County Public Health’s budget for fiscal year 2020-21 in hopes of giving the agency greater capacity to deal with such diseases.

According to Harris County’s proposed FY 2020-21 budget, the county public health department's budget was initially slated to increase from $29.34 million in FY 2019-20 to $35.85 million—a difference of about $6 million. Of that increase, $3 million was allocated for emergency response positions and veterinary public health programs, according to HCPH Executive Director Dr. Umair Shah.

However, during the Feb. 11 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia proposed the $3 million allocation be increased to $5.7 million.

“The additional dollars would include a combination of community outreach but also [grant us] funding to allow us to do additional infectious disease activities,” Shah said during the meeting. “We recognized the importance of HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis [activities] ... and obviously with coronavirus activities right now ... [it] makes us very focused on the importance of infectious disease response.”

The additional HCPH funding was unanimously approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court along with the FY 2020-21 budgets for Harris County, the Harris County Flood Control District and the Harris Health System during the Feb. 11 meeting. The same day, County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the launch of a new coronavirus myth-buster website available at www.readyharris.org/rumorcontrol.


“We know there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the spread of this virus, but when it comes to understanding the threat of this virus we have to rely on facts, not fear,” Hidalgo said an a statement. “In our information age, unsubstantiated rumors can spread quickly, unnecessarily causing harm and anxiety to families and businesses in our area.”

Shah added that while there are no confirmed cases or cases of novel coronavirus in Houston, Harris County or Texas, unsubstantiated rumors continue to hinder Harris County’s Asian-American community.

“The challenge that we’ve had is that there have been some specific, very hate-driven and very negative comments towards the Asian-American community,” Shah said during the meeting. “When we were ... at the Asian-American Chamber of Commerce, we were hearing that in Chinatown and in the southwest part of Harris County, they reported to us that businesses in terms of grocery stores and restaurants have seen 50%, 60% and 70% decreases in traffic.”

Shah said HCPH is working closely with local, state and federal officials to monitor coronavirus and should any local cases occur, the department would notify the public and advise any additional steps residents should take to protect themselves if necessary.

“The best way for residents to understand the current state of coronavirus is to rely on information from trusted sources,” Hidalgo said in a statement. “We want to partner with residents and empower folks to seek out reliable information so that they can make informed decisions on how to best stay safe.”

Garcia said the HCPH budget increase was just a small way to reinforce the importance of the department’s dedication to veterinary public health, nutrition and chronic disease prevention, and disease control and clinical prevention programs.

“It’s always a concern when you see people walking around in facemasks, and I want to reiterate why having [the HCPH] department have the capacity to deal with such things as disease control is so critical,” Garcia said during the meeting.
By Hannah Zedaker
Born and raised in Cypress, Texas, Hannah Zedaker graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. She began as an intern with Community Impact Newspaper in 2015 and was hired upon graduation as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in May 2016. In January 2019, she was promoted to serve as the editor of the Spring/Klein edition where she covers Spring ISD and Harris County Commissioners Court, in addition to business, development and transportation news.


MOST RECENT

Imperio Wine & Spirits sells a variety of liquor, beer, wine and spirits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Imperio Wine & Spirits opens in Katy; Montgomery Chick-fil-A to open dining room and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.

Six of the Spring and Klein area’s nine ZIP codes experienced a decrease in the number of homes sold in March as compared to March 2020. Meanwhile, ZIP codes 77068, 77070 and 77389 had more homes sold. The median price of homes sold also increased year over year in all Spring- and Klein-area ZIP codes. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
See how the Spring, Klein real estate market fared in March

Six of the Spring and Klein area’s nine ZIP codes experienced a decrease in the number of homes sold in March as compared to March 2020. Meanwhile, ZIP codes 77068, 77070 and 77389 had more homes sold. The median price of homes sold also increased year over year in all Spring- and Klein-area ZIP codes.

CityPlace at Springwoods Village hosts the PawzUp DogFest on May 22. (Courtesy CityPlace at Springwoods Village)
PawzUp DogFest, Kohrville community fundraiser: 16 things to do in Spring and Klein throughout May, June

Here are a few events and things to do in the Spring and Klein community throughout May and June.

SISD officials announced May 13 that for the 2021-22 school year, the district would be setting aside some pre-K class spots at nearly every elementary campus for students who would not normally qualify for the program under state eligibility requirements. (Courtesy Spring ISD)
Spring ISD expands full-day pre-K access to families ahead of 2021-22 school year

SISD officials announced May 13 that for the 2021-22 school year, the district would be setting aside some pre-K class spots at nearly every elementary campus for students who would not normally qualify for the program under state eligibility requirements.

In addition to constructing a new 43-acre campus, Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 will be buying a fleet of 40 new ambulances and hiring 150 new staff. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Executive director gives preview of ESD 11 Mobile Health Services

In addition to constructing a new 43-acre campus, Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 will be buying a fleet of 40 new ambulances and hiring 150 new staff.

See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year

While some school districts in the Greater Houston area are doing away with face mask requirements and virtual schooling completely, others are pivoting to continue offering online learning options for students and plan to require face masks.

masks
CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

Houston Scanning digitizes video tapes, printed photographs, film reels and more. (Courtesy Houston Scanning)
Houston Scanning relocates from Willowbrook to Louetta Road in Cypress

Houston Scanning digitizes video tapes, printed photographs, film reels and more.

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to last April with 9,105 units sold versus 6,175 a year earlier. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
HAR: Houston-area home sales in April up 47% compared to last year

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to April 2020.

The results of a study conducted by Cambridge Education, an education consulting firm, showed both progress and areas in need of improvement throughout Spring ISD in the pursuit of equity. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Equity study shows progress, reveals shortcomings in Spring ISD

The results of a study conducted by Cambridge Education, an education consulting firm, showed both progress and areas in need of improvement throughout Spring ISD in the pursuit of equity.

House Bill 1024, signed into law May 12, allows restaurants and bars to permanently sell alcoholic beverages to-go. (Courtesy Pexels)
Cocktails to-go are here to stay in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signs change into law May 12

Supporters say the change will help restaurants continue to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.