Update 9am Tuesday 3.24
A stay home / work safe order will be in effect beginning at 11:59 pm tonight, running through April 3rd. Stay home if at all possible, but you can go out for essentials, and you can go outside as long as you stay 6′ apart from other people. ReadyHarris.org has more information. So glad this has happened. Let us hope it is enough, and soon enough, to flatten the curve so our hospitals are not overwhelmed.
Update 10am Monday 3.23:
Judge Hidalgo press conference solo to clarify that term isn’t shelter in place, but something more like stay-at-home. Which she is not announcing this morning or yet. Talks with Houston mayor & regional mayors & county judges are ongoing so they can act in a “data-driven” way and make one announcement that doesn’t require lots of updating, tweaking, etc.
County now has 2 testing sites each doing 250 tests a day thanks to getting supplies from federal government; city has an additional site. ReadyHarris.Org has info and the intake process.
Judge Hidalgo did NOT say this. This is me saying this. I think we need to lean on Mayor Turner. That’s my takeaway from how this is playing out. I could be wrong, but keep pressure on him to put stricter measures in place so that people stay home. email@example.com or on Twitter @sylvesterturner. Thank Judge Hidalgo & encouarge her to press for stay-at-home orders ASAP at @HarrisCoJudge on Twitter.
It makes sense for city & county to coordinate but Judge Hidalgo does have the authority to make this decision on her own and I hope that if she can’t rally the other electeds, she’ll do it anyway.
Governor Ann Richards, asked what she would have done differently had she known she would only have one term in office, said she would’ve raised more hell.
Judge Hidalgo and Mayor Turner, if you need to raise hell to reduce the number of people who die, raise hell.
Order as strict a shelter-in-place as you can. Do it now.
Mayor Turner, what have you got to lose? You can’t run for mayor again.
Judge Hidalgo, what are you waiting for? You yourself have said you feel the urgency of what Governor Richards said.
The President won’t do anything—he says he’s our back-up plan. Governor Abbott just today said it is up to local officials, not him, to make the difficult calls.
Houston and Harris County have the smallest of windows for reducing the impact COVID-19 has on our shared medical and civic resources.
Be the leaders we elected you to be. Do not be the people who let that window close.
Ignore the head-in-the-sand crowd claiming closing restaurants and businesses is somehow taking away their freedom. That’s ridiculous. Do whatever it takes to protect their lives even if they post mean things about you on Facebook.
Four essential steps you must take now:
First and immediately, order a shelter in place with an exception for absolutely essential services—medical, emergency, and food. Set it for 14 with a promise of daily updates and a reassessment with the option one- or two-week extensions announced on the 12th day. And follow that schedule.
Give us quick, easy to understand data. Ask experts to design a Coronavirus dashboard with clean, simple infographics that are updated at regular intervals, at least several times a day. Be as transparent as possible, and use information that drives the behavior you want to see, which is sheltering in place and isolating people from each other to slow the spread.
The front page of the Harris County Health Department features an easy-to-understand world map of hot spots, followed by a fact-filled but visually challenging to digest grid of Harris County cases. Flip that. What is happening in Italy isn’t convincing Harris County residents reluctant to stay home to stay home, but seeing data about neighbors might.
Manage anxiety by addressing resource panic. Ask major companies to loan their logistics experts to the cause. Put systems in places to help grocery stores and pharmacies manage the flow, like using license plate numbers or the city’s trash pick-up days to determine who shops on what days. Makes sure food pantries have partners so vulnerable individuals without access to cars or the internet can receive deliveries by calling a central number, like 2-1-1 or 3-1-1.
Launch a major plain-language public education effort. Think about WW2 propaganda posters updated for social media. Enough with social distancing. Show us graphically how spitting distance can make a child or a grandmother or a father sick. Tailor messaging and select messengers for different audiences. Sports heroes. Mega-music stars. War heroes. Houston has them—use them.
Prepare triage sites now in case the worst happens. During Harvey, the George R. Brown never caught up to itself after opening amid pure chaos, but Reliant, with the benefit of three or four days’ head start, made the GRB shelter’s redundant after a week.
We do not know if those are the facilities we need for this emergency, but we do need to know that whatever overflow or triage sites are envisioned are being prepared now. There is time for volunteers to work calmly and deliberately, after being screened for fever and with six or more feet separating them from each other, to set up the sites with whatever fixture they need. And time for thorough decontamination and sanitizing to happen before the first users show up.
Learn from what didn’t work last time. Don’t store the supplies everyone is desperate to obtain out in the open right inside the main entrance and in front of the bathrooms. Print signage directing people to the proper entrances, and easy-to-read maps showing what is where once they are inside. Order and stock matching hats or t-shirts so volunteers are easy to identify. Red means medical. Green means sanitizing crew. White means food service.
Houston loves to talk about how we do things differently and come out better for it.
Here’s a life-or-death chance to turn that talk into action. Don’t squander one more day.
We’ve got your back.