Here are things to know for Tuesday, December 21:
1. First omicron-related death reported in Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo says
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the county’s first omicron-related death at a press conference on Monday.
It comes hours after she changed the threat level of COVID-19 from yellow to orange.
At a press conference, Hidalgo, alongside other Houston-area union leaders, said the patient was a man in his 50s with underlying health issues.
The man has not been vaccinated, Hidalgo added. The patient was also receiving Regeneron as a treatment for the disease.
2. Harris County increases threat level from yellow to orange due to “explosive growth” of omicron variant
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Monday that she would increase the threat level of COVID-19 from yellow to orange due to an increase in cases in the region.
Hidalgo cites “explosive growth” of the omicron variant throughout Harris County.
“Unfortunately, the omicron variant has come in force in Harris County,” Judge Hidalgo said. “These trends are understandably frustrating, especially as we close out the year with our friends and family. But we can still lessen the strength of this latest wave if we act. As Christmas and New Years approaches, Consider giving yourself and your family the gift of health by getting your booster, getting tested before any gathering of people outside your household, and wearing a mask. This could very well save your life. or that of a loved one.
The orange threat level indicates a significant and “out of control” level of COVID-19 in Harris County, which means there is continued transmission of the virus, according to the county COVID-19 data center.
3. HFD officials report firefighters who do not comply with COVID-19 test or vaccine warrant
Internal email obtained by KPRC 2 Investigates shows that employees of the Houston Fire Department who do not comply with Mayor Sylvester Turner’s executive order to get vaccinated, get an exemption, or test twice a month, will have a note of ‘non-compliance’ put in their files.
Beyond the scoring, it’s not clear if and when firefighters, who have remained on the front lines of the pandemic, would be disciplined.
HFD chief Sam Pena said on Monday that 60% of HFD staff are in compliance with Decree 71, which was signed in early September.
Untested in court, the mayor’s tenure may or may not conflict with the governor’s decree known as GA 40, signed in October. Governor Abbott’s order prevents any entity in Texas from “receiving receipts for a COVID-19 vaccine.”
4. Houston-area restaurant temporarily closes due to increase in COVID cases
The interior of the Dandelion Cafe in Bellaire was dark on Monday. The facility’s current plans are for him to stay that way for a week.
Co-owner Sarah Lieberman said the cafe has temporarily closed due to an increase in COVID cases.
“All of our management had tested positive so our options were to cut our hours and work with a small team and then everyone probably gets it anyway, or we close early and try to keep people out of it. ‘get it,’ Lieberman said.
Lieberman said she and about a third of the staff tested positive despite receiving the vaccine.
“We decided it was in the best interests of the staff, our customers and all families to shut down,” she said, noting the decision was voluntary.
5. In Texas Supreme Court case, state argues Dallas-Houston bullet train developer cannot use prominent estate
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has backed a landowner’s case against companies developing a controversial Dallas-Houston bullet train, arguing they can’t force people to sell the plots needed for the train project to great speed.
Weighing in on the matter at the invitation of the Texas Supreme Court, the attorney general’s office offered the latest twist in the nearly decade-long battle on a 240-mile line that connecting Dallas and Houston. While the project garnered support from leaders in urban areas, it met strong resistance from residents of rural counties on its proposed path.
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