HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo addressed the expiration of the state COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday afternoon.
Hidalgo turned the focus less on businesses reopening at 100% and the ending of the state’s mask mandate, and more on the number of vaccines being distributed.
“There’s a lot of focus today on 100% — on businesses being able to reopen to 100% and everybody lifting the mask mandate in the state,” Hidalgo said. “I’d like to focus on another number today, and that is 9.8%.”
The judge reported that 9.8% of people over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated in Harris County. She said the number is now fewer than one in 10 people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in the county.
“In other words, we’re a long way from sparing ourselves. The needless deaths and hospitalizations, that we can avoid if we just make it through this definition period,” Hidalgo said.
She also addressed the county’s positivity rate, saying officials are seeing hundreds of new cases being reported. The health department is reporting a positivity rate of over 12%.
“Perhaps more dangerous variants of the virus continue to spread throughout our community,” Hidalgo said.
She said the “most tragic number of all” is the 3,394 people who died in Harris County from COVID-19. She said the number of deaths can grow more or it can stay there depending on what residents do in the next few months.
“The truth is, we fought hard to get to where we are today. There’s still more work to do. Now is not the time to give up. Now is not the time for a mission accomplished moment as much as we all wish at work,” Hidalgo said. ”I’d love to be able to say it’s all over. I’d love to be able to give the good news, and to say everything should go 100% back to normal, that nobody needs to hear these uncomfortable masks anymore. But we can’t throw away all our sacrifices.”
Hidalgo said there is some good news, the county is distributing vaccines quickly and efficiently as possible.
Hidalgo thanked all businesses in the county that are still requiring masks and limiting capacity.
“Thank you. We see you. We appreciate you. We know you’ve been there from the beginning, leading supporting our population, and as unfair as it is, you carry this burden of keeping the community safe, is an enormous public service,” Hidalgo said. “That spirit of service that focuses on doing the right thing on saving lives is what makes us who we are.”