Pittsburgh Pirates Recognition From Academics Throughout Pandemic

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Texans scramble to get vaccinated after Republican governor says no more masks

Greg Abbott says the state can open 100% without masks – but millions remain unvaccinated and navigating the state’s vaccination bureaucracy is full. A vaccination clinic in New Braunfels. Governor Abbott’s order to lift mask mandates resulted in the condemnation of Democratic leaders across the state. Photo: Mikala Compton / AP In Houston, a long line of cars wrap around a cluster of white tents in the parking lot of NRG Stadium – a Texas-sized vaccination center. Texans roll to the drive through, hang an arm out the window to get their shot, and walk like the vaccination site is one of many fast food restaurants dotted across the state. Men and women in army green and face protection guide the traffic, scan QR codes and manage recordings with the ticket for a renewed social life and some rest. That reassurance couldn’t come too soon for Texans as the statewide mask mandate has now been officially lifted and millions of unvaccinated people are more susceptible to an infectious disease that killed 527,000 people in the U.S., including more than 45,000 in Texas. On March 2, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the nationwide mask mandate implemented in the summer would suddenly no longer exist from Wednesday. At first glance you could see the announcement as the light at the end of the tunnel. But on further examination, it appears Texas is jumping the gun. According to the Texas Department of Health, the number of people fully vaccinated in the state is currently 2,463,005 – about 16% of the nearly 15 million over 18-year-old population in Texas. Texas currently ranks 38th in the nation for total vaccinations administered. Abbott announced the end of the mask mandate and said last week, “Now is the time to open Texas to 100%. Therefore, today I am issuing a new implementing ordinance that repeals most of the earlier implementing ordinances: From next Wednesday, all companies of all types are allowed to open 100%. I am also ending the nationwide mask mandate. “The announcement resulted in condemnation from democratic leaders across the state. Some argued Abbott’s order was a distraction from the state’s failure to power its energy grid during a brutal winter storm that left millions of people without electricity, heat, and water for days. Harris District Judge Lina Hidalgo said of Abbott’s move: “At best, this is wishful thinking that Covid is somehow less dangerous than it was yesterday. At worst, it’s a cynical attempt to distract Texans from the failures of government oversight of our power grid. “She was referring to the deadly arctic temperature storms that hit the state with little warning last month, causing mass power outages and suffering. Hidalgo urged voters to continue wearing a mask and practicing social distancing until more people are vaccinated. Shortly after its announcement in Lubbock, Abbott falsely accused Joe Biden’s administration of allowing Covid-19 positive “illegal immigrants” to enter the United States. Former San Antonio mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro expressed outrage that the governor was already planning to scapegoat undocumented migrants for any spike in Covid cases. He said, “You have a governor who is basically trying to pass the blame on to undocumented immigrants when we see the numbers go up because of his terrible political decisions here. There is no evidence whatsoever that immigrants are spreading Covid-19 in Texas. There is evidence that the governor’s decision to kill the mask mandate and open the business 100% will result in a far greater spread of the coronavirus in Texas. “Castro is a frequent customer of Halcyon, a eclectic cafe and lounge on the River Walk pedestrian street in San Antonio. On Twitter, he applauded the establishment’s sign on the door that read, “Despite the latest regulation, we as a company have decided to continue to require masks when we’re not at the table. Thank you for your understanding and for helping us to protect our employees and customers. “Most people don’t wear masks when I go shopping. They see other non-mask wearers and they turn five to each other. Angelica Guerra Wells Kristopher Strompl, one of Halcyon’s managers, says it is too early to lift the mask mandate. “The only reason [Covid] The number of cases had decreased because of the storm, “said Strompl. “We will continue to wear a mask. It’s an extra layer of protection. “Before the mask mandate was lifted, Strompl said some patrons did not respect Halcyon’s mask policy. He said he expected more cases like this once the mask order is broken. “It was the equivalent of a child having a tantrum,” said Strompl, telling of the time his team had to threaten to call the police before the customer finally left alone. In Houston, Picos Mexican restaurant has dealt with even tougher reactions from customers who refuse to wear a mask. Some customers even threatened to report employees to the Immigration and Customs Service (Ice). The restaurant’s co-owner Arnoldo Richards told CNN, “This gentleman just said I shouldn’t take action against the Texas governor and we should respect his mandate to lift the ban. If not, he could send immigration to check our green cards. And I found that very racist. I found it inappropriate. And if it wasn’t for a Mexican restaurant, he might not have said anything or referred to checking our green cards. “Angelica Guerra Wells lives in New Braunfels, a town outside of San Antonio. She describes her city as “very conservative”. “The norm here is already that most people don’t wear masks when shopping,” said Guerra Wells. “You see other non-mask wearers and they get each other five. I’m trying to buy bananas and they are high-fiving and talking about the food. That’s ridiculous. “During the pandemic, Guerra Wells walked into her office every day. She recently resigned and cited her company’s dangerous Covid policies as part of her decision to look for a new job.” I had to go to the office every day Everyone did it. How they dealt with it [pandemic] is kind of the reason i left They tried to implement things to keep their distance, check temperatures and not let people into the office, but none of that actually got through, ”said Guerra Wells. “It felt like they were doing a show that they were following these guidelines.” Governor Greg Abbott announced at an event last week that he was lifting the mask mandate. Photo: Justin Rex / AP Guerra Wells and her husband live in a one bedroom apartment. When he signed Covid, she said her employers told her to come in when she felt good and test negative, despite the possibility of spreading the virus to other employees. “I had an employee whose wife and daughter caught Covid. He didn’t catch it, but soon afterwards his brother caught it [it] and died, ”said Guerra Wells. “Today is my new company’s one year anniversary of working from home. I feel like they care a lot more about people’s safety. “Guerra Wells is now fully vaccinated. Her health pushed her to the top of the list, but she said she still feels guilty for having had access to vaccines while others who need it don’t. “I hope we get back to some sort of normalcy, but I think that needs to be done first with better access to vaccinations. These 90-year-olds cannot get vaccinated because they are not fast enough on the computer. It’s really hard to get through on the phone lines. I had to wait four hours to speak to someone and then hang up, ”she said. She added, “I hear far too often from pharmacy technicians that at the end of the day they have to throw away vaccines or make an effort to call their friends to have one.” In many parts of Texas, vaccination appointments are offered to those who fall into either Category 1a or 1b as determined by the state health department. But even those in neither category are making appointments as there is no process to check if someone has an underlying health condition or is working in a school or care facility. Eunice Lee is a student pharmacist in San Antonio. She believes the flawed vaccine rollout process in the state, coupled with the repeal of the Mask Mandate Ordinance in Covid cases, will lead to an increase. “When [Abbott] made the announcement that he would get rid of the mask mandate, only 6-7% of Texans had been vaccinated. It came out of the blue, especially after we had the winter snow storm. Many people were still displaced from it. Many people still had no food, water, or even lived at home, ”said Lee. “As healthcare workers, a lot of people were shocked and angry.” Lee and her family, like millions of other Texans, were personally affected by the winter storm. “I had a family member who was due to be vaccinated that week of the storm and because this pharmacy had no electricity, we unfortunately had to miss that appointment. I can imagine how many people in my grandmother’s situation missed their vaccine, ”said Lee. “It wiped out people who could have been vaccinated for a week. That probably hurt our numbers even more. “Many young people help elderly relatives book their vaccination appointments as navigating a county or pharmacy chain website can be daunting for the elderly and the neediest. Digital literacy is often the key to successfully acquiring a vaccine. So when a place opens, the fastest person wins – regardless of how great another person’s health risks are. Lee eventually managed to secure a vaccination appointment for her grandmother, but said she had to stay up “night after night” to get one despite working in a pharmacy. “Since I can use the computer without any problems, I go to the websites of the various companies and open all the tabs, like a strange ritual every day. If I couldn’t drive through town, she wouldn’t have had that appointment. She doesn’t know the streets either, ”said Lee. Lee has relied on the information from her fellow pharmacist friends to find out when new vaccine deliveries are expected and when the websites will be updated. She shares whatever information she knows with patients, but says older people are often uncomfortable driving too far and going to unfamiliar places to get their vaccines. “It’s disappointing and frustrating for me and my family, but also for others around me who are in the same situation,” said Lee. “We have the manpower to vaccinate all of these people, but we have to get them [vaccines] to local and community pharmacies, as we do with flu shots. Hopefully we can vaccinate a large part of the population, but this rollout process is currently hindering us. “I have a feeling that the governor is not looking for his voters. It’s just bizarre to me. Masks only help if the majority of people are wearing them. “

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