Harris Co. COVID vaccinations up 529% after cash incentive announced

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Harris Co. Judge Hidalgo requests $30M for more nurses
The virus isn't letting up, causing many hospitals to panic due to worker shortages. That's why she's asking for money to hire nurses from outside the region.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- With the current surge in COVID-19 cases and variants spreading rapidly, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo pushed residents Tuesday to take advantage of the vaccine cash initiative and announced a new strategy to help lower the number of COVID cases.

The county has seen an overwhelming response to the incentive.

"It's a win for the people of Harris County and a much needed boost to the health care workers who have been seeing unnecessary tragedy day after day," said Hidalgo.

According to Hidalgo, three weeks prior to the incentive, the public health department was administering an average of 431 first doses per day. On Aug. 17, the day the incentive was announced, the average number of first doses per day almost doubled to 914. The next day, that number shot up to 1,596 people who got their first dose.

That amounts to a 529% increase in vaccinations, Hidalgo touted.

MORE: $100 incentive now offered for 1st vaccine dose in Harris Co.

"And it's just gone up from there," Hidalgo said.

In an effort to help with this vaccination process, Hidalgo announced the opening of an additional site at Sheldon ISD Panther Stadium located at 11433C East Sam Houston Parkway North. Up to 1,500 vaccines can be administered per day Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In addition, county officials are moving the NRG Park vaccination site to Dick Graves Park at 2000 Reed Rd. This change will allow for a total of 1,800 first doses to be administered per day, which is an increase, Hidalgo said. The Dick Graves site will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

At the briefing, Hidalgo also announced she will be requesting $30 million to go toward procuring additional nurses for the region. While she said Gov. Greg Abbott has already sent additional nurses to the area, a gap still remains.

"We are asking that those nurses come outside of our region so that nurses are not just switching from one hospital to another in this area," she said.

Hidalgo said she does not anticipate the county will need to use all of the $30 million, but the money will go toward those nurses' salaries.

For some hospitals, it's not about the lack of beds, it is about the lack of medical personnel needed to tend to patients.

SEE RELATED: 'Please send help now': Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital staff say they're beyond breaking point

"The CEO of our public hospital system was explaining the other week that a man with pancreatitis had to wait 40 hours to get looked at," said Hidalgo.

The pandemic is now going beyond impacting those infected with the virus and is affecting anyone with a medical condition.

While the request for the $30 million still needs to be approved, Hidalgo said she is confident the county will receive it.

Hidalgo also gave local residents who own small businesses an update on how they can apply for the Harris County Small Business Relief Fund.

MORE: Harris County to launch $30M fund to help small businesses affected by pandemic

The application opens Sept. 20, but she said that as of Tuesday, business owners can go online and start looking at what all they need to apply.

The $30 million relief fund was announced earlier this month. Soon, those businesses will be able to apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

On Aug. 10, county commissioners unanimously approved a partnership with LiftFund, an independent nonprofit that provides loans for entrepreneurs. This organization will help manage the program and help business owners apply, according to Hidalgo. She said small-business revenue is down 38% since January 2020, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.

RELATED: Houston's boosted COVID vaccine incentive plan up for approval next week