5 things for Houstonians to know for Monday, March 1

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Approved For Emergency Use

Here are things to know for Monday, March 1:

1. Texas expects to receive more than 200,000 initial doses of newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday for use in the U.S., the third vaccine to be approved since the pandemic began.

Texas could initially receive more than 200,000 doses, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, but the agency hasn’t received a timeline for when they would arrive. The company has said it plans to ship 20 million shots in the U.S. by the end of March and an additional 80 million doses before the end of June.

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2. Texas plants released nearly as much pollution during winter storm as during Hurricane Laura

Oil refineries, chemical manufacturers, and petrochemical plants across Texas — mostly in the upper Gulf Coast — warned state regulators that they may have released millions of pounds of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air due to last week’s winter storm.

The arctic freeze in Texas claimed the lives of dozens of Texans, and more than 4.5 million customers were without power for days last week due to blackouts implemented by the state’s grid operator. Plants tripping offline in the extreme cold led the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to order power outages to avoid overloading the grid.

The storm and power outages also hit industrial plants, mostly those that produce products derived from oil and natural gas, such as gasoline, diesel and the building blocks of plastic. Those facilities spewed 3.5 million pounds of additional pollution in the air during the power crisis, according to an analysis of notices by Texas environmental groups Environmental Defense Fund, Environment Texas and Air Alliance Houston.

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3. Thousands still without water after winter storm

The historic freezing temperatures might be gone but many Houstonians are still without running water.

In a press conference on Sunday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he believes the number of tenants and homeowners struggling is likely in the thousands.

Coaquies Davis, who lives at the Sterlingshire apartments in northeast Houston, said she’s been without water for about 11 days.

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4. Fraud overwhelms pandemic-related unemployment programs

With the floodgates set to open on another round of unemployment aid, states are being hammered with a new wave of fraud as they scramble to update security systems and block scammers who already have siphoned billions of dollars from pandemic-related jobless programs.

The fraud is fleecing taxpayers, delaying legitimate payments and turning thousands of Americans into unwitting identity theft victims. Many states have failed to adequately safeguard their systems, and a review by The Associated Press finds that some will not even publicly acknowledge the extent of the problem.

The massive sham springs from prior identity theft from banks, credit rating agencies, health care systems and retailers. Fraud perpetrators, sometimes in China, Nigeria or Russia, buy stolen personal identifying information on the dark web and use it to flood state unemployment systems with bogus claims.

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5. Should Donald Trump be allowed to hold office again? Texas voters are split.

Texas voters are almost evenly split on the question of whether Donald Trump should be allowed to mount a comeback, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Asked whether “Trump took actions as president that justify preventing him from holding future elected office,” 45% said he did and 48% said he did not. Not surprisingly, 84% of voters who identified themselves as Democrats say he did, and 81% of Republican voters say he didn’t. Among independent voters, 38% said barring Trump would be justified, and 47% said it would not be justified.

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