5 things for Houstonians to know for Wednesday, August 11

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announces proposal for new $30 million small business fund
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announces proposal for new $30 million small business fund

Here are things to know for Wednesday, August 11:

1. Harris County to file lawsuit challenging Gov. Abbott’s executive ban on mask mandates

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Tuesday night that the county has authorized the Harris County attorney to file a lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates.

Abbott’s order, issued in the spring when coronavirus cases were on the decline, limits school officials’ ability to respond to the pandemic, which at the moment is in the middle of what some health experts are calling the fourth wave. With the delta variant being more infectious, cases are on the rise and more children are being sent to hospitals.

Hidalgo said Tuesday that the county is filing the suit following concerns from multiple school leaders, and the fourth wave of the coronavirus.

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2. ‘Our emergency departments are overcrowded’: Ambulances seeing longer wait times at Houston hospitals as COVID cases surge

In 2016, an independent study commissioned by the city of Houston called for 70 “peak time” ambulances to be added to the Houston Fire Department in order to effectively serve the city’s population.

That was years before anybody had ever heard of COVID-19. But now, during the fourth wave of the pandemic, those extra ambulances and crews, which were never added, might have helped relieve an acute problem.

HFD ambulances, along with the EMTs and Paramedics who operate them, are sitting at hospitals, sometimes for hours, waiting for packed hospitals to accept patients.

“Our emergency departments are overcrowded, our hospitals are full, and we know, through our collaboration with our EMS providers, that their call volumes are up as well,” said Sterling Taylor, Director of Hospital and EMS Solutions at Methodist Hospital.

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3. St. Luke’s Health in Conroe temporarily closes ER due to increased COVID-19 hospitalizations, staffing shortage

St. Luke’s Health announced Tuesday that its emergency room in Conroe will be temporarily closed due to an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a critical staffing shortage.

“The safety of our patients, visitors and employees is always our highest priority. We continue to monitor and manage the increase in hospitalizations of COVID-19 related patients, as we have witnessed for several weeks. As cases rapidly rise throughout the St. Luke’s Health system, we continue to assess the need to make necessary adjustments throughout our facilities, which will best allow us to care for patients,” the statement read, in part.

Officials said the emergency room in Conroe will move all of its urgent hospital operations into the main emergency department located in The Woodlands.

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4. Texas Children’s Hospital announces COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees

Texas Children’s Hospital announced Wednesday it will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

All employees must receive their first vaccine dose by 5 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2021, the hospital said. If receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the second dose must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2021. Employees may receive their COVID-19 vaccine through Texas Children’s or any provider, pharmacy or facility of their choice.

According to a news release from Texas Children’s, exemptions are permitted for certain religious beliefs or medical conditions that may prevent an employee from receiving the vaccine.

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5. Former Grace Family Baptist Church pastor, convicted child molester sentenced

The former pastor of a Southern Baptist church in north Harris County has been sentenced following his conviction in a child molestation case.

Stephen Bratton, 46, was convicted after he admitted to molesting a teen starting from when she was 13 and continued to do so for about five years, authorities said.

According to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Bratton pleaded guilty to the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Bratton stepped down from the Grace Family Baptist Church in Cypress Station in May 2019 after he confessed to other pastors that he had inappropriately touched the girl, which “escalated to sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week,” according to court records.

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