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Harris County Commissioner approves funding for more nurses and tests for schools amid COVID spike

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – At both the city and county levels, COVID-19 is challenging our staff and ability to provide some services. But elected leaders told ABC13 they are working to mitigate that impact.

On Tuesday, Harris County commissioners approved more than $43 million in spending on two emergency COVID measures. The first is hiring up to 664 temporary nurses to address shortages at local hospitals across the county. This is the second time that trustees have had to replenish the sick and exhausted health care workforce on the front lines of the pandemic in nearly two years.

“They’re on standby and will be here within a week, that’s what we were told,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “They will be deployed to all hospitals across our region.”

SEE MORE: Harris County’s omicron-driven COVID-19 surge pushes threat level back to ‘severe’

Another measure is to buy up to 100,000 rapid COVID tests – 95% of which will go to local schools. But some will help the county better deal with sick employees across its five regions.

“One of the most important things that we have to do as a county is to keep services to the extent we can,” said Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia. “We’re having to really adjust and be flexible and think about how we’re dealing with this pandemic.”

The city of Houston also has a service problem. One of the most widely publicized problems we’ve been reporting on for months is a shortage of garbage and recycling pickup truck drivers. The city is even offering a $3,000 bonus this summer for new employees, and on Monday, Mayor Sylvester Turner acknowledged it remains a challenge.

SEE MORE: Despite warnings about omicrons, now is not the time to shut down, local leaders say

“We might not cover a lot of territory, a lot of ground, as if we had a fully operational crew,” Turner said.

On Tuesday, ABC13 spoke with the city’s director of solid waste, Mark Wilfak. He just joined the job in October. As of Tuesday, the department is short of 58 drivers, not to mention those who are sick with COVID.

“Challenge is just an overstatement,” says Wilfak. “I really appreciate the patience of our residents and customers out there. We know these are trying times. But rest assured that our teams are working hard.”

SEE MORE: City of Houston Looking for 100 CDL Solid Waste Drivers, Offer $3K . Sign-in Bonus

It’s not just trash. As of January 11, 729 city employees have been cleared of illness with COVID. More than 200 of them are firefighters. Meanwhile, the fire department has seen a 10% increase in calls per day over the past two months. Those issues and the extended hospital stay combined to increase response times.

Mayor Turner said: “We are studying this virus just like everyone else.

For more updates on this story, Tom Abrahams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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https://abc13.com/coronavirus-texas-harris-county-houston-covid-hospital-staff-shortage/11455193/ Harris County Commissioner approves funding for more nurses and tests for schools amid COVID spike

Dais Johnston

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