Sign In Forgot Password

Covid 19 Information from the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

As of May 28, 2020


Updates from the State, County and City


Governor Gregg Abbott is encouraging people to continue practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, and washing your hands often.


The Governor also issued a proclamation opening additional businesses before the end of the month. They are:

  • New, Effective May 26, 2020
    • Driving Schools
  • New, Effective May 29, 2020
    • Water parks
  • New, Effective May 31, 2020
    • Adult Recreational Sports


The Governor is giving the Health and Human Services Commission $3.6 million to purchase tablets and webcams to help seniors connect to loved ones while under quarantine.


Mayor Turner is asking people to “mask up” to show your friends and family that you care for them. Drs. Shah and Persse stress that there is still a need to continue wearing masks, even as we move outdoors for the summer. They stated that social distancing remains important during the summer months, even at the pool (the water is fine, it’s the congregating that is worrisome).  


A star-studded line up is in store for Houston area graduates as Mayor Turner released the lineup for next week’s city-wide graduation. This is an attempt by the City to prevent large scale parties by providing an alternative way to celebrate graduation.


Baylor College of Medicine is working toward launching an antibody test for the Houston region, however researchers are trying to ensure its effectiveness before they roll out the program. 


Faith Leaders Warn Against Opening Too Soon


A large group of interfaith congregational leaders, including Rabbi David Lyon from Beth Israel, posted a video about opening our doors too soon. This comes as a priest from the Holy Ghost Church in Bellaire recently died of pneumonia after contracting COVID19. Two more priests and several congregants at the same church have also tested positive for COVID19. The church stated that despite following the recommendations from the Governor’s office, they will be closing again.


The CDC recently posted a report on the high COVID19 attack rate for church attendees. The concern is when one or two infected people attend church, spread to congregants, then those congregants go out in the community.


During today’s Interfaith Ministries call, one of the panelists stated that when we open our congregation doors we must ask three things: How, When, and Why?


Texas Children’s Treating Rare Disease Related to COVID19


Several children are being treated at Texas Children’s for symptoms associated with the mysterious “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children” or MIS-C. This is a rare occurrence in young children who have been exposed to COVID19. Researchers are still working to find out the link between kids. The good news is that most seem to recover, although there have been some deaths associated with it.  


Sesame Street – COVID19 Resources for Kids


Sesame Street has launched a website dedicated to helping parents and children cope with the current health crisis. They have games, videos, and art printables that aim to teach children about managing stress, how to wash their hands, and help parents speak to their children about COVID19.


So, whether you want to learn Monster Meditation (personal favorite), help when your child misses their friends, or sing along to the “wash your hands” song (very similar to the “brush your teeth song”), this is a great resource for the smaller members of our community.



As of May 26, 2020


Updates from Federal, State, County and City Officials


The United States has issued travel restrictions for all foreign nationals who have been to Brazil in the past 14 days, effective tonight at midnight. This is two days earlier than originally announced. U.S. Citizens in Brazil can return home and are encouraged to do so immediately unless they expect to be in the country for an indefinite amount of time. This comes at a time when COVID19 cases are soaring as Brazil has taken few measures to limit its spread. Brazil is now second in the world in confirmed cases, right behind the United States. The U.S. Embassy to Brazil has a fact sheet for those who might be affected.


According to Johns Hopkins University, there are over 1.6 million cases of COVID19 in the United States and over 350,000 in Brazil.  The United States is reporting over 98,700 deaths due to the virus, nearly triple the United Kingdom, who is second in recorded deaths.


The Department of Homeland Security has a natural decay calculator for COVID19 on surfaces. You can click on the surface type, temperature and humidity level to see how long it will take for the virus to die.


Texas Governor Greg Abbott has lifted travel restrictions and mandatory quarantine for people traveling to Texas from neighboring areas that were known hot spots.


The Governor is also beginning a phased opening of drivers license offices beginning today. Appointments must be made online for limited services.


The Texas Secretary of State has issued “Health Protocols for Voters” in advance of the upcoming runoffs. Notable suggestions are:

  • voters should wear a face mask (but be prepared to lower if election official needs to confirm identity),
  • bring their own hand sanitizer,
  • keep 6 feet away from others,
  • persons aged 65 and older and those with COVID19 symptoms are encouraged to stay home and apply for a mail-in-ballot.


Harris County has their COVID19 self-assessment online. You can take the assessment and schedule your appointment for all Harris County sites. People can also call 832-927-7575.


The Houston Health Department has announced new hours for its call center. People can now call 832-393-4220 Monday – Saturday from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Mayor Tuner announced that Fire Marshalls will be able to enforce violations of the Open Texas occupancy limits. Pictures from crowded bars and restaurants in Houston resulted in over 250 complaints to the City this weekend. This compounds the City’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID19 while the State continues to open-up. Personal beliefs on face masks and mixed messages on proper protocols are resulting in a confusing, yet critical time.


The Greater Houston Partnership has a new dashboard for Reopening Houston Safely. This includes health metrics from the Texas Medical Center, economic metrics, and activity metrics.


A Word on Herd Immunity and Vaccines


The buzzword of the moment is herd immunity and many questions have been asked about what it will take to get there. A quick primer: herd immunity is when enough of a population has developed immunity to a virus that the disease stops spreading. This is typically accomplished through vaccines. Much of the talk these days has centered around Sweden’s choice to not shut down and to rely on the public making the right decisions to protect themselves…or not. The latest evidence from Sweden has shown that their calculations on herd immunity were incorrect, resulting in a much higher COVID19 death rate than any other country in the world and lower than expected immunity rate among its population.


Experts at Johns Hopkins University state that herd immunity is not achieved until 70%-90% of the community has developed immunity. They warn that in order to achieve effective herd immunity in the United States, it would require over 200 million Americans to get COVID19 and over 500,000 people would have to die. Even if we went this route, at the current infection rates, it would take the United States into 2021 to achieve the rates we need.


The other option to achieve herd immunity would be to practice social distancing, mask wearing, and proper sanitization in order to buy additional time for vaccine development and treatment.


The Baker Institute at Rice University will be hosting a webinar on vaccine development with Dr. Peter Hotze. You can register here.


Paycheck Protection Program Updates – More!


It’s Monday, so that means there are more updates to the paycheck protection program. The Houston-based SBA director has issued additional guidance on the PPP program. To note: there is now a loan forgiveness application.


The Jewish Federation’s of North America have put out a call to action in support of two PPP improvement bills. H.R.  6886 (House) and S. 3833 (Senate) would create more guidance for the PPP and add additional timing to the implementation of the bills. These two bills can be introduced as early as tomorrow.


Please ask your Representatives and Senators to vote for the PPP improvement bill (H.R. 6886/S. 3833) that advances in the House and the Senate and expeditiously work to pass final legislation. To find out who represents you, click here



As of May 22, 2020

Today, we will go over updates from the County and City, programming by the Israeli Consulate, updates on Camp Young Judea, and two up coming presentations from the Federation.


Updates from the County and City


Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued our region’s fourth stay home order, amended to comply with the Governor’s most recent orders. The new order is in effect until midnight on June 10th. Here’s what the new order requires:

  • Every person shall minimize social gathering and encouraged to use face coverings.
  • All people over age 65 are strongly encourage to:
    • stay home as much as possible
    • maintain distance from members of the same household who have been outside of the residence in the prior 14 days
    • implement social distancing and proper hygiene practices when leaving the home
  • Homeless individuals are exempt from the order, but shall maintain social distancing
  • Only businesses allowed to open by the Governor’s executive order can be open, all else must remain closed
    • Opened businesses are encouraged to continue allowing employees to work from home
  • People can visit open spaces (parks, beaches, lakes, rivers, pools, etc) so long as social distancing is maintained. Equipment is still closed.
  • Interactive spaces must remain closed (amusement parks, arcades, splash pads, water parks)
  • Indoor concert and preforming arts to remain closed; drive-in concerts permitted so long as social distancing is maintained and people stay in the vehicles
  • Religious services are to be conducted in accordance with the minimum standards set by the Governor
  • When obtaining essential services or one of the opened businesses individuals should:
    • Wear a face covering
    • Practice social distancing
    • Practice good hygiene
  • People should not visit nursing homes or assisted living centers


The County Judge provided specific guidance for the construction workforce and retail businesses.


Harris County is looking for volunteers and interns. If you are interested, you can find more information here


Mayor Turner is letting people know that the best way to honor our heroes this Memorial Day is to be safe: wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and get tested for COVID19.


Crushing the Curve – Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry


The Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry will be hosting a webinar (on Zoom!) on the digital health response to COVID19. It will take place May 26th 10:30 am.


Camp Update – Camp Young Judea


Camp Young Judea of Texas made the painful decision today to cancel its summer programs. While this decision is extremely difficult for both the staff and campers, the uncertainty of the current public health crisis made CYJ come to this heartbreaking conclusion. CYJ has complied a very helpful resource for parents on how to help your kids cope with camp’s cancellation.


Federation Presentations 


The Federation’s Education Department will be hosting three virtual presentation on mindfulness. Please fill out this survey to they can find the best time to host it. The survey will close Monday.


The next JRAN Conversation Starter on hurricane preparedness will be this Thursday at 11 a.m. You can register here.




As of May 21, 2020


Today, we will cover updates from the State, City, and County; how to watch out for COVID19 related scams; and predictions for hurricane season.


Updates from the State, County, and City


Governor Abbott announced that CVS Pharmacy will be offering drive-thru testing at 44 locations beginning this Friday. CVS plans to ramp up this program to 80 sites across the state by the end of May. You may register in advance online.


Mayor Tuner announced that the City’s 38 swimming pools and 27 splash pads will be closed for the summer. The Mayor expressed concern about the ability to maintain social distancing and proper health protocols in a pool setting. The City will be opening its tennis centers and public golf courses. You can find locations and updated information online.


The City of Houston and Harris County Public Health is urging people to continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks when out in public. Dr. Umair Shah stated that our area has not seen a decline in cases and we can expect to see an increase as the State continues into the next phases of opening.


The Texas Medical Center continues to update their dash board with new features.


The Federation has added more resources to our online COVID19 tool kit. These include new guidance from Harris Public Health for managers of non-medical employees, temperature check guidelines and encouraging staff testing (under the “Harris Public Health Downloadable Graphics” tab).  


Scams in the Age of COVID19


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning people about scams related to COVID19. They range from fraud related to stimulus checks to testing kits not approved by the FDA and online offers for fake vaccinations. The FTC has an entire website dedicated to COVID19 scams and how you can report them.


Above Average Hurricane Season Predicted


Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast. NOAA is predicting a 60% chance for above normal activity, 30% chance of normal and 10% chance of below normal.


As of May 20, 2020


County and City Updates


Harris County has released an updated dashboard for tracking COVID19. You can search by zip code, find testing locations and take a self-assessment. The dashboard also gives a view of Texas and Global cases.


Mayor Turner’s press conference today focused on wearing masks when out in public because there are so many people who are asymptomatic out unknowingly spreading the virus to others. Dr. Persse explained that masks, sanitization, social distancing, and proper hygiene practices are the only tools we have in our toolbox to proactively combat this virus. Any face covering will do so long as your nose and mouth are covered. 


Medical Professionals Torn on Open Texas


The medical community is recognizing that a global pandemic is more than a health crisis—its also an economic one. Health professionals from Houston know that COVID19 might be with us for a while and we cannot continue to live in lockdown. While doctors do not agree with everything in the Open Texas phased plans, several do give the Governor credit for taking a measured approach (though some disagree, naturally) with the situation. So much of the Governor’s plan hinges on individuals and businesses making the right decisions—promoting social distancing, requiring face masks, and follow the State’s prescribed best practices. But doctors are skeptical on how effective those measures will be as we reach quarantine fatigue.


HISD Adjusts Meal Program


HISD announced that their summer meal program will switch to kids-only beginning this June. During the pandemic, HISD provided about 30 pounds of food to families each day—by far the largest undertaking by any single school district across the county. This was thanks to a partnership with the Houston Food Bank. Moving forward, HISD will distribute smaller kids meals at 68 locations.


Houston’s Economic Outlook


The Greater Houston Partnership released its May “Economy at a Glance” report today. This monthly report drills down the economic outlook from the U.S. to Texas to Houston. What should come as no surprise, the U.S. is in a “severe recession.” Texas and Houston generally mirror the national trends. If you are curious how COVID19 has affected different sectors, you might find the report helpful.


Will We Be Voting By Mail?


That is the question on a lot of people’s minds. Earlier this month, Harris County made an announcement that people who fear contracting COVID19 can request a mail-in ballot for the runoffs and general elections. Many counties across the U.S. made similar moves. These allowances are now being challenged in federal court (and on Twitter). Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled that counties may allow mail-in ballots related to COVID19 but today the 5th Circuit of Appeals placed a hold on the lower court’s ruling so they can consider the question. So, the answer the question: to be determined.


Hurricane Season 2020


Hurricane season is off to an early start. The first named storm of the season is tropical storm Arthur in the Atlantic. He made a quick visit to North Carolina’s outer banks before splitting into a post-tropical storm.


Michigan is experiencing catastrophic flooding after severe storms overwhelmed the dam system in Midland County. Some areas are expected to receive around 9 feet of water. Their response gives us a window into what emergency operations will look like during the current health crisis.


As of May 19, 2020


Today, we will go over updates from the State, County and City; what school might look like when it opens; professional sports gearing up to play this summer; and an updated date (but same time!) for the next JRAN conversation starter.


Updates from the State, County, and City


Tomorrow, the Governor’s Small Business Series will be hosting a webinar on Business Strategies for an Evolving Future. It will feature a panel of COVID19 support experts to help guide you to develop adaptive business strategies for uncertain times. You must register in advance here.


The City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods is partnering with Houston Volunteer Lawyers to present two Zoom webinars next week. The first, on May 26th, is on IRS tax payments and economic stimulus payments. The second is on May 28th and will cover how to get your legal affairs in order.


Mayor Tuner emphasized that wearing a mask is a matter of public safety and not a political statement. Governor Abbot is also encouraging all Texans to take all necessary precautions to avoid spreading the virus, including wearing a mask. 


Harris County Office of Emergency Management is reminding people that although gyms are allowed to open, the safest way to exercise is at home.


Harris County Commissioners Court approved $30 million in $1,200-$1,500 grants to low-income individuals. 


Schools Given Green Light to Open


Governor Abbott has given the State’s school districts the ability to open on June 1st. The Texas Education Agency has released guidance for those districts that choose to reopen.


In Israel, schools have reopened to mixed feelings. JTA is reporting that about 60% of the children allowed to return to school did so. Children and adults are required to wear masks on campus and have daily temperature checks.  


Professional Sports Set to Open Up


Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League are preparing to head back to the field in the coming weeks. MLB plans to start its season on July 4th, however concerns from the medical community have raised issues related to spreading COVID19 to players and fans. Dr. Umair Shaw from Harris County Public Health expressed concern that health officials in MLB cities have not been consulted in the planning phase.

As of May 18, 2020


Governor Abbott Moves Into Stage Two of Open Texas


Today, Governor Abbott announced Phase Two of “Open Texas.” During his press conference, the Governor underscored that Phase Two depends on Texans following best practices. This means: wearing face masks when out in public, continuing to practice social distancing, and utilizing proper hygiene and sanitization. The Governor stated that without these preventative measures, we could see spikes in the number of positive cases of COVID19 and either a slower pace toward Phase Three or a retrenchment.


Here is the new timeline for businesses allowed to open:

  • New, In Effect May 31, 2020
    • Day Youth Camp
    • Overnight Youth Camp
    • Professional Sports Without In-Person Spectators
      • basketball,
      • baseball,
      • car racing,
      • football,
      • golf,
      • softball, and
      • tennis leagues
  • New, In Effect May 22, 2020
    • Bars (25% capacity)
    • Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcasting, Skating Rinks (25% capacity)
    • Rodeo / Equestrian Events (25% capacity)
    • Zoos, Aquariums, Natural Caverns (25% capacity)
  • New, Now in Effect as of May 18, 2020
    • Child Care Centers (reduced class size)
    • Massage and Personal-Care, Beauty Services
    • Youth Clubs (10 people at a time, 6 feet separation), such as:
      • Boy Scouts,
      • Girl Scouts,
      • TOP Teens (of TOP Ladies of Distinction),
      • FFA, and
      • Girls Inc.
    • Youth Sports Operators
      • practices without spectators other than one parent or guardian per participant
      • games can begin June 15th, spectators should maintain at least 6 feet social distancing
  • Effective May 18, 2020
    • Gyms / Exercise Facilities (25% capacity)
    • Manufacturers
    • Office-Based Employers (greater of 10 people or 25% w/proper social distancing)

Each business allowed to open has specific recommendations, so be sure to check the Governor’s website to see the State’s checklists to opening. The big ones across all sectors are: face masks for all adults, frequent disinfecting, social distancing, and proper personal hygiene.


The State’s official COVID19 tracker can be found here. It is estimated that the State of Texas has about 19,000 active cases of COVID19 across the region. Harris County’s COVID19 tracker can be found here. The good news for our region is that we are well within our hospital’s capacity, with ICU beds on a decline and general hospital beds flattening out.


Harris County is estimating that we currently have just over 5,700 active COVID19 cases


The Mayor is announcing 139 new cases and 1 new death today. Mayor Turner also announced 13 free COVID19 testing sites across the city. Keep in mind that the Harris County Face Covering Order is still in effect until May 26th.


ADL Webinar: Mayors on the Front Lines Against COVID-19


The ADL will be hosting a webinar on May 21st with two mayors who will discuss the extraordinary efforts they are making to protect their residents from the effects of COVID-19 and promote kindness and solidarity in their communities. You can register here.


Houston Museum of Fine Arts – Reopening


The Houston Museum of Fine Arts announced it will be opening this weekend, on May 23rd. Timed entry tickets go online tomorrow. The MFH has posted what you can expect when you go for a visit. You guessed it: face masks will be required. You can expect face masks, social distancing, temperature checks, and symptom screenings as a part of our new normal


Sat, June 6 2020 14 Sivan 5780