The largest county in Texas issued an emergency public safety alert on Wednesday, the same day it was revealed that the state’s Attorney General had attempted to cut off its pandemic relief funds. Residents of Harris County, which includes Houston, America’s fourth-largest city, received alerts on their cellphones urging them to cancel any plans they may have made for New Year’s Eve. The county is not only under a flash flood warning through the end of the week, but they’re also experiencing a high volume of COVID19 cases that have led to hospital overcrowding in the Houston area and its outlying suburbs.
“COVID19 surging at a dangerous rate in Harris County,” the alert reads. “Cancel all gatherings. Do not celebrate the New Year with anyone outside your household. Protect yourself, your family, and healthcare workers.”
Ironically, it had only been revealed hours earlier that the Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, had attempted to cut off COVID funding to Harris County. The request by Paxton — a co-chair of the group Lawyers for Trump — came as Texas Democrats and Republicans squared off in the courts over voting by mail during the public health crisis. It also occurred as Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed that mail-in voting would cause widespread election fraud.
— Gabrielle Banks (@GabMoBanks) December 30, 2020
In a May 21 letter, Paxton asked the Trump administration to revoke millions in CARES Act pandemic relief funding that Harris County planned to use to facilitate mail-in voting during the pandemic. The correspondence was obtained and shared online by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
The Attorney General of Texas tried to cut off pandemic relief funds from Texas's biggest county https://t.co/w1vTrD9Dwj
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) December 30, 2020
In his letter, Paxton argued that it was illegal to use COVID-19 relief funds for mail-in ballots and that the White House should rescind any funding Harris County used for that purpose. “Without implementing adequate protection against unlawful abuse of mail-in ballots, the Department could be cast in a position of involuntarily facilitating election fraud,” Paxton wrote.
Not surprisingly, the AG never publicized the letter to his constituents, according to CREW’s report. Political insiders believe that Paxton, who is already under investigation, is angling for a pardon from Trump. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat, blasted Paxton’s effort to strip relief money from the county for trying to protect the safety of its citizens as they cast ballots.
Meanwhile, Houston-area residents are facing a literal perfect storm of possible flooding during a COVID19 surge when hospitals are already at capacity. If locals ignore the warnings and gather in groups, hospitals wouldn’t be able to manage the additional potential scores of people who might be injured in a potential flood.
⛈️ Significant Weather Advisory⛈️ has been issued for central Harris County until 5 PM. Strong thunderstorms are moving through the area. 40 mph winds are possible.
More: https://t.co/NjdSb2KqHR pic.twitter.com/KyInCgUMNU
— Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (@ReadyHarris) December 30, 2020