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WINTER WEATHER BLANKETS STATE

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  • WINTER WEATHER BLANKETS STATE

Texans from Lubbock to Longview shivered under single-digit temperatures as their week began, with snow and ice creating dangerous road conditions throughout the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for all 254 Texas counties and urged residents to stay alert to changing weather conditions. The Texas Division of Emergency Management deployed resources from various state agencies to prepare roadways, assist motorists, remove downed trees and perform search-and-rescue operations if necessary.

State officials with both the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Public Utility Commission asked residents to conserve as much power as possible due to the record demand for electricity caused by the record low temperatures.

“The lowest temperatures Texas has seen in decades necessitate a shared response across the state, from households to factories,” said PUC chairman DeAnn Walker. “Along with the tools ERCOT uses to maintain the reliability of the grid, common-sense conservation also plays a critical role in our state’s endurance of this challenge.”

Space heater safety

The harsh weather, which in much of the state could continue until the weekend, means more Texans are relying on space heaters. “But be cautious,” said Orlando Hernandez, the state fire marshal. “In the past few years, several fatal Texas fires were started by space heaters.”

Inspect a heater before you use it. Make sure there are no cracked or broken plugs or loose connections.

Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet.

Keep your space heater at least three feet from anything that can burn.

Turn off your space heaters before you leave the room or go to bed. Look for models that shut off automatically when tipped over.

Vaccination update

The state passed the one million mark of Texans who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

More than 2.8 million have received the first dose.

The state, as it did last week, is receiving more than 400,000 doses. The vaccine is being shipped from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to 302 providers in 158 counties.

In addition, the federal government has shipped 80,000 doses across the state to 376 pharmacies, including CVS, H-E-B, Walmart and a group of independent pharmacies.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to drop, with 73,888 reported statewide last week, down more than 50% from the record high of nearly 159,000 recorded Jan. 10-16. However, weekly fatalities continue to hover just below 2,000, not far below the record high of 2,311 set the week of Jan. 17.

COVID-19 rental relief

Renters hard hit by the pandemic with job losses now can seek relief through the Texas Rent Relief Program, which was rolled out on Monday, Feb. 15. More than $1 billion has been allocated to Texas through the latest COVID-19 federal stimulus bill to assist tenants in paying rent and utilities. It will be administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

To qualify, households must be at or below 80% of the area median income. Preference will be given to households with income below 50% of the area median income, and households where one or more members have been unemployed for at least 90 days.

Applications can be submitted online at TexasRentRelief.com, or by calling 1-833-9TX-RE NT (1-833-989-7368) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.