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Lawmakers Question Decision Not To Monitor Harvey Pollution With NASA Plane, Harris County Residents Will Be To Vote Anywhere On Election Day And Texas Currently Has 10 Cases Of Measles

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz/Houston Public Media
Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher.

Lawmakers Question Decision Not To Monitor Harvey Pollution With NASA Plane

Lawmakers on the U.S. House science committee have questions for federal and Texas officials about a decision not to fly a NASA plane that would have provided more comprehensive data on air pollution after Hurricane Harvey.

Committee members Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) have requested documents relating to the decision from the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and NASA.

The request comes after an L.A. Times article revealed NASA officials offered up a high-tech air-sampling jet to help with pollution monitoring after Hurricane Harvey. The EPA and TCEQ reportedly pushed back on the offer, saying data from the state-of-the-art airplane would not be helpful. Their response informed NASA officials' decision not to fly.

Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, whose home district in Houston was hit particularly hard by Harvey, told Houston Matters the decision concerned her because the NASA plane had more capabilities than EPA or TCEQ equipment. “I think that's a disservice to the public and I think it puts us potentially at greater risk,” Fletcher said.

The committee members have asked the agencies to deliver documents by March 20.

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz/Houston Public Media
This August 25, 2018, photo shows a voting sign in Harris County regarding the election on the county’s bond for flood prevention and mitigation projects.

Harris County Residents Will Be To Vote Anywhere On Election Day

Harris County residents will no longer be limited to vote at their assigned precincts. Instead, they will be allowed to vote anywhere in the county on Election Day.

County Clerk Diane Trautman announced on Thursday that Texas Secretary of State David Whitley has authorized Harris County to implement the Countywide Polling Place Program, which allows eligible counties to establish non-precinct based Election Day Voting Centers.

With over 2 million registered voters, Harris County becomes the largest county in the country to implement the program.

Voters will have their first opportunity to use the new program beginning with the May 4, 2019 Joint Election. All elections, including general, special, joint, primaries, and runoffs will be eligible to use the countywide polling centers.

This illustration provides a 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle that is studded with glycoprotein tubercles.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
A 3D graphical representation of a spherical-shaped, measles virus particle.

Texas Currently Has 10 Cases Of Measles

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is reporting ten cases of measles as of Wednesday, surpassing the total number in all of 2018 when the state registered nine cases. In 2017, Texas only had one case of measles.

The 10th case is an adult traveler visiting Guadalupe County from the Philippines, where there is an ongoing measles outbreak.

Harris County has the most cases in the state, with four reported by health officials. The other counties with confirmed cases are: Bell, Denton, Galveston, Guadalupe, Jefferson and Montgomery.

DSHS has issued a health alert reminding health care providers to consider measles in diagnoses and immediately report suspected cases to public health authorities.

The alert also provides advice to medical providers about limiting the spread of measles in a health care setting and options for preventing illness for susceptible people who have been exposed.

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