Our faith based partnerships as we enter a holy season

Today marks our 40th consecutive day of the activation in our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Harris County’s response to COVID-19. This is now our longest running activation, longer than Harvey. Our previous record was 37 days last March and April in response to the ITC explosion and fire.

We are still facing a very real threat in the spread of the novel coronavirus, so we are actively working. Public safety is essential. In our EOC are the most essential of the essential elements needed to keep you safe and healthy, and supporting our front line healthcare workers and first responders in the field. Even we have to social distance — that is why only about 40 seats are filled in a room that typically seats 98.

Nevertheless, there are literally thousands of Harris County employees working elsewhere — including remotely. Even today, on Good Friday — and through this coming weekend and Easter.

I want to recognize that as we enter one of the holiest seasons of the year for many faith traditions, that there is nothing traditional about how COVID-19 is changing our lives.

Nevertheless, I am optimistic and I am inspired.

I have the honor of being on a weekly call with faith leaders from across this region. It is a diverse group of amazing people; I am uplifted by their resilience, leadership and creativity.

The most respected faith leaders from across this community are working tirelessly alongside government, business, healthcare and non-profits in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Even before there were any restrictions on mass gatherings, including orders about services, some of the largest and well-respected faith institutions in this community canceled in-person services.

They continue to lead by example.

We have heard from many of them that their communities have grown exponentially by going online and they are being creative in how they can celebrate this weekend and in the coming weeks without gathering in person. I urge you to seek out those opportunities — there are plenty.

In the spirit of the coming days, we must recognize that this is a time for sacrifice for all of us.

Whether you are of faith or of none, there are things you can do in the spirit of community.

· Reach out to a neighbor

· Check on a senior

· Give, if you can

· Serve where possible

· Look to do these with people or at places you might not suspect (everyone is affected)

An initial look into the challenges facing our community are helping us see where we can focus our recovery efforts. The Coronavirus Community Impact Survey for the Greater Houston, Galveston and surrounding counties found that:

· Roughly 40% of respondents have a need for food, utilities or financial assistance

Current survey results are available at https://www.gulfcoastcovidsurvey.org/surveydata.

While we may not physically go to services, we can be of service.

Here are some things you can do.

Complete the Community Impact Survey.

By completing the survey, you will help us work with our non-profit, business and government partners at all levels to meet the needs in our community.

You can get the survey on your phone by texting IMPACT to 888 777.

Or, fill out the survey at https://www.gulfcoastcovidsurvey.org/.

Help spread the word about resources for mental health.

There is anxiety and concern in our community. The survey reveals:

· 48% of those responding cannot relax

· 29% feel hopeless

If you are experiencing any of these, we have resources for you. Even if you do not need these resources, please share them on social media.

· Dial 211 for access a free helpline operate by the United Way of Greater Houston, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in multiple languages

· Crisis Text Line: Text 741741, free 24/7

· Call the Toll Free COVID-12 support line operated by the Harris Center at 833–986–1919, available 24/7

You can get the latest information at www.ReadyHarris.org

You can learn more about these resources at https://www.readyharris.org/Incidents/COVID-19-Resources-Recovery

Francisco Sanchez | @DisasterPIO

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