COVID-19: Harris County Judge Hidalgo Supports "Masks For All" and Thanks Church Effort

Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County joins us to discuss the importance of wearing a mask in public and types of face coverings that can be worn, shares information on free drive-thru testing, and also gives thanks to congregations around Greater Houston for participating in Masks for All.

"Why it's important for the faith community to step up. You guys are always there. . .we can always count on our faith leaders to lead, to save lives and save souls. You guys are the first people that, folks turn to in the most difficult times. And this is about as hard as it gets for some people. So what you guys are doing besides being there for folks in the spiritual sense to help them with physical needs, something like masks is a huge deal."

Mentioned Resources:

Ready Harris County

Free Drive-Thru Testing Sites

Masks for All

DIY Mask

Houston Responds COVID-19 Resources


Tommy Rosson:

Hello, this is Tommy Rosson with Houston Responds and today I'm very blessed to be joined by Judge Lina Hidalgo with Harris County. Judge, thank you so much for joining us.

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Tommy Rosson:

There's been a lot of conversations about masks and that they're really important, talk to us a little bit why they're so important and critical for reopening the economy.

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

Yeah. You know, all along we've been following the science on this. The experts, there are certain things we already know about the virus. There are many things we don't know. We don't have a cure, we don't have a vaccine yet. Folks are working on it, but we know that the virus spreads from person to person through close contact. We know that it's people sneezing, coughing, or just talking and a way to protect not so much yourself, but everybody around you, is to wear a mask. And so it's crucial if we want to even have a shot at being able to resume some portions of our normal life while this virus continues and while we don't have a vaccine, nor treatment. So on the one hand for health, you know, perhaps you are healthy and not concerned about having the virus. But it's about your grandma.

It's about the person at the grocery store who may live with somebody whose immune system is compromised. And so masks are really about our ability to live in the community. If we want to reopen the economy slowly in a way that can be sustained. Wearing masks is a big part of that because it'll be that physical barrier that will hopefully help keep the virus from spreading. When we get our contact tracers out there and we've been working day and night to get an army of contact tracers ready, trained to be deployed so that anybody with a positive test can go talk to these contact tracers, figure out which contacts they have and then we can contain there. It'll be different if they tell us, Hey, I sat near a person and I was wearing a mask. Well, we know that the chances of contagion are much lower and so I've got mine right here and you know, we need everybody to wear one.

Tommy Rosson:

Thank you so much for talking about that. You know, one of the aspects about wearing one and I know for churches, you know, the concern is also, especially as we begin to slowly figure out what it looks like to gather and how to do that safely. We have lots of vulnerable people in our midst and this disease, this virus will be apart for a while. And so, I assume that one of the critical elements, especially not as we go one week or two weeks or three into this, but months that we're going to continue to need those masks, especially for our vulnerable population.

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

Yeah. We're all going to be needing it. Of course, vulnerable populations are at particular risk, but that doesn't mean the rest of us are okay because of what I mentioned. You know, you can have it and not know it or you can have it and feel fine, but you can spread it to somebody else who then either is vulnerable or is in contact with somebody who is. And if we begin seeing the virus spread in, like wildfire too quickly in a way that we can't contain, that's when we're going to have to shut things back down. So this is a way to have the best chance at continuing with that slow reopening. Now wearing a mask is not a replacement to the six-foot distancing. You know, we want to still very much limit those close contacts because, and then there's a reason why we stopped those in the first place and why we were successful this first time around at containing the virus.

It was because those close contacts are the way it spreads. So, and I should correct myself, I've been saying masks, but it's face coverings. I know that some folks want to wear a proper mask. It's comfort. It's, you know, fashionable. Perhaps they just, you know, they like the way it looks. But I do want to point out, you know, if you guys have folks nervous about, you know, Hey, I don't have a mask or while I get my mask, what do I do? Folks can wear a bandana. They can wear a scarf. I've, you know, tied a t-shirt on my neck real quick just cause I forgot my mask. So it's, the idea is just to cover nose and mouth. It's not the end all be all. We still need folks to stay at a distance because you can still spread it but it makes a huge difference. And the fact that you guys are helping folks get those masks is just an incredible service.

Tommy Rosson:

Well, and talk to us a little bit about that. Another reason you want to do this interview was was to thank the churches but also talk about Masks for All. When we talk about a thousand churches across greater Houston doing this for the vulnerable population as well as for anyone at the under-resourced population that might not be able to afford a mask, you have temporary daily use masks are not going to get us very far. So we need some longterm solutions. Talk to us about why that's important for the church sector to come along and support this effort.

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

It is not something that I can do alone or you can do alone or that government can do alone. This virus is going to continue. It's going to grow or it's going to get smaller depending on the actions that each of us takes. In a way, we're used to hurricanes, right? And we know it's a category three or four or five in this case, and this is a conversation I have with the doctors. In this case, we decide what category of a storm it is based on our ability to contain the spread. And so to the extent that everybody in this community, whether they can afford a mask or not, that everybody in this community can wear a face-covering in one they feel comfortable and happy wearing that is going to help keep us all safe. And so, you know, whether we're looking at it from an equity lens or the selfish place of, look, if we have a vulnerable piece, all of us are vulnerable because we're all gonna need those hospital beds.

We need to make sure that everybody's up to speed. And so, you know, I do want to make sure that folks recognize, you know, we don't want to put a burden on anybody. We want to make sure that folks, you know, just cover your nose and mouth. But look, in terms, of why it's important for the faith community to step up. You guys are always there and whether it's a flood, you know, just recently during Imelda, a fire, now this pandemic, we can always count on our faith leaders to lead, to save lives and save souls. You guys are the first people that, folks turn to in the most difficult times. And this is about as hard as it gets for some people. So what you guys are doing besides being there for folks in the spiritual sense to help them with physical needs, something like masks is a huge deal.

And it's also just in your nature. We know that when this is done and over with and we're trying to pick up the pieces and get through this and repair the economic and other damage that folks will have undergone that the faith community and our faith leaders like you guys, that you all will still be there with us getting this work done. And so I'm not surprised that you're stepping up to this challenge in this way and I'm of course deeply grateful, but also just, you know, I know that is who you are.

Tommy Rosson:

Yeah. Thank you for saying that. You know, I've always been amazed by what a small church can do and what a large church can do and they set their minds to it. I mean, we've seen that during Hurricane Harvey and is as we kind of prepare to make sure churches are willing and able to respond to the two future hurricanes, that's kind of a big push we're doing to get churches ready for that. You know, this Masks for All is very much that idea of, you know, Harvey sitting in our doorstep and rather than mucking and gutting homes, we need lots of masks. So I thank you so much, for joining us. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

Just a big thank you. You know, masks are one-piece, getting tested as another very important piece. And so you know, to the extent that you guys can help us spread the word that if we want to do the contact tracing and we want to contain, we need to know who has the virus. And so we need folks to get tested. All the resources are on Ready Harris, our phone number is 832-927-7575 for free tests, we don't ask for insurance or anybody's immigration status. It's just, you know, you get your test and, you get your result and then, you know, be ready if a contact tracer calls you up. Because you came into contact with somebody who had the virus, you know, we need folks to just recognize that that's coming. And continue to be in this with us.

We've made it this far because we're together with leaders like you all and you know, who's been in the front lines from early on, even before I had our bars and restaurants or our stay home order already, the archdiocese, for example, had stopped in-person services. I mean, you all get it. You get how important it is to be safe and that love thy neighbor in many ways means physical distancing. And I know you all are figuring out how to do that. And that sense of responsibility and love for everybody is clear. So thank you.

Tommy Rosson:

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you so much for joining us.

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

All right, thanks

Tommy Rosson:

Fellow pastors. If you want more information like this, please go to also, the information listed in this interview will be listed on the notes, including the Ready Harris and the other information that she talked about today. Judge. Again, thank you for joining us.

Judge Lina Hidalgo:

Thank you so much. Have a good one. Thank you. Stay safe.

Additional COVID-19 resources for congregations available here.

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