Monday, February 13, 2017

We Were Selected

07824:  Assistant City Manager Robert Eads, Health Department Director Dr. Hector Gonzalez, Deputy City Manager Cynthia Collazo, Mayor Pete Saenz, Congressman Henry Cuellar, City Manager Jesus Olivares and Health Department Lab Supervisor Julia Perales pose with the oversized photogenic check representing the recent federal funds awarded to the Laredo Health Department for Zika testing and prevention.  The Laredo Health Department will be using the funds for increasing their lab capacity, vehicles and trapping and eliminating mosquitos all in an effort to prevent Zika in Laredo and Zapata counties.

Information courtesy of the City of Laredo.

This moment is the culmination of the endless work that the mayor, city manager, staff, and council put in.  Their constant travels to D.C. net useful resources.  At least that's what they tell us.  

The Health Department getting money to combat Zika is great.  But you can't tell me that all those people in the photo (and everybody that travels to D.C. every spring) had a hand in getting such grant money.  A more realistic photo, I would assume, would only include Dr. Gonzalez, Director of the Health Dept., Congressman Cuellar, and perhaps Ms. Julia Perales.  They're probably the only ones who worked to get this money.  

And you know what?  They probably didn't even have to make the trip to Washington to garner this money.  

Nevertheless, here's how Henry Cuellar tells it in his press release on Friday.

“I fought for these federal funds, along with the City of Laredo, so our community can invest in proven prevention methods,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar. “Zika virus infections have been reported here in our border communities, so vigilance is more important than ever. Now, our local officials have the resources they need to protect Laredo and Zapata families. I thank the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, for their help in securing these funds.”

“When Federal, state and local authorities work together, we get results.  This announcement today is evidence that Congressman Henry Cuellar is working hard for Laredo to get federal reinvestment dollars channeled into our city,” said Mayor Saenz.  “And when Laredo goes to make its story known in Austin and Washington, D.C., there are people that hear us and take us into account. Recently, during our advocacy trip to Austin in January, we met with Commissioner John Hellerstedt of the Department of State Health Services about releasing these federal funds administered by the State; these monies will go a long way in assisting our Health Department to test for and prevent the spread of Zika.”

“These funds will assist with local testing for Zika virus and other infectious diseases, mosquito control, disease surveillance and education,” said Dr. Hector F. Gonzalez, MD, MPH, Director of Health, City of Laredo Health Department. “It will also allow us to spend more time in prevention assuring that women access health care early to prevent infection during pregnancy and to prevent birth defects.”
Congress provided 394 million to the CDC as part of the Zika supplemental funding bill. These funds were part of a $25 million federal allocation for Zika preparedness to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), about $10 million of which is flagged for local jurisdictions including 16 health departments. Those jurisdictions, including Laredo and Zapata County, were selected for their higher risk of Zika cases: mainly border, gulf coast, and urban areas. The City of Laredo will also conduct mosquito control operations in Zapata County with these funds.  

Cameron County (Brownsville, Harlingen) is also getting Zika money.  But the Brownsville Herald reported it differently, with less fanfare.  (We get less money than they do, but we go big in our announcements.)  

I'm starting to think that the photo ops that city hall and Henry Cuellar take part in are like Trump's executive order pressers.  They pose while holding up a prop in hopes of impressing all of us.  

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