safe searching

New Houston website spotlights which local businesses practice COVID-19 protocols

A new site helps Houstonians navigate businesses and their COVID-19 safety protocols.Anvil Bar & Refuge/Facebook

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's dismissal of the mask mandate and reopening of the state on March 10 has left some locals liberated — and some worried about safely venturing out. Those in the latter column can now rely on a new local website to help navigate the new no-mask-required environs.

Space City Safe, a crowd-sourced tool, shares information about COVID protocols at local Houston businesses. Users can hop on and search a business by type, name, or address and learn of its COVID-19 safety measures — if any. Site visitors can also add info on a business, including type of industry, mask and social distancing requirements, and more.

"I was inspired by the Houston blog It's Not Hou It's Me," Chris Haseler, the site's founder, tells CultureMap. (The blog is co-founded by Natalie Harms, editor of InnovationMap.) "They posted a cool crowdsourced Google spreadsheet collecting information about local businesses. I wanted to build that concept into a sustainable tool that people could use easily over the next few months to stay safe."

Haseler reports that user response has been "overwhelmingly positive" thus far, with users thanking him especially for spotlighting restaurants where they can "safely" dine. "Most users are appreciative of what I'm trying to accomplish here and willing to share their experiences at different businesses," he adds.

"A number of business owners have also been thankful for a way to share their COVID safety policies with potential customers."

The site currently boasts more than 500 and shows no signs of slowing. Haseler, a Heights-area engineer, says he'll continue to mask up when out and about. "I'll continue to do so until our scientists and doctors at the CDC say it's safe to do otherwise — and with vaccines becoming more readily available, hopefully that is soon."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi have been recognized by Fast Company for their leadership in developing low-cost COVID vaccine. Photo courtesy of Texas Children's

This week, Fast Company announced its 14th annual list of Most Creative People in Business — and two notable Houstonians made the cut.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were named among the list for “open sourcing a COVID-19 Vaccine for the rest of the world.” The list, which recognizes individuals making a cultural impact via bold achievements in their field, is made up of influential leaders in business.

Hotez and Bottazzi are also co-directors for the Texas Children's Hospital's Center for Vaccine Development -one of the most cutting-edge vaccine development centers in the world. For the past two decades it has acquired an international reputation as a non-profit Product Development Partnership (PDP), advancing vaccines for poverty-related neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and emerging infectious diseases of pandemic importance. One of their most notable achievements is the development of a vaccine technology leading to CORBEVAX, a traditional, recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's an honor to be recognized not only for our team's scientific efforts to develop and test low cost-effective vaccines for global health, but also for innovation in sustainable financing that goes beyond the traditional pharma business model," says Hotez in a statement.

The technology was created and engineered by Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development specifically to combat the worldwide problem of vaccine access and availability. Biological E Limited (BE) developed, produced and tested CORBEVAX in India where over 60 million children have been vaccinated so far.

Earlier this year, the doctors were nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their research and vaccine development of the vaccine. Its low cost, ease of production and distribution, safety, and acceptance make it well suited for addressing global vaccine inequity.

"We appreciate the recognition of our efforts to begin the long road to 'decolonize' the vaccine development ecosystem and make it more equitable. We hope that CORBEVAX becomes one of a pipeline of new vaccines developed against many neglected and emerging infections that adversely affect global public health," says Bottazzi in the news release from Texas Children's.

Fast Company editors and writers research candidates for the list throughout the year, scouting every business sector, including technology, medicine, engineering, marketing, entertainment, design, and social good. You can see the complete list here

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