Harris County officials urge public not to panic amid growing concerns over COVID-19

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, along with city health officials, gave an update on coronavirus preparedness in Harris County.

Hidalgo was joined by Umair A. Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, and Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department as she addressed the efforts being made to prepare for and respond to the growing threat of coronavirus.

During Thursday’s news conference, Hidalgo confirmed that while health officials are monitoring multiple people, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Harris County.

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Officials have been running exercises with different people who would play a key role in order to practice how to respond to different scenarios.

Hidalgo said that Harris County is in containment, meaning health and county officials know the origin of all the cases they are testing and have asked those people to self-quarantined until results come back.

She also urged people to be vigilant, wash their hands as much as possible and stay home if you are sick.

Shah agreed with Hidalgo, saying there is no need for people to panic because the cases are being investigated are they are doing everything they can to keep them contained.

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“Right now, as we speak, the risk to our public is low,” Shah said. “Unless you are doing something different than (taking care of hygiene) there is no change in that message.”

Persse said that containing coronavirus is ultimately in the people’s hands. Past epidemics like SARS, MERS and Ebola were not contained by medicine or a vaccine, they were contained because people started listening to health officials and taking precautions with their own health, according to Persse.

He said not to cough into your hands and to not rely on hand sanitizer, which should only be used in place of handwashing when there is no immediate access to a place to wash your hands.

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Hidalgo, Persse and Shah all agreed that there is no need to panic and, if you think you might be at high risk, to not be afraid to contact a health official.

If you do not have insurance, you can contact 211 and someone will be able to help you find a place to get care. For undocumented people, Harris Health hospitals will not ask for papers.

The test for coronavirus is currently free and officials are working to keep it that way, Hidalgo said.

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