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9 thing to know from Houston mayor’s coronavirus outbreak update Thursday

City turns to private sector to bid on supplies

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner provided an update Thursday on coronavirus testing in Houston.

Turner held a press conference alongside city council members, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña, Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse and other local leaders.

Here are the top takeaways regarding the response to the coronavirus outbreak, including the announcement of the first death in Houston.

The first death in Houston

Persse confirmed the city of Houston had its first coronavirus-related death. The victim was a woman in her 60s. An autopsy revealed the woman had contracted the virus. Officials said the case was travel related.

This brings the Houston-area death toll to 3.

Houston to sustain 1 testing site

Turner said the Butler Stadium testing facility in Houston has tested 1,100 people.

FEMA delivered supplies Thursday. However, the city will need additional supplies for more testing sites, Turner said.

Dr. Persse said the FEMA delivery was missing some critical items, including icepacks, masks, gowns and coolers. But, the supplies will be enough to sustain the Butler Stadium testing site through Saturday.

Who can be tested?

The testing site in Houston is accepting first responders, healthcare professionals, individuals 65 years and older, and those with chronic illnesses and underlying conditions of all ages.

All of those looking to be testing must be preauthorized and must be showing symptoms. Those who are preauthorized will be tested.

FEMA supplies are coming

Turner said FEMA shipped another load of supplies, including 5,000 test kits, Thursday. The shipment is expected to arrive Friday.

Dr. Persse said they hope there are enough supplies to open up the second testing site in the city. He said it depends on each shipment, and the city doesn’t know what is in each delivery.

The shipment received Thursday was missing some of what they needed, including icepacks, coolers, and other gear, OEM officials said.

N95 mask shortage

Houston is facing a shortage of N95 masks and turning to the private market, Turner said.

The city has placed multiple bids with private companies for healthcare supplies.

After one deal fell to a higher bidder, Turner said the city placed a $2 million bid for N95 masks. Each mask is priced at $5, while it usually costs 50 cents.

Turner said buying in the private market is tight and be costly.

Turner said the city is using $5 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund to help pay for supplies and close the deal with hotels to house first responders, who need to be quarantined.

Changes for Houston firefighters

Houston firefighters will now treat every run as if the person is infected with the virus, Chief Peña said.

The team uses more than 1,000 masks, gloves, and gowns collectively every day. He said measures are in place to protect the first responders.

Free meals at Houston parks

The city of Houston will continue to help feed children during the Stay At Home order.

About 50 Houston Park Community Centers will be offering a curbside meal program for youth, aged 1 to 18, with a snack and a meal.

Meals are available Monday to Friday from 1 to 3 p.m. Up to 50 meals are available daily. The city can increase that amount to 350 meals.

Power and water

Turner said the city suspended the disconnection of electricity and water services during this outbreak.

Hand Sanitizer Donation

Businessman Farouk Shami donated more than 15,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to the city and more is to come--a total value of $1 million. Turner thanked him for helping stop the spread. He said the donation, in part, will go to the homeless population. CHI is still sending more bottles to make the $1 million value for Houston and Tomball. The company switched its manufacturing to help the community and the need.

“We are producing the hand sanitizers as fast as we can and this was just the first shipment of many to Houston. We will donate 74,000 bottles total to Houston and 15,000 bottles have already been shipped to Tomball,” a CHI spokesperson said.