Social distancing needs to continue as Houston has not yet reached peak, Mayor says

HOUSTON – Houston health officials are working to slow the progression of coronavirus in the city and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news conference Tuesday that social distancing is helping.

As of Tuesday, there were 175 new cases in Houston, bringing the city’s total to 1,327 and one new death, bringing the city’s coronavirus death toll to 11. Turner said the latest death was a young man in his 30s with underlying health issues. He also gave condolences to the chief of staff for Councilmember Tiffany Thomas, whose father died from COVID-19 in Louisiana.

Here are the highlights of what he said:

Social distancing needs to continue

Local hospitals still have availability to provide care to patients because of the stay at home order. Turner said knows the month of April is very important for a lot of religious groups but noted that social distancing is still needed.

Turner cited Rice University’s The Kinder Institute For Urban Research’s recent study on the effectiveness of the stay home, work safe order. The study estimated that more than 4,000 lives were saved between March and April due to the order. The study also estimated that by April 22, the city can save 13,220 lives.

“It’s going to require all of us to continue to engage in social distancing, even more so this month. Wearing face coverings, staying home and being mindful when away from home and at grocery stores,” Turner said.

Although the city is seeing great estimates, Turner said April is a critical month and the city cannot be complacent. He said the good news is, federal assistance will continue through April 30, which means all personal protective equipment will continue to be provided to healthcare facilities and local officials and they will be paid for 100% by the federal government.

"Federal health care workers will continue. Testing sites will continue. What’s more important is that the PPE’s will continue to come, "Turner said.

Turner also called for those who want to donate PPE’s such as face masks to attend Thursday’s donation drive at Minute Maid Park from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is what Houston is all about. We have some fantastic partners. People are stepping up each and every day,” Turner said.

Moment of prayer Thursday

Turner also called for a moment of silence and prayer Thursday at noon for those suffering through this pandemic.

Update on Houston firefighters

Houston Fire Chief Pena gave an update on several firefighters and their conditions while battling the virus. So far, 165 personnel are in quarantine, 20 tested positive and one firefighter is in the hospital on oxygen.

He said nine firefighters have recovered and 128 who were quarantined are now back at work.

Pena said the department received 134 responses to complaints to facilities that were not complying with the stay-home order. He asked that people who are not following order while outside, should be reported by calling 311.

Update on Houston police officers

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said 130 officers were originally quarantined but now 99 officers remain quarantined.

So far, 24 officers have tested positive for the virus, 52 tested negative and 51 tests are still pending. Acevedo said five officers returned to duty as of Tuesday.

Crime rate in Houston

Acevedo announced some alarming information when it comes to crime and family violence. He said family aggravated assault is up 79% when you compare the post-coronavirus time frame to the same time period in 2019.

“That is very disturbing so we need to again keep the faith in each other and understand physical violence is not the answer,” Acevedo said.

Will public parks close?

Turner said he will keep parks open, but if they get crowded and it’s reported that people are not engaging in social distancing, owners are allowed to close.

When asked about when the stay at home order will end, he noted that Houston is weeks behind New York City and that the city has not reached its peak yet.

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