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Turner says testing open to anyone, discusses helping most vulnerable Houstonians

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday afternoon, during which he discussed multiple topics includeing, testing sites, positive cases, a new initiative to help homeless shelters and new city partnerships to help Houston kids learn at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

During the news conference, Turner announced that there were 115 new cases in the city, bringing the total up to 2,239. Turner also said there were two additional coronavirus-related deaths in Houston, bringing the total to 18. Both people who died were elderly and had underlying health conditions.

Here are the highlights of the press conference:

Partnership with Russell Westbrook, Comp-U-Dopt

The city has partnered with Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation and Comp-U-Dopt to help students in need of computers in order to do their schoolwork.

According to Turner, the Rockets player donated 650 computers to Comp-U-Dopt — a non-profit organization that helps provide access to technology to kids in need.

Comp-U-Dopt executive director, Colin Dempsey said the organization has gotten over 25,000 applications for a computer from families who do not have one at home.

Dempsey said they have already given out 1,000 and plan to give out 400 more per week. Anyone interested in applying, donating or wanting to learn more about the organization can go to Compudopt.org.

New testing parameters

Turner announced that Houston has doubled its capacity of the two public testing sites in the city from 250 tests daily to 500 tests.

He also said the testing sites will now be allowing anyone who wants to be tested, to get a test, even if they do not have symptoms.

Dr. David Persse, with the Houston Health Department, said people will still need to register, but they will not have to be symptomatic to get a test.

People can call 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to receive a unique identification code and instructions on where to go for testing and how to obtain their test results.

People with disabilities

Turner emphasized that the city is working to help vulnerable community members to the best of their ability.

“We recognize that not everyone can access our community-based testing sites because of a disability or lack of transportation. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities is working closely with the Houston health department to ensure that Houstonians with disabilities have access to COVID-19 testing,” Turner said. “We want Houstonians with disabilities who need testing to have access to this vital service.”

Gabe Cazares, director of MOPD, said anyone with a disability who cannot access a testing site due to their disability should contact MOPD at 832-394-0814 or email them at mopdmail@houstontx.gov.

Cazares said there is a system in place so people with disabilities who need access to testing, can get access.

Houston’s homeless population

Turner also said the city is also working to help Houston’s homeless population stay healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Turner, Houston is working with multiple agencies to create a coronavirus response plan tailored to sheltered individuals, individuals living on the streets or the formerly-homeless permanent housing.

“The most vulnerable of the homeless are those living in our high-density shelters, housing up to 350 vulnerable individuals with lots of shared communal rooms and items,” Turner said.

The city worked to help those people by distributing personal protective equipment, asking shelters to screen individuals and create to create quarantine rooms for symptomatic residents.

While some were able to do so, other shelters were not. As a result, on Friday the city opened its first ancillary shelter to allow some of Houston’s larger shelters to decompress and fully implement social distancing.

Marc Eichenbaum, the mayor’s special assistant for homelessness, said the new facility has the capacity to house 150 people. This will allow Houston’s largest shelters to create the space needed for social distancing.

According to Eichenbaum, Turner has helped direct 6,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to be distributed to people living on the streets in addition to the 20 handwashing stations that have been put up throughout the region.

The city is also working to find people who may be positive, get them tested and get them somewhere where they can safely recover, Eichenbaum said.

Peak doesn’t mean over

Persse said that many people are associating the peak to mean that the pandemic is over and things can return to normal, but that is not the case.

The peak, Persse said, should be likened to a runaway truck. It will continue to accelerate until someone can get into the cab, hit the brakes and stop the acceleration process.

“My fear is that people are seeing peak (and saying) ‘Oh, well when we hit the peak it’s all over.’ Absolutely not,” Persse said. “When you hit the peak, all that’s happened is that you stop the acceleration of the virus. It’s still out there, and it is far from game over when we hit the peak.

WATCH LIVE: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner gives update on coronavirus in Houston. He is also announcing a new partnership with Houston Rockets' Russell Westbrook's foundation. MORE: https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2020/04/13/turner-to-announce-city-partnership-with-russell-westbrook-why-not-foundation-comp-u-dopt-to-help-students/

Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Monday, April 13, 2020

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