HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo held a news conference Friday to announce new COVID-19 community guidelines as Texas begins to reopen.
The stay-home order for the county expired Thursday night and several businesses across the county are opening back up after being closed from months.
Hidalgo said that some people see Friday as a day of celebration, but her message to them is: “Not so fast.”
“Reopening doesn’t mean mission accomplished. It doesn’t mean that the virus goes away,” Hidalgo said. “If the virus spreads like wildfire and the hospitals run out of space ... things are going to have to shut back down again."
Hidalgo said that if we do the reopening step-by-step, there is a chance Harris County can succeed. The judge reiterated the three key components that she said will help Harris County in the reopening process: testing, tracing and treatment.
Dr. Mark Klotman, president and CEO of the Baylor College of Medicine, said medical professionals are beginning to get some sense that there are effective treatments.
“I know Methodist, Baylor and several other institutions participated in the clinical trial for remdesivir, which is the first anti-viral that’s coming online that looks to be effective against treating COVID-19,” Klotman said. “It’s a very well-established scientific principle. It interferes with how the virus replicates and we got a very positive signal from that, so there is a real reason to be optimistic.”
According to Hidalgo, there is a fourth, essential "T" that will help the community: teamwork.
Hidalgo said people have paid a heavy price during the coronavirus pandemic, but now is not the time to try and quickly resume normal life, no matter how eager people are to do so. She said the community will have to work together to protect our healthcare system and ensure there is not another resurgence that could cause everything to shut down again.
Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, president and CEO of the Harris Health System congratulated Harris County for flattening the curve and noted that the success thus far is due to the sacrifices people have made. He said that because of that success the county can realistically talk about reopening.
However, Porsa said, we are still experiencing too many cases to become non-committal in following health guidelines. He gave three ways people can practice teamwork:
- If you can stay home, please do so as much as possible.
- Practice immaculate hygiene. When in public, please cover your face and continue to wash your hand and observe social distancing.
- Support contact tracing. This will be an integral step to our success, Porsa said. People are all in this together. Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health said in order to do this, people should keep notice of everyone they have been around.
“If three days from now you test positive and we contact you to say, ‘Hey, who have you been around,’ and you don’t remember, that makes our job extremely difficult,” Shah said. “We are asking you to be thinking about that. That really helps all of us in a situation where, unfortunately, you test positive.”
Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, said the numbers have decreased, but they have not come down dramatically. However, it is the actions people take that will determine where Harris County goes.
“The virus decides where we go next, but we also can impact how the virus decides where we go next by the actions we take,” Boom said.
Boom urged the public to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing and good hand hygiene.
Hidalgo said others predicted Harris County would be the next domino to fall and be hard hit like some of the other areas, but others don’t know the people of Harris County.
We are not lucky or special, Hidalgo said. She said residents of Harris County have grit and determination and they put in the work to help contain the spread. It is that spirit and teamwork that will help Harris County succeed, she said.
Watch the full news conference below:
🔴WATCH LIVE: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to announce COVID-19 community guidelines as Texas reopensPosted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Friday, May 1, 2020