HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and recovery czar Marvin Odum held a news conference Thursday to announce Houston’s expanded program to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Turner said that the city of Houston is reporting 88 new cases and three new deaths. The numbers serve as a reminder that the virus is still present and the community must continue to follow health guidelines.
According to Turner, one part of helping Houston overcome the coronavirus pandemic is testing. Odum was appointed to help with the efforts to grow testing within the city and to help vulnerable communities have more access to testing sites, Turner said.
Odum said COVID-19 is a real and present danger in the community. Thursday’s announcement marked a step-change expansion in the use of Houston’s most powerful tools: testing and contact testing.
Odum said the Houston Health Department has developed a community-based approach that will dramatically increase testing around the city. The plan will add over 24 new testing sites by the end of May to areas around Houston starting with vulnerable communities and later expanding to other communities, Odum said.
Some of the new test sites will include the Melrose Community Center, Lakewood Community Center and Hobart Taylor Community Center.
“We recognize that there are a diverse set of needs and mobility considerations in our communities, so we will be utilizing a combination of fixed sites, mobile testing units and strategic outreach teams to ensure that we have adequate access to our population,” Odum said.
According to Odum, the tests are free and will be available to anyone.
The second component critical in helping contain the spread of coronavirus is contact tracing, which is the process of identifying a positive case and all the people that person may have been in contact with so they can take proper precautions, Odum said.
Houston has already been expanding the capacity of contact tracing in the city and is now working to add more contact tracers.
“Currently our health department has about 125 people supporting this role," Odum said. “About 70 of those have been temporarily deployed from other jobs in the department, but even that is not enough as Houston reopens and the risk of transmission increases.”
According to Odum, the new step-up plan includes an additional 300 contact tracers that will help manage the anticipated volume of COVID-19 cases.
“To find these people, we are going to tap into the talent of our local educational institutions and likely will be conducting job fairs as well,” Odum said.
These tools, combined with individual behaviors will allow Houston to safely open, Odum said.
According to Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department, people need to continue to do what they know has worked so far in order to ensure the reopening process goes smoothly.
“There is testing, contact tracing and then individual behavior,” Persse said. “...Two out of three won’t work. We need to have all three for it work and at the end of the day, it’s the individual’s responsibility. Because, no matter how big we make the army, we’re not going to be able to sit in front of your house and make sure that you follow the rules.”
Turner was also virtually joined by Tina Lawson Knowles who talked about how she has teamed up with Beyonce for the BeyGOOD Foundation, which supports mobile testing in Houston and encourages people to get tested
Knowles said she and Beyonce have so much love for Houston. They are just happy to be able to do a small part and want to encourage everyone to go get tested because that is what is going to help in the fight to contain the spread.
Click here to read more about the BeyGOOD Foundation.
Watch the full news conference below:
🔴WATCH LIVE: Mayor Sylvester Turner announces expanded program to help contain COVID-19 in HoustonPosted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Thursday, May 7, 2020