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Mayor Sylvester Turner gives update on coronavirus response efforts in Houston

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner gave an update on the city’s response to coronavirus Wednesday afternoon. The city confirmed 117 new positive cases and three new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing to the total above 5,000 cases and more than 100 deaths. Houston also has more than 1,141 recoveries.

Renters assistance program

  • Turner said he knew the Houston Renters Assistance program would need more funds, adding he requested more funding from the federal government. Hopefully, there will be a stimulus package for renters. The city used $15 million, but could have easily allocated $100 to $200 million, he said.
  • At one point, there were well over 17,000 people trying to apply for the program online, Turner said. The $15 million was exhausted in 90 minutes. The city said close to 12,000 people signed up.
  • We cut it off because there was simply no more money available in the program, Turner said.
  • More than 6,000 landlords applied, according to the city. While there were over 30,000 people on the site prior to the portal opened.

Houston Health job fair

  • Houston Health Department is hosting two virtual job fairs for 300 contact tracers. The fair is Thursday via Microsoft Teams.
  • Stephen Williams said the new temporary positions are critical to the contact tracing effort.
  • Contact tracing is not new, but it has never been at this scale, Williams said.

Testing

  • Turner said he wants to encourage people to continue to get tested. Anybody can be tested: symptomatic or asymptomatic. All sites supported by the city are free.
  • Coronavirus in Houston is flattening. However, the number of positive cases is still going up and there are still people dying, Turner said.
  • The actions that worked to flatten the curve are critical as the city reopens, Turner said.

Weather

  • The Office of Emergency Management is monitoring the weather for the weekend. Severe weather is forecasted late Saturday into early Sunday.
  • Heavy rain can lead to street flooding, Buenik said. The city will ensure rescue vehicles and medical personnel are ready.
  • If you experience high water, turn around, don’t drown, Buenik warned.
  • Be weather aware. If you want to be tested, try to get in between now and Saturday afternoon because if the weather gets too bad, we may have to cease testing, Turner said.

‘Flattened curve,’ what’s next?

City leaders said the rate at which Houstonians are being infected with COVID-19 has flattened.

While that does not mean the number of new cases has declined, the data shows that the stay-at-home efforts work.

“The numbers of positive cases are still going up,” Turner said. “So, until we can see the number of those testing positively — that number is going down — and staying down, not going up and down but down, then the work is still not done."

Turner said the numbers released Wednesday show the challenges the city continues to face.

“Quite frankly, until there’s a vaccine we’ll still have to do certain things,” Turner said.


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