HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Saturday proposed a shutdown, arguing it was necessary as COVID-19 cases have climbed steadily in recent weeks.
“We have to acknowledge the fact that we opened too quickly, too soon,” said Turner. “We have to acknowledge the fact that the numbers are continuing to rise. We have to recognize the fact that not everybody is going to put on this mask. Let’s just be real, even with the requirement. Knowing all of that and knowing what works, you’ve got to recalibrate.”
Turner’s comments came as coronavirus cases in the city and state have reached record levels, daily deaths have risen and hospitals have seen an increase in the number of patients with COVID-19.
Texas set a record on Saturday, reporting 10,351 new cases, the Associated Press reported. A record 10,083 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, while 99 new fatalities were also reported Saturday. The total is second only to the record 105 reported Thursday and brought the state’s overall death toll to 3,112.
On Saturday, the City of Houston reported 1,524 new cases and nine deaths. It is the second time in less than a week that the city has reported over 1,000 new cases in a single day.
“Quite frankly, I appreciate the governor putting in the requirement to wear a mask, giving local authorities the ability to restrict outside gatherings,” said Turner. “Even though I don’t have the ability to take us back to phase 1, I strongly recommend that for the next two weeks, that if I were the governor, I would just bring things down, shut things down for the next couple of weeks to take the energy away from this virus.”
Earlier this month, Abbott ordered Texas residents to cover their faces in public. Though for months, Abbott was against issuing a statewide mask order, daily coronavirus cases totals have swelled in the past few weeks and he has slowly rolled back reopening measures and even shuttered the state’s bars to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
But several law enforcement agencies in Texas, including the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, have refused to enforce Abbott’s order to wear masks in public.
“We’re needing to slow down the number of people that are having to go the hospital,” said Turner, “And the way we do it is what we did in March, April and May and that is you have to pull back, and separate to take the fuel away from this virus such that you can regain some modicum of control.”
Turner also stated concerns over restarting in-person public schooling next month, arguing it “makes no sense to be having this conversation while this virus is out of control.”
Mayor @SylvesterTurner believes it’s too early to talk about sending students, teachers and staff back to school while #COVID19 is spreading out of control and tests numbers and hospitalizations are rising.— Mary Benton (@IAmMaryBenton) July 12, 2020
"It makes no sense to be having this conversation.” pic.twitter.com/C89bbJkw28
“If you want to send your kids back, and I want the kids to go back for example in August, then in order to give people that added comfort you’ve got to get control of this virus in July,” said Turner. “You don’t send kids back to school when there’s a raging fire and the fire’s still burning in August. Put the doggone fire out in July. Shut down for a couple weeks. Then we can see where things are and we can gradually move forward and then we can put our kids and parents and teachers and cafeteria workers and everybody else in the best position when it comes time to talking about school.”