HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that a curfew is among the “limited options” that he has available to slow the spread of coronavirus in the city as officials brace for an increase in cases after Thanksgiving travel.
Turner reported an additional 685 COVID-19 cases in the city and a positivity rate of 8.4%, which is slightly lower than last week. Hospitalizations are up to 12% in Houston, according to Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the city.
The mayor said November was the second busiest month for testing at city-affiliated testing sites since the pandemic began. He encouraged anyone who traveled or anyone who has come in contact with someone who has traveled to get tested.
Turner said that he expects to see an increase in cases after people traveled for Thanksgiving.
“I am watching the numbers carefully,” Turner said. “A lot of what we decide to do going forward will depend on people’s behavior, the extent of the community spread and the status of our health care delivery system.”
Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said his department has responded to more than 20,000 complaints of overcrowding as businesses since the pandemic began, equating to between 90 and 100 calls per day.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said his vice officers will also begin responding to occupancy complaints at businesses.
Turner, who encouraged people to avoid crowded places, said he plans on visiting bars and restaurants in the coming weeks to see for himself how businesses are implementing the governor’s requirements for social distance and occupancy.
“If by chance you see me coming in, I’m not coming in there for a drink,” Turner said. “I’m coming in there to take a look for myself, because we have limited options, which means as I go about the city and come into your establishments, and see that it’s nothing but a community spreader event, then the last resort that we have as local officials, at least within my arsenal, is to impose a curfew that will just shut it down at a certain time. (I) don’t want to do it, but we are concerned about these rising numbers, what’s happening within our hospitals and doing everything we can to keep people across the board safe.”
Turner said officials are trying to strike a “very delicate balance” in order to protect the public and keep businesses open. He asked business owners to work with city officials in order to ensure that social-distancing and occupancy requirements are observed.
You can watch a replay of Turner’s news conference below.