On Monday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the city would be opening up its public testing sites for COVID-19 to anyone. And on Tuesday, the city's health center call in number was innundated.
"So many people called in earlier today that it overwhelmed the system and we are adding additional operators," Turner said. "We started off today with 18 operators and we quickly increased that number to 25." He said they plan on having 50 operators available Wednesday for the anticipated demand.
Turner has said he needs to make sure he has a more accurate measurement of how many people actually have the coronavirus to better judge whether we've hit our peak yet and whether it's time to start loosening up stay-at-home restrictions in phases.
Elsewhere in his Tuesday press conference, Turner reported 40 new cases for the city and five new deaths. All the dead also had underlying medical conditions, he said. The five reported cases included a Hispanic female in her 90s who died on April 6, a white female in her 90s who died on April 5, an African American male in his 70s who died on April 9, a white male in his 80s who died on March 28 and an African American male in his 50s who died on April 6.
Dr. David Persse, health authority for the city of Houston, expressed his disappointment that they were only learning of the March 28 death now and repeated his plea made on Monday that the hospitals and labs report their findings as they happen instead of delaying any of them.
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The federal government has given permission for the city to increase its maximum number of tests to 1,000 a day, Turner said. Symptoms or not, people desiring tests still have to call the city's health department COVID-19 call-in number at 832-393-4220 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to be assigned an identification code number and instructions on where to go for testing.
Persse said they tried to give out identification numbers for Wednesday when they reached their maximum number of tests for Tuesday but then had people show up on Tuesday who should have waited another day. So going forward they will only be giving out numbers for one day at a time, he said.
Over at readyharris.org, the county was reporting a total of 29 deaths to date in the unincorporated areas of the county, an increase of one over the day before and 1,628 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 120 over the day before.
To date there have been 3,907 confirmed coronavirus cases and 52 deaths in combined city/county numbers.