"We Have Not Reached the Peak," Mayor Turner Says, While a Report Shows Lives Have Been Saved

The nearly deserted Highway 59 lanes recently.
The nearly deserted Highway 59 lanes recently. Photo by Reggie Mathalone
For more than 20 minutes at his Tuesday press conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner repeatedly stressed the need for local residents to keep to social distancing, stay home and wear masks — saying that those measures have been working in the city to slow the COVID-19 death count, now at 11 for Houston.

So one could forgive him the audible sigh when the first question he got after finishing his prepared remarks was: "Are city and county leaders at a point right now where they can start to have discussions about lifting this stay at home work safe order?"

"No," Turner responded quickly. "No. The collective focus needs to be on staying at home, engaging in social distancing.

"As long as our numbers continue to rise, we have not reached the peak in the city of Houston. So even though relatively speaking our numbers are lower, we are not yet ready to talk about ending stay home stay safe. April, the entire month of April we're going to need to be very, very very focused. And to do everything we can to mitigate the risk of this virus.

On Tuesday the Houston Health Department was reporting one new death, bringing its total to 11, and 175 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,320. "Again we're expecting those numbers to go up," Turner said.

Harris County has reported 12 COVID-19 deaths in unincorporated areas of the county and 825 confirmed cases.

Turner brought up again the importance of social distancing in the city's parks and said that they will be shut down if they get too crowded. "In the month of April, let me apologize in advance, if we see that you are gathering in large crowds we’re going to break it up. I don't want people calling me and saying 'Your people are being heavy handed.' No we're just trying to save your life or the life of a friend or a family member."

The mayor quoted from a new report from the Kinder Institute at Rice University that found the stay home orders are preventing deaths and hospitalizations.  "The estimates show that social distancing measures in the 14-day period between March 24 when the order was issued and April 6 have saved the lines in their study of 4,533 Houstonians and kept another 48,812 from being hospitalized locally.

"The report goes on to say that if we continue this path by April 22 we could save 13,220  lives right here in the Houston/Harris County area."

The mayor also said that although six federal health personnel had been expected to leave the two city of Houston testing sites by April 10, plans have changed and they are staying through April 30. Also the federal government will continue to pick up the personal protection equipment costs at 100 percent, he said.

The mayor introduced City Council Member Edward Pollard who has called for a moment of prayer/meditation/silence at noon on Thursday in recognition of the coronavirus situation facing the area. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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