The possible shortage of coronavirus testing equipment was on the top of the list of Mayor Sylvester Turner's Wednesday morning press conference following the city council meeting on Day One of the new stay-at-home order.
David Persse, the public health authority in Houston's Department of Health, said if any part of the coronavirus testing chain breaks down it can affect the city's ability to continue testing. While the city still has plenty of swabs to operate the one site it has open, it is running out of Personal Protection Equipment for its health care workers and waiting on FEMA to deliver more.
In response to a question, Persse also acknowledged that while the Centers For Disease Control guidelines still stipulate a fever and a cough, in the United States as in China as time went on they are seeing more cases with no fever and instead gastrointestinal issues.
In the United States, he said. "There's been a little bit less fever, a little more GI disturbance. We're getting word that the CDC is observing the changes," adding that while the CDC hasn't changed its guidelines yet, he wouldn't be surprised if it does.
In response to a question about some city workers complaining that they don't fit the "essential" categories set up by the federal government for continued work and who want to be sent home, Turner replied that all of the city government is considered essential, particularly as a support for all the other essential occupations like police, fire and health care.
"You can’t close down city government," Turner said. "We complement and support all these essential services, We cannot afford to send thousands of employees home who are not able to do their jobs remotely. People still want their trash picked up."
Turner also said that with Houston hospital beds at a reported 80 percent capacity already, the city is looking for other buildings, such as former hospitals, that they might open up if the need for many more beds arises.
Anyone who has a complaint about a business still operating or just a question about whether they should be open or closed is encouraged to call the Harris County hotline set aside for that purpose at 832-839-6941.
In response to a question asking if there wasn't some way for congregations — perhaps if they met outside — to continue to gather together for services, Turner said only that he appreciated all the faith-based groups that even before his order had moved to online or televised services.
Also in response to a question about Houston City Councilman Greg Travis reportedly calling METRO's continued bus and train service unsafe and that they were "death taxis," Turner repeated the measures METRO has taken to block off seats to create social distancing and said the reality is that some people don't have cars or trucks — including those in essential services — and need some way to get to work or to the grocery store.
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