Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner gave a brief coronavirus update Friday afternoon, during which he announced that the Houston Health Department was reporting 11 new COVID-19 fatalities, the second highest single-day reported death total in Houston after Wednesday’s record-high 16 reported deaths. Houston’s coronavirus death toll now sits at 315.
Two municipal employees died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, Turner said, one of whom was last at work on July 8. The City of Houston reported 986 new COVID-19 cases Friday, increasing the City’s total case count to 34,681. The cumulative total of COVID-19 cases for Harris County and the City of Houston combined has reached 53,555, and the region’s cumulative death count is now 526.
Turner highlighted that on Thursday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 154 COVID-19 deaths across the state, a new record and the third day in a row with over 100 new deaths reported statewide. Texas reported 10,256 new COVID-19 cases Friday afternoon, the fourth-straight day that the state added over 10,200 new cases.
“Everyone keeps asking if the governor is going to shut things down. He indicated that for the time being he does not intend to do so,” Turner said, referring to Gov. Abbot’s remark that “there is no shutdown coming” in a Thursday interview with Houston’s Fox 26. Turner once again expressed his desire for “a two-week stay-home order to reset” for the City of Houston, despite still lacking the authority to make such an order thanks to Abbott’s removal of that power from local officials weeks ago.
The mayor also thanked New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo “for assisting us in our moment of need” by sending COVID-19 testing resources to Houston, including a 20-person team that will be in town for the next two weeks assisting with testing at the City’s Fallbrook Church and Higher Dimension Church testing sites that Turner unveiled earlier this week.
Dr. David Persse of the Houston Health Department shared statistics that compared Houston and Harris County COVID-19 cases and deaths to other major American cities. According to publicly available data, Houston has recorded 1,395 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 2,054 for Chicago, 2,288 for New Orleans and 2,582 for New York City. The count of cases per 100,000 people in Harris County outside of Houston was 738, Persse shared.
In terms of COVID-19 deaths, Houston’s rate is 12.6 per 100,000 people, and Harris County outside of Houston has recorded 8.2 deaths per 100,000. These death rate statistics pale in comparison to those of Chicago at 99.4, New Orleans at 138.9 and New York City at 223.1 deaths per 100,000.
Persse shared these numbers in an attempt to put the current state of the pandemic in the Houston area into a more national context, but said the last thing he wanted to do was lull Houstonians into a false sense of security. “Don’t let anybody be fooled that just because the number of deaths that we’re reporting is comparatively low that we don’t have an issue,” Persse said.
Persse explained that he’s grateful that Houston area medical professionals have become better able to care for COVID-19 patients since they had more time to learn best practices from states that we hit much harder and earlier on by the coronavirus, but stressed that this didn’t mean local health providers had a silver bullet in their treatment arsenal that could overcome ongoing concerns about local hospital capacity amid surging cases.
“If the virus continues to spread uncontrolled like it is now, we’re rapidly approaching a situation where our hospitals, who in spite of the truly tremendous work that they have done to secure everybody who needs a hospital bed, they’re going to be overrun. There’s a limit to the miracles that they can perform,” Persse said.
Earlier Friday, Turner added local businesses Bombshells Restaurant at 12810 Gulf Freeway and Bar and Flava Restaurant and Bar at 5600 Richmond Avenue to the City’s “COVID-19 Accountability Wall,” previously referred to as the “Wall of Shame,” after Houston Fire Department officials responded to calls that they were disregarding state rules about enforcing face mask use and social distancing and reported the both businesses to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Bombshells has had their alcohol license suspended for one month by the TABC, but according to an ABC 13 report, a Flava representative said that the TABC investigation was completed and they were found to be in full compliance.