Houston officials urge residents to wear masks as COVID-19 cases reach new highs

The Houston Health Department reported 1,789 new COVID-19 cases in the city of Houston on June 22, pushing the total case count to over 14,000. (Screenshot via HTV)
The Houston Health Department reported 1,789 new COVID-19 cases in the city of Houston on June 22, pushing the total case count to over 14,000. (Screenshot via HTV)

The Houston Health Department reported 1,789 new COVID-19 cases in the city of Houston on June 22, pushing the total case count to over 14,000. (Screenshot via HTV)

The Houston Health Department reported 1,789 new COVID-19 cases in Houston on June 22, pushing the total case count to over 14,000, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced during a June 22 press conference.

“Our numbers are moving in the wrong direction,” Turner said.

The city has reported five new deaths associated with COVID-19, Turner added, all of whom had underlying health conditions.

Turner called for Houstonians to maintain proper social distancing guidelines and follow an order passed by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on June 19 that went into effect June 22 and requires all people 10 years or older to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in commercial buildings.

“We cannot be lax in our city,” Turner said. “What we’re asking people to do is put on their masks or face coverings.”

The plea comes as Houston reported over 900 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and 844 on June 20.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Greater Houston area are on the rise, including an uptick in COVID-19 patients occupying intensive care units, said Dr. David Persse, the Houston Health Department’s medical director.

For example, according to data collected by the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, the number of Harris County coronavirus patients in general population beds has increased substantially, from 394 on June 1 to 957 as of June 21. ICU bed occupation has gone up from 249 to 381 in the same period.

However, Persse noted not all hospitals are filling at the same rate, with suburban hospitals filling quicker than those located within the city. In the near future, hospitals will look to shift patients around to facilities with open beds, he said.

Public safety staff has also been affected by COVID-19, Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña said.

There are currently 103 Houston police officers in quarantine and unable to work, Peña said, while the fire department has 88 firefighters that have tested positive for the virus, a 140% increase over 10 days.

“When you take out hundreds of police officers and firefighters, it affects public safety,” Peña said.

That includes the fire department’s Occupancy Task Force, which responds to complaints about health and safety violations, such as social distancing violations committed by businesses.

The task force has yet to issue a citation but has instead opted to educate violators until they voluntarily comply.

Should the city of Houston need to start fining businesses, it will, Turner said.

“If we are forced to go to the next step, we will go to the next step, but we don’t want to,” he said.
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


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