City of Houston reports 777 new COVID-19 cases as fire department, health department ready to distribute vaccine

Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses reporters during a Dec. 21 news conference on the state of COVID-19 in Houston. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper via Houston Television)
Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses reporters during a Dec. 21 news conference on the state of COVID-19 in Houston. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper via Houston Television)

Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses reporters during a Dec. 21 news conference on the state of COVID-19 in Houston. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper via Houston Television)

The city of Houston reported 777 additional COVID-19 cases, while the positivity rate is now above 11%, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced during a Dec. 21 news conference.

That brings the total cases in Houston above 111,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, according to Harris County Public Health’s data dashboard.

Meanwhile, both the Houston Health Department and Fire Department have readied to receive 3,000 doses each of the Moderna vaccine, said Dr. David Persse, the city of Houston’s Chief Medical Officer. Each department will only be allowed to distribute the vaccine to Phase 1A individuals, which includes health care workers working directly with COVID-19 patients, EMS providers, home health care workers, and residents of long-term care facilities, as defined by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“We’re prepared to receive that inventory,” said Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Peña. “We have the tools necessary to store the vaccines.”

It’s unclear when Phase 1B individuals will be approved to receiving vaccinations, but once they are approved, the departments can begin distribution, Peña said.


This comes as 180 firefighters are in quarantine, 46 of which have tested positive. In total, out of 4,000 firefighters in the department, 421 have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began, Peña said.

Meanwhile, Persse reemphasized the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing given a recent COVID-19 mutation discovered in the southeast United Kingdom that is reported to be more contagious.

“Every time a cell makes a copy, there is a chance it can make a mistake, and make an error,” Persse said on the mutation. “This is yet another reason why we should be more and more careful.”

Turner, as a result, recommended against large gatherings and traveling during the holidays. Receiving the vaccine will also be key to defeating the coronavirus, he added.

“Let me encourage you to please take this vaccine because this is an insidious virus that is having a detrimental impact not just on our city, but across the world,” Turner 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.