Houston working to expand testing of coronavirus cases; mayor urges residents to take a 'collective breath'

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged residents to take "a collective breath" and avoid panic as the city works to reduce the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. (Screenshot via HTV)
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged residents to take "a collective breath" and avoid panic as the city works to reduce the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. (Screenshot via HTV)

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged residents to take "a collective breath" and avoid panic as the city works to reduce the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. (Screenshot via HTV)

In a March 13 press conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city is working with the Texas Medical Center to roll out expanded testing capabilities sometime next week, advised faith leaders to decide what is best for their congregations for weekend services and discouraged Houstonians at large from raiding grocery stores.

"We are taking this very, very seriously ... but take a collective breath," Turner said. "I don't want the collective fear to do more harm than the virus itself."

The city has been coordinating with major hospital leaders to ramp up testing, he said.

"The Texas Medical Center has the capacity to take care of those coming to their respective hospitals," Turner said. "We're talking about going beyond the hospital walls, testing in the community."

He said it would involve multiple sites throughout the city and would be accessible to as many people as possible, based on need. People who think they should be tested should contact their doctor or the city's coronavirus hotline, 832-393-4220.

The update came as the city confirmed it has its fourth presumptive positive case of coronavirus disease, or COVID-19. Officials acknowledged that the number of cases will rise with additional testing, while other active cases could be removed as patients recover.

"If they come in small numbers every day, that’s what we want to happen," EMS Director David Persse said.

Despite widespread event cancellations and facility closures, Turner said the city remains open for business and is not advising restaurants and shops to close.

"What we're saying is, be responsible," he said.

The mayor advised leaders of churches, synagogues, mosques and other congregations to use their own judgment in deciding whether to hold religious services after the decision to bar events with more than 250 people.

"We're not giving any directive," he said, but he did make these requests: no handshaking, no embracing and exercise social distancing.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


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