Houston mayor recommends limit on gatherings over 10, businesses scale back to 25% capacity

Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a set of recommended social distancing guidelines June 2 that go beyond what is required by Gov. Greg Abbott. (Courtesy HTV)
Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a set of recommended social distancing guidelines June 2 that go beyond what is required by Gov. Greg Abbott. (Courtesy HTV)

Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a set of recommended social distancing guidelines June 2 that go beyond what is required by Gov. Greg Abbott. (Courtesy HTV)

In light of the growing coronavirus case numbers straining local hospitals, Mayor Sylvester Turner outlined a list of safety precautions he encourages residents to follow.

The recommendations include wearing a face mask in all public settings, encouraging businesses to scale back to 25% capacity from the current 50% capacity allowed by the state, returning church services to virtual platforms and limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people. He also encouraged workplaces to put social distancing guidelines in place or allow remote work.

“We are at a point in this pandemic that requires us to rally as a community and take serious steps to not overwhelm our medical capacity,” Turner said.

Any official mandate requiring the recommendations, however, would need to come from Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said his directives in response to the pandemic supersede local orders. Turner's suggestions go beyond a statement issued by Abbott on June 2 requiring all residents to wear face masks in public settings where the county has more than 20 positive coronavirus cases and banning outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

Turner’s recommendations for the city come in light of scores of coronavirus patients beginning to push Houston-area hospitals into surge capacities and an increasing positive test rate, indicating many cases are going untracked.

On June 28, 1 in 4 Houston residents tested for the coronavirus tested positive. The calculation factors in the 14-day rolling average of test results to control for inconsistent timing of test result reports.

The growing positivity rate indicates the number of people carrying the virus, especially those without symptoms, is higher than testing capacity can estimate, Houston Emergency Medicine Director Dr. David Persse told reporters June 2. On June 1, the positivity rate was 15%.

“Let’s say these testing numbers somehow represent double the percent of positive cases [in the city]. That’s still 1 in 8 who have it,” Persse said. “So even in a group of 8 people you run the risk of contracting the virus.”

Houston’s city-run, drive-thru testing sites, which recently increased testing capacity to 650 tests per day from an earlier maximum of 500 tests, have been consistently running out of available tests by midday, health officials said at this week’s daily press briefings.

Editor's note: this post has been updated for clarity.
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


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