Houston coronavirus updates: Testing positivity rate stays high; public works department loses 2 employees

Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock announced the death of two department employees July 17. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock announced the death of two department employees July 17. (Courtesy HTV)

Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock announced the death of two department employees July 17. (Courtesy HTV)

Amid a recent trend of rising coronavirus case counts and stabilizing hospitalizations in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner responded with a number of announcements related to testing capacity and testing positivity rates. City department heads also described the impact on core services such as public works.

Houston reported 884 new coronavirus cases July 20 and seven new deaths.

Houston Public Works loses two employees

Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock told reporters July 20 that two department employees, Natarvia Robertson and Michael Sanchez died hours apart July 17. Robertson worked in account services and Sanchez worked in transportation and drainage operations.

"Both were essential workers but they were so much more than that. Natarvia Robertson's family and extended family will greatly miss her," Haddock said. "Michael Sanchez was a husband, father, brother, and son. His family wants Houstonians to know that he had a passion for serving our City."

Haddock said 5% of the department is quarantined.

Positivity rate stays high, varies by neighborhood

On a 14-day average, the percentage of test results coming back positive compared to the total tests administered reached a high of 25.9% during the weeks of June 28 and July 5. As of July 17, it was 24.5%, a slight dip that Houston Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. David Persse said was not significant enough to celebrate. In some areas of the city in north, east and southwest Houston, the positivity rate reached 30%, according to the Houston Health Department.

Hospitalization rates begin to level off

With daily hospitalizations not rising as sharply as earlier in the month, Persse said it is possible mask wearing and social distancing as well as improved treatment procedures may be playing a role. With the high number of patients causing the hospitals to remain in their surge capacity, however, he said continued caution is necessary.

"We seem to be moving in the right direction, and this is good news, but this is no reason to take the foot off the brake," Persse said. "We need to keep doing everything we know works, and that's wearing masks, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings."

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.


Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference
Gov. Greg Abbott to allocate $171M from CARES Act to help renters at risk of eviction

Gov. Greg Abbott will allocate more than $171 million in renters assistance from the federal coronavirus relief package to eligible Texans.

Menu items include fried, grilled and boiled seafood platters as well as Cajun staples ranging from gumbo and shrimp etouffee to boudin balls and po'boys. (Courtesy The Catch)
Cajun eatery The Catch coming to Willowbrook and more Houston news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project proposes re-routing I-45 through the East End and Fifth Ward and expanding it through the Northside. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT releases environmental report, a pivotal step in I-45 rebuild

The report is one of the final steps before the project rerouting much of I-45 through downtown can begin.

2020 voter guide, i voted sticker
November 2020 election: Here are the candidates on the ballot for Harris County local races

Your guide to voting locations and who's on the ballot for Harris County races this November.

The Christian Community Service Center, a coalition of 40 area churches providing social services, is moving into its new building after about a year of construction. (Courtesy The Christian Community Service Center)
After yearlong project, Christian Community Services Center moving into new building

The Christian Community Service Center is moving into its new building.

Houston ISD
Houston ISD extends deadline for parents to opt out of in-person learning

Parents that do not respond will be automatically counted as an "in-person" choice in order to facilitate planning.

Fewer than 500 COVID-19 patients—478—are currently checked in at Texas Medical Center hospitals. (Community Impact staff)
Texas Medical Center COVID-19 hospitalizations drop 30% in three weeks

Fewer than 500 COVID-19 patients—478—are currently checked in at Texas Medical Center hospitals.

Memorial Elementary
Three Houston ISD schools earn Blue Ribbon honors

Memorial Elementary, the High School for Law and Justice and the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy are all first-time recipients and are among 26 schools nominated in Texas.

The board of directors for METRO has approved the $1.15 billion FY 2020-21 budget. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
METRO board approves $1.15 billion budget for FY 2020-21 with 23% revenue loss

The approved budget is down nearly 14% overall from last year.

A 112-foot art installation is on display at College Memorial Park Cemetery. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Art installation honors Black soldiers killed after Houston Riot of 1917

The project is part of a grant program to commission public art in each of the city's 11 council districts.