Houston coronavirus updates: Health department forming school quarantine recommendations; positivity rate still on decline

Mayor Sylvester Turner briefed reporters on the city's coronavirus repsonse Aug. 12. (Courtesy HTV)
Mayor Sylvester Turner briefed reporters on the city's coronavirus repsonse Aug. 12. (Courtesy HTV)

Mayor Sylvester Turner briefed reporters on the city's coronavirus repsonse Aug. 12. (Courtesy HTV)

After a July peak in coronavirus cases, Houston’s positivity rate has trended downward in recent weeks. Mayor Sylvester Turner and other city officials briefed the media about what efforts will continue to be required to reduce the rate to safer levels and limit community spread.

Houston reported 431 new coronavirus cases Aug. 12, and the total death count in the city rose by 12 to 585. All but one of those reported dead were Hispanic, reflecting a broader trend in the city—that the virus is affecting Black and Hispanic residents at a disproportionate rate.

"The numbers are looking better, but we are not yet where we need to be," Turner said.

Health department forming recommendations for school districts

Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said city health officials are working with local school districts to determine recommendations for contact tracing and quarantine procedures for students, teachers and staff. He said the department will use contact tracing to notify schools which students and staff may need to quarantine due to possible exposure.


“We are coaching [school districts] about how to give parents that information so students know that they have been in close contact, within six feet, of someone who has been infected for more than 15 minutes and recommend that student quarantine for two weeks."

Turner said the city will not recommend schools return to in-person instruction until Houston’s positivity rate drops below 5%. Currently, the city has 318 contact tracers employed, which is improving its contact tracing efforts, Persse said.

Positivity rate continues decline

Once reaching nearly 25%, Houston’s positivity rate was reported at 14% on Aug. 12. The rate gives health officials a view of how prominently the virus is spreading in the community and if the amount of testing being performed is sufficient. Turner said the city’s goal is to maintain a rate below 5%. The strain on city tests sites has decreased in recent weeks resulting in shorter wait times, Persse said. The five large-scale drive-thru sites in the city have the combined capacity to test nearly 6,000 people per day for free, the health department said.

At-home deaths on the rise

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña told reporters first responders are seeing more at-home deaths than in the months leading up to the pandemic. In February, the department saw an average of 14 deaths per day, and it has since seen that rate increase to 20 per day, Peña said.

He said first responders have observed that some residents are succumbing to coronavirus outside of hospital care, and others are putting off help for heart attacks and other emergencies out of fear of contracting the virus at hospital.

“People are just waiting way too long to call 911,” he said. “The notion that going to the hospital is where you are going to catch this virus is not based in fact at all."
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.


MOST RECENT

Guests take part in a painting class at a past Mistletoe Market. (Courtesy Midtown Houston)
Local vendors to descend on Midtown for annual Mistletoe Market

Houstonians invited to come out and support local businesses Dec. 10-11 at Midtown Houston's annual Mistletoe Market, featuring 17 local vendors offering handmade, holiday-themed gifts.

Commissioners on Nov. 22 voted to approve a density change to preliminary plans for The Preserve, a neighborhood that city documents said could include 565 single-family homes at the northeast corner of Teel and Panther Creek Parkways. (Courtesy city of Frisco)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Neighborhood near PGA Frisco could see larger lots; ERCOT says Texas power grid ready for expected winter demand and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 24.

After two years, the Houston Ballet Company is bringing back “The Nutcracke" on stage in time for the upcoming holiday season. (Courtesy Houston Ballet)
'The Nutcracker' returns to Houston stage for first time in two years

"The Nutcracker" will soon be returning to the stage in Houston.

A health expert with Baylor College of Medicine provides advice to stay safe and healthy while celebrating Thanksgiving with family. (Karolina Grabowska/Pexels)
Baylor College of Medicine: Tips for staying safe and healthy this Thanksgiving as the pandemic continues

Check out some helpful advice from a medical expert on how to stay safe and healthy during Thanksgiving.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sits beside Samsung CEO Dr. Kinam Kim as he announces the company is brining a $17 billion facility to Taylor. (Screnshot via KXAN)
Samsung makes it official: Announcement from Governor's Mansion confirms $17B facility coming to Taylor

Nearly a year after Williamson County officials began pitching Samsung to bring a megafacility to the area, the electronics giant has made it official.

Bill Curci is a chief operating partner for Shuck Me, a seafood restaurant in Fort Worth. (Bailey Lewis/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI TEXAS ROUNDUP: Fort Worth restaurant Shuck Me is fishing- and family-centric; a guide to Houston's 2021 Thanksgiving Day Parade and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas in Texas as of Nov. 23.

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital are collaborating with an immunotherapy company to bring COVID-19 vaccines to South Africa. (Courtesy Pexels)
Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital announce licensing agreement for COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital are collaborating with an immunotherapy company to bring COVID-19 vaccines to South Africa.

PTSD Foundation of America seeks to reduce veteran suicides

An average of 17.2 veterans died by suicide daily in 2019—a 36% increase from 2001, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in September.

Hebrews Coffeehouse specializes in coffee flights, an assortment of four specialty coffees with flavors changed every two weeks. (Courtesy Hebrews Coffeehouse)
From coffee trailer to storefront: Meet the owners of Hebrews Coffeehouse on FM 1488

​​​​​​​“Once we had a coffeehouse and people were coming into that house-type environment and then you start to see relationships flourish, that’s what makes our hearts beat,” Geoff said. “Coffee was a catalyst for that.”

Texas Medical Center coronavirus update: ICU numbers drop almost 20%; new hospitalizations plateau

Heading into Thanksgiving, here is the status of COVID-19 in Texas Medical Center hospitals.

Developers unveiled plans for Autry Park, a 14-acre mixed-use project along Buffalo Bayou. (Rendering courtesy Autry Park)
Brasserie, steakhouse coming to Autry Park in spring 2022

Two new restaurants have been announced for the mixed-use development Autry Park, both of which are being developed by Berg Hospitality Group and are expected to open by next spring.