Houston coronavirus updates: Positivity rate hits 5%, places of worship get guidance for reopening

Mayor Sylvester Turner and faith leaders
Mayor Sylvester Turner announced new coronavirus prevention guidelines for places of worship alongside area faith leaders. (Courtesy HTV)

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced new coronavirus prevention guidelines for places of worship alongside area faith leaders. (Courtesy HTV)

Houston reached Mayor Sylvester Turner’s longstanding goal of a 5% coronavirus test positivity rate during the second full week of October, health department officials reported.

Turner said, however, that residents need to remain vigilant to keep the rate at or below 5% and best contain the spread.

The health department reported 138 new cases Oct. 15 and three newly reported deaths, bringing the total death toll in Houston to 1,273.

Places of worship get reopening guidelines

Members of Houston’s Health Equity Task Force, formed in April, developed a series of guidelines for Houston’s places of worship.

In the guiding document written by faith leaders and approved by the Houston Health Department, recommendations include requiring preregistration and capping in-person services at 25% capacity, taking temperatures of congregants and requiring masks.

“When the death is in your family, the 5% [positivity rate] looks like 500%,” said task force member Pastor Max Miller of Mount Hebron Missionary Baptist Church. “We ask, plead, encourage and challenge faith groups take these guidelines seriously.”

When asked about the safety of large congregations such as those at Lakewood Church, Houston Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said following capacity guidelines, spacing out attendees and requiring mask use should keep parishioners safe.

“Similar to a sporting event, a family unit can sit together but they need to be 6 feet apart from the next family,” Persse said.

Turner said that at Lakewood Church, which can hold about 4,000 people at 25% capacity, Pastor Joel Osteen plans to follow the task force guidelines while continuing to offer online services as well.
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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