Mayor Turner, Houston Health urge COVID-19 testing before tropical storm systems hit Texas

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Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse said despite increasing capacity and shorter lines, fewer people are getting tested for coronavirus.

HOUSTON — Public health officials urged Houstonians to get tested for COVID-19 before two tropical systems hit the Gulf Coast so that families can protect themselves and others during the storms.

“It’s vital for us as a community to get a sense of what the viral activity is in the community, and it’s vital for families to make sure you know what’s going on in your family,” Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse said.

The push for more people to go get tested is not new. Public health and elected officials have been pleading with the public for weeks: more people getting tested gives health officials a clearer picture of the spread in our communities.

In the last two weeks, testing sites in the city of Houston and Harris County have seen daily numbers of people coming to get tested drop off. On Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said about 200 people each day have been visiting the city’s testing sites. The 20 sites across the city can perform thousands of tests a day.

“Let me encourage you, instead of waiting for Monday or Tuesday, go today. Go tomorrow. Go Sunday,” Turner said.

The Minute Maid Park testing site is open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We have an increased capacity, people literally have stopped going to the testing sites,” Turner said.

Turner’s concern, as two tropical storm systems approach Southeast Texas, is that people will not know their COVID-19 status in the event that they need to shelter somewhere other than their homes.

The mayor urged people to pack masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer in their hurricane preparedness kits. 

“As the storm comes, the virus doesn’t take a break,” Turner said.

He said that the city will require the public to wear masks if they must open any shelter sites. He said George R. Brown Convention Center is one possible staging area, but they are also exploring using hotel rooms. 

First responders and public works employees will be wearing personal protective equipment. They still intend to do temperature checks and spread people out.

“We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,” Turner said.