City leasing hotels for first responders, homeless

In anticipation of a local surge in COVID-19 infections, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced a three-month lease of every room in three different hotels - a total of 186 beds with an option to rent up to 3,000 more.

"It's either all or none," said Turner.

The rooms will house first responders, municipal workers, and members of the homeless community who are either quarantined or diagnosed with coronavirus.

"We don't want our homeless individuals just wandering about. That just won't work," said Turner.

With a projected expense of $200 per room per night and a budget crisis looming, Councilman Mike Knox raised concerns.

"I get it that we want to reserve the rooms. I'm just not sure we want to pay for them if we are not using them," said Knox.

Turner says the rooms will be needed and the expense likely reimbursable from federal aid to cities hit hard by the pandemic.

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Later at a press conference, Mayor Turner issued a message to landlords looking for rent checks.

"Please, please, please don't be throwing people out. This is not the right time to be throwing people out," said Turner.

 As for Governor Greg Abbott's decree opening the door for religious congregations to gather again in churches, the mayor of the state's largest city said simply "common sense" should prevail in the face of an ongoing threat.

"I shouldn't have to tell you, if there's a building on fire, don't go into the building. And I don't care who tells you to go into the building," said Turner.

The Mayor also announced welcome additions to the City's stockpile of personal protective equipment including 180,000 masks, 40,000 gowns, and additional eye protection.

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