HOUSTON - In press conferences, Friday, Harris County and Houston leaders emphasized the seriousness of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot let this moment pass without action,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
During Friday’s press conference, Judge Hidalgo issued a “Stay Home” advisory. While current state rules prevent another local “shutdown”, Judge Hidalgo increased the county’s COVID-19 threat meter to level 1, the highest level possible.
“It means there is a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19,” said Hidalgo. “The outbreaks are worsening. Our public health capacity is strained if not exceeded. Health care surge is not only likely but already in progress.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner shared a similar message. Mayor Turner emphasized the importance of wearing masks.
“Do your part collectively,” said Turner. “Wear masks, so we can slow the progression of this virus.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott strengthened COVID-19 restrictions Friday. His new order closed bars and clubs and will limit Texas restaurants to half capacity starting Monday.
Enforcement will be carried out by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). Businesses that ignore the new rules can be fined and have their liquor license suspended for 30 days.
In addition, Mayor Turner said he plans to start a “wall of shame” so customers can know which businesses violated the order.
“If people are just blatantly abusing the occupancy limits, we will have the wall of shame for them,” said Turner.
Almost 30,000 people in Harris County have tested positive for COVID-19. Roughly a third of those cases have resulted in official recoveries so far.
While testing has increased and the number of confirmed cases, not everyone agrees on the seriousness of the pandemic.
On Saturday, we interviewed people in North Houston for their thoughts on the Coronavirus.
“Anybody with diabetes, or high blood pressure, they’re hitting up a room with Jesus,” said one person.
“Those of us trying to stay healthy and survive, [other people are] putting us all at risk and possibly another shutdown,” said a second person.
Tanna Ingraham, an ICU nurse at United Memorial Medical Center, recently tested positive for COVID-19. Despite plenty of protective equipment, Ingraham started feeling sick after trying life-saving measures on a patient. Ingraham is now in ICU with COVID-19 and wants to warn others about the virus.
“It’s real,” said Ingraham in a Zoom interview Friday from ICU. “I really wish people would stop saying it’s a hoax, or this is just some political thing. Please do social distancing. Please wear a mask. Don’t do it for you. Do it for me. Do it for your Mom, Dad, or your best friend.”