No recommendation yet for masks in Harris County, official says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the COVID-19 crisis grows in the Houston area, Harris County emergency management leaders are continuing to stress the need for the public to stay home and maintain social distancing guidelines.

Officials gave an update on their response to the pandemic Friday morning, saying no one should let their guard down.

Francisco Sanchez, deputy coordinator of the Harris County Office of Emergency Management, said the department is now screening employees coming out of their building in northwest Houston every day. They also have some employees working from home.

Right now, no OEM employees have had to be tested for coronavirus, Sanchez says.

Sanchez also said that with the upcoming Easter holiday, it's still safest to stream church services online instead of trying to gather and worship.

During the update, Sanchez touched on whether the public should or should not be wearing face masks.

The CDC is expected to provide further guidance, with the Trump administration saying on Thursday it's finalizing new guidance about the matter.

In the meantime, should Harris County residents be expected to start wearing them?

"There is no current county recommendation about a face mask. There seems to be sort of conflicting signals at the moment in terms of what that guidance might be at the federal level. We are following the science of right now. A lot of science, as we have been told, does not recommend that at this time," Sanchez explained.

Some places are strictly enforcing mask regulations, though.

In Laredo, every resident older than 5 years old must wear some sort of mask when going out in public. If people are caught not covering their nose and mouth, they face a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 in the city.

Until more guidance is available, Sanchez recommends people visit readyharris.org.

The Houston area alone has surpassed 1,700 cases. Twenty people have died.
Of those, Harris County has 449 COVID-19 cases and four deaths.

Earlier this week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extended a Stay Home, Work Safe order until the end of April.

Hidalgo admitted the region still has not "flattened the curve" in COVID-19 cases.

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