Houston area leaders voice importance of 2020 census amid COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Despite the current crisis in the area, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner want residents to take the 2020 U.S. Census.

The pair of civic leaders address voiced the importance of taking the decennial survey, which is now available on the Census website.

Hidalgo and Turner have been at the forefront of battling the coronavirus crisis in the greater Houston area.

WATCH: Judge Hidalgo encourages residents to take the Census
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Harris County Judge Hidalgo and Mayor Turner encouraging people to fill out Census

Earlier in the day, Turner announced that Houston police officers, firefighters, municipal employees, and the homeless who need to be quarantined due to coronavirus will be housed in multiple hotels that are being leased by the city.

WATCH: Mayor Turner's remarks on more strict social distancing in Houston
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The mayor said now crews will be taking down basetball rims and goals in an effort to stop people from playing contact sports as we try to social distance.

Two hotels with 186 rooms total will be used as quarantine space by the city, the mayor said. The hotel space was secured with a three month lease agreement.

A lease agreement on a third hotel is also in the works and is expected to be finalized next week.

As of Wednesday, 42 city employees have tested positive for coronavirus, including 12 with the Houston Fire Department and 12 with the Houston Police Department. A majority of others belong to the Public Works Department, Turner said.

A second testing site opened Wednesday as the number of coronavirus cases stood at 377 in the city on Wednesday morning. The number of cases is expected to increase as the number of tests conducted increase.

"What we are doing is working," Turner said. "When you look at other cities and where we are today, we have taken significant steps to flatten the curve."

As thousands are out of work, monthly rent for Houston tenants is an issue the mayor also addressed Wednesday.

"I'm asking landlords and tenants to work together," Turner said. "Please, please, please. Don't be throwing people out."

Turner also asked travelers returning to Houston from outside the state to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days.

Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department also addressed what he said was some confusion over negative tests for coronavirus. Some people have expressed the belief that a negative result means they are not as vulnerable. Persse said that is not true and people should still remain vigilant after being tested.

"If you got tested and the test comes back negative, that does not mean you can go into large groups, Persse said.

Elsewhere, the mayor said the city is moving toward stricter social distancing measures.

While Houston's city parks remain open, 492 basketball goals are being removed in an effort to discourage close-contact sports at the facilities, Turner said.

"If you see that the parks are already just full, crowded, go to another city park," Turner said.

Houston remains under a "Stay Home, Work Safe" order, which was extended until April 30.

SEE ALSO: COVID-19 cases in Houston could peak around May 2, mayor says

Meanwhile, the city has opened a second testing site in northwest Houston, adding more locations for people who believe they are symptomatic.

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