HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the city of Houston intensifies its push for vaccinations, Mayor Sylvester Turner is shifting focus on getting kids the shot too.
Turner presented the launch of the "Super Saturday Vaccination Day" initiative during a briefing on Wednesday. It's a citywide effort that starts this weekend to get children who are 12 and older vaccinated before they go back to school.
Turner said every Saturday in August will be dedicated to getting eligible Houston-area students vaccinated. So far, the following 11 districts have at least one school that will be participating.
- Galena Park
- Spring Branch
The city is aiming to get 17 school districts on board, Turner said.
As the superintendent of the largest school district in the state, Millard House took several questions from reporters on COVID protocols and said he doesn't intend on going against Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates.
"Has the school district considered [a mask mandate?] Why or why not?" asked a reporter.
"We have not," responded House. "But we do know that masks are important, and masks will be strongly encouraged for all of our schools. It's not something that we've done, in terms of, as you said 'bucking' the governor, but we are strongly encouraging masks for all of our employees and all of our students."
When asked if House would consider taking a penalty for defying the governor's order on masks, he said "it's just not something that we've moved forward to do."
"Our hope is that we'll see as many people move forward to be vaccinated and many people move forward and do the responsible thing and wear masks as well. That's what our hope and expectation is," said House.
He said the district supports parents' input and concerns and said guidance from the Texas Education Agency on the use of masks and vaccines will be released soon.
See House's full remarks in the video below:
People who are 18 and older are eligible to receive the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, while those 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Dr. Jim Versalovic, the interim pediatrician-in-chief and pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, told ABC13 on Tuesday that COVID's delta variant makes up 80% of the hospital's new cases. He also said COVID hospitalizations are climbing.
"We've seen that number increase to greater than 20, and now, greater than 30, hospitalized children and adolescents, which is notable for any children's hospital," he said.
Those statistics are just behind its January peak when more than 40 children were hospitalized with the virus.
According to the city's website, as of Wednesday afternoon, there are more than 17,000 active cases of COVID in all of Harris County, including the city of Houston.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Persse, the chief medical officer for the city of Houston, said the city's data reveals the increase in the number of cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations will likely continue to rise in the coming weeks.
"The hospitals right now are full," he said. "The emergency departments are holding as many as 30 admissions in some hospitals, [patients] waiting for beds upstairs that simply don't exist right now. Hospitals are having ambulance crews staying with patients in the hallway for hours on end because they don't have enough room in the emergency department because they don't have enough room in the hospital. So, consider that many of these patients are COVID patients, but many of these patients are also heart attack patients. They're inflammatory bowel disease patients. They're stroke patients. They're car accident patients. They're moms in labor. There are other things that occur that are also getting backed up."
Only about 55% of Harris County residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of Health Services online dashboard.
Turner and other city officials said it is not enough for the community to reach herd immunity.