Harris County to increase Coronavirus testing

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that the area has finally received the materials from the federal government to increase coronavirus testing capabilities community-wide.

Hidalgo announced there is an online tool you can access if you are experiencing symptoms, and you can use that tool to help determine if you need COVID-19 testing.

The self-assessment website lists the specific questions that should be answered before launching the tool.

If for some reason you cannot access the site, you can call 832-927-7575 or text CV19 to 888777.

JUDGE HIDALGO GIVES UPDATE ON TESTING SUPPLIES
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The judge said the current testing supplies can last a 'few several days,' but the county will be dependent on the federal government to restock.



Up to 250 tests will be available at two Harris County sites, but officials insist using the online tool first.

The judge said the current testing supplies can last a 'few several days,' but the county will be dependent on the federal government to restock.

She also addressed the rumor that there would be a stay-at-home order, saying that authorities are still working on the next step.

"Shelter-in-place is not the right term for our region," she said.

Hidalgo said officials expect to announce a decision later today about a stay-at-home order.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a shelter-in-place order that will take effect tonight at 11:59.

Hidalgo addressed claims made by Jenkins that Harris County would be issuing its own order soon.

"Obviously, I know Judge Jenkins made a comment, I believe last night. You know we're all in constant communication. (I) can't control what other folks say," Hidalgo said. "Judge Jenkins and I generally work very closely together. I work most closely with Mayor Turner, with Judge George, our regional judges. I've been in touch with other counties, and we're working together on this, but of course we're also in touch with the larger counties, whether that be Tarrant or Dallas or Travis. We are all in constant communication."

Hidalgo was also asked whether she had left Harris County over the weekend. "No, I did not. We've all been working, you know, almost 24/7."

"We aren't exaggerating when we say staying at home and social distancing is a matter of life and death," Hidalgo told reporters. "Please, unless you absolutely need to be out, stay home."

Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health said we are seeing the virus spread in the community now. Of the cases in Harris County, about half of them were community spread.

"We've got to slow this virus down. Please do everything you can to stay at home. Please do everything you can to limit your interactions with others," Dr. Shah said.

Hidalgo also addressed releasing people in the county from jail who are not a threat to the public.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said last week that his office would look to increase "compassionate" releases to avoid COVID-19 from getting inside the jail and spreading quickly.

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Hidalgo said an order was issued on Friday for people with non-violent offenses to be released from jail.

As of last week, the sheriff's office said the jail population is roughly 8,500, compared to 9,100 just a few weeks ago.

Still, the Harris County District Attorney's Office said there is no plan to avoid arresting violent criminals.

Over the weekend, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Houston area rose, including the first known cases in Liberty and Chambers counties and a second case in Grimes County that's related to the first one there.
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