Mayor Turner asks Houstonians to change their routines for 3 weeks

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A day after Texas reported its highest one-day total of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner recommended some immediate changes for residents in the city.

On Thursday, Turner asked Houstonians to wear masks while in the presence of others, not just at businesses. He also asked businesses to reduce occupancy from 50 percent to 25 percent, encouraged people to work from home, if possible, and for places of worship to continue virtual worship for the next three weeks or until the virus is under control.

"I'm strongly encouraging you to take the virus very seriously and to make some changes in your routine over the next several weeks," Turner said.

He added that his recommendations are put in place to help reduce the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the city of Houston. His other big concern is the Texas Republican Convention, which is scheduled in Houston from July 16 through 18.

The recommendations came minutes before Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide mask order requiring every Texan to wear a mask or facial covering when out in public.

Turner said the order is a positive step in the right direction and he applauds the governor's actions.

"This is a forest fire, and we're going to need all the tools at our disposal to put the fire out," Turner added.

On Thursday, the Houston's Health Department reported 763 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the city's total to 21,886. There were also two new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing to city's total to 230.

Turner also discussed the Shell Freedom Over Texas celebration, related road closures and the fireworks plan for the event slated for this weekend.

He encouraged Houstonians to not gather in large crowds over 10 people during holiday celebrations to avoid another outbreak.

"We're not going to have police going around looking for people gathering. We're saying to people they should reduce their gatherings. People need to exercise personal responsibility," Turner said. "As we enter the Fourth of July holiday weekend, it is imperative that everyone remembers we are fighting for our community and the health and safety of our family and friends."

Abbott is allowing events like July 4th celebrations to be held in Texas, but with precautions such as social distancing and face masks. And of course, people are asked not to go anywhere if they feel sick.

Though guests won't be allowed to attend Freedom Over Texas this year, there will still be live performances. They'll be aired live from Jones Hall during a production on ABC13 that will also feature pre-recorded specials.

You can watch coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. followed by the performances with guest artists, including Houston rappers, humanitarians and philanthropists, Bun B and Trae Tha Truth, nationally acclaimed mariachi band Mariachi Imperial De America, and Houston sibling Norteño trio Los Luzeros De Rioverde. Artists like Lyle Lovett and Josh Turner will be participating with pre-recording performances.

There is also still plenty to get excited about when it comes to the fireworks.

"We have moved the fireworks show a little further, so we can have a larger product, which would have a much higher altitude," said Susan Christian, the City of Houston's director of special events. "We have almost doubled our height of the show, so more people can see it from a distance. If you can see the city skyline, you're going to see a good show."

The fireworks shells that will be going off this year will get between 800 and 1,000 feet in the air, added Doug Aller, production manager at Pyrotecnico.

MORE: 5 things to know about Shell Freedom Over Texas

Still, the keyword in all of this is "watch" as officials are urging people to enjoy the festivities from the comfort of their home rather than gathering.

For example, the city of Galveston announced its beaches will be closed for the Fourth of July weekend due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

As of July 1 at 5 p.m., the state reported 8,076 new cases.
The state reported 57 new COVID-19 related deaths, which is the second highest single-day death count. The highest was on May 14 with 58 deaths.

So far, 2,174,548 people have been tested for the coronavirus, and the positivity rate is now at 13.58 percent.

In total, 6,904 Texans are now hospitalized.

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