HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is urging residents to get tested this week and also to cancel their holiday gatherings after the city's COVID-19 positivity rate increased to 11.2%
During Monday's briefing, Turner said the Houston Health Department reported 777 cases of COVID-19, bringing Houston's total to 111,211. In addition to the new cases, Turner reported there have been three more deaths due to the virus, bringing the city's total deaths to 1,530.
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out, this week the Houston Health Department and Houston Fire Department are both scheduled to receive 3,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
"We're prepared to receive that inventory. We have the tools and the equipment to properly store the equipment and a plan to administer those vaccines to those employees," Houston Fire Department's Chief Samuel Pena said.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase, there have been growing concerns about the reports of a new strand of the virus in the United Kingdom. During Monday's briefing, Houston Health Department's Dr. David Persse addressed the new variant does not cause any more serious illness.
"The new mutant virus does not appear to be any more lethal, doesn't cause any more serious illness, doesn't cause any more death. The change appears to be that the virus is more easily transmitted," Dr. Persse said.
With the city of Houston seeing an increase in its COVID-19 positivity rate, Mayor Turner is urging Houstonians to cancel their upcoming Christmas gatherings.
"To avoid a surge on top of a surge, postpone traveling until sometime next year. I know a lot of people are flying from here and to there, I just don't think it's a wise thing to do right now," Turner said. "There is, of course, hope on the horizon with the approval now of two vaccines."
Health care workers have already begun to get the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and Monday president-elect Joe Biden received a vaccination.
Biden on Monday received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on live television as part of a growing effort to convince the American public the inoculations are safe. The president-elect took a dose of Pfizer vaccine at a hospital not far from his Delaware home, hours after his wife, Jill Biden, did the same.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to get a vaccine shot tomorrow, Dec. 22.
Abbott announced Monday that the public will be allowed back in the Capitol on Jan. 4. That's roughly a week before the Texas Legislature reconvenes. The decision comes as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging to the highest levels since summer. Texas had more than 9,800 hospitalized coronavirus patients as of Sunday, the most since a deadly summer outbreak.