Now is not the time to ease COVID-19 restrictions, city says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the city leaders continue the fight to keep COVID-19 under control while trying to recover from a historic winter storm, Mayor Sylvester Turner says though help is underway, there's still a long way to go.

During a briefing on Monday, Turner released the details of the Resilient Houston one-year report.



Resilient Houston is an initiative created to help the city properly prepare for future disasters, like hurricanes and extreme heat waves. The initiative launched in February 2020.

According to Chief Resilience Officer Marissa Aho, the city is hitting most of its goals, but several projects were impacted by the pandemic.

The report, released on the city's website, lists 18 key "targets" the city focused on at the start of the initiative, which included goals such as providing Houstonians with preparedness training.

In 2020, the city trained 5,750 people.

Another target includes investing $50 billion in major recovery, mitigation, and modernization projects that will "increase resilience" by 2040.

Last year, the city had invested $7.6 billion.

READ THE FULL REPORT BELOW





Here's what else we learned during Monday's briefing.

MORE WINTER STORM HELP



Last week, Turner announced details of a new Winter Storm Relief Fund, the latest Houston and Harris County joint disaster recovery assistance program.

During Monday's briefing, Turner said donors have raised $7.1 million so far, and out of that total, $1.65 million have been set aside as an emergency grant to support Houston families and those in need of home repairs after the winter storm.

He said those seeking help can start by texting "Houston Freeze" (or "Houston Ayuda" for Spanish speakers) to 898211.

Once you send the text, you will get a text back with eligibility and application guidelines.

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The mayor said $1.65 million in emergency grant money has been set aside to help vulnerable families in Houston and those in need of repairs after the historic winter storm. He also said getting help is as easy as sending a text.



MORE VACCINES ARE ON THE WAY



Turner said the city of Houston's health department will get its first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Tuesday. This will include about 6,000 doses.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is designed to be given as a single dose. That means no follow-up visits, none of the red tape needed to make sure people return for those second shots, and none of the worry about making sure a second dose is available at the right time.

"This certainly will be the best option for our transient population because you only need that one dose," said Turner.

He said the city will also be getting another 9,000 doses of Moderna vaccine.

The 15,000 doses are in addition to the vaccine supply at the FEMA-backed site at NRG Park.

Q&A with the CEO of Johnson & Johnson after FDA authorization


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CEO Alex Gorsky spoke to Good Morning America on Monday.



IT'S NOT A GOOD TIME TO EASE COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS, CITY SAYS



Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott said that Texas is looking at when it will be able to lift all statewide orders related to the coronavirus pandemic and that an announcement is forthcoming.

"We're working right now on evaluating when we're going to be able to remove all statewide orders, and we will be making announcements about that pretty soon," Abbott said, without giving a specific time frame at the time.

Houston health authority Dr. David Persse said he believes "this is absolutely not the time to do that."

"It's too early," he said. "If you consider how many people have been infected ... you've got a tiny amount of vaccine. There's still a huge portion of the [population] that's still susceptible to becoming infected. I hope that the governor will consider differently. There is considerable talk about another wave in April. No one wants another wave."

Turner echoed that sentiment, saying he recalls when restrictions were lifted too early last year, leading to COVID-19 cases to increase.

U.K. VARIANT IS POPPING UP IN HOUSTON, BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?



Last month, the city reported the U.K. variant was found in very low levels in multiple wastewater samples.

However, Persse said that variant "is increasing."

READ MORE: Houston health officials use new techniques to detect COVID-19 variants

"We're in a little bit of a race," he said. "Because what we've seen what the U.K. variance has done in other communities ... it is more easily spread. There is some discussion that it may make people sicker. It doesn't seem to be devastatingly, but nevertheless ... Some people may require hospitalizations at a greater rate with the U.K. variance."

The solution, he said, is to work to get more Houstonians vaccinated.



STAR-STUDDED DONATION



Former Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook donated to the city's Winter Storm Relief Fund, according to Turner.

He said he spoke with the NBA star on Monday afternoon.

Westbrook donated $100,000.

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