Despite warnings about omicron, now is not the time to shut down, local leaders say

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said people refusing to test, mask, and vaccinate have led to another COVID surge.

Briana Conner Image
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Large events to continue despite warnings about omicron spread
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"It's like nothing we've seen before in this pandemic." COVID is having a direct impact on some of our area's most critical services, ABC13's Briana Conner reports.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Leaders in the City of Houston and Harris County said ignoring the warnings about COVID-19 is only making things worse for everyone.

A viewer reached out to ABC13 and said the city was weeks late picking up her recycling. Mayor Sylvester Turner explained Monday that you should expect every municipal department to be slower than usual because of how the virus is impacting staffing.

"COVID is having a direct impact on the city, on our operations, but we will work through it. I do ask everyone to be understanding and to be patient," Turner said, as he explained how the absences of hundreds of sick city workers are impacting the services people rely on.

He said the police and fire department's response time is about 15 seconds slower, and garbage collection is also delayed. "You have to be concerned with staffing, both within the city, schools, and hospitals. You name it. So, it's very concerning. In order to reach that peak and see numbers come down, there are certain things we should be doing."

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said people refusing to test, mask, and vaccinate have led to another surge.

"This time, it truly is a tsunami when it comes to those cases. It's like nothing we've seen before in this pandemic," she said.

At an elementary school in Spring Independent School District, she announced that the county's COVID-19 threat level is being raised to the highest level for a third time during the pandemic, which means transmission is out of control.

Harris County's omicron-driven COVID-19 surge pushes threat level back up to 'severe'

"Right now, for the sake of our hospitals and for the sake of our workforce, we have to sound the alarm once again," she said.

Despite the warnings, both Turner and Hidalgo said it's not time to shut down.

Large events like the Chevron Houston Marathon are moving forward.

Dr. Lars Thestrup, the marathon's medical director, said, "With everybody on board, and our hospitals being on board, as well as protocols we put in place, we feel we can have a very safe race for our runners."

Their plans allow for social distancing and masking. Beyond that, Dr. Thestrup asked everyone attending to pay attention to their bodies.

"Do not show up if you truly are symptomatic, or you know you have COVID. Do not race. Please stay home and get better. You can always switch over to the virtual event," he said.

Those are safety options that leaders say everyone should consider as they continue pleading with the public.

Turner said, "We're going to just have to find ways to move forward. We know more, and when you know more and know what to do, you need to do it."

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