COVID-19 tests should be part of weather prep, mayor says

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Sunday, August 23, 2020
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner emphasizes COVID-19 testing as severe weather preparation
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Mayor Turner said knowing your health status is crucial especially if sheltering with friends or family happens to be the case.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Mayor Sylvester Turner emphasized Saturday morning the importance of a COVID-19 test as part of the preparation for tropical weather expected next week.

Turner made the comments at a free food and mask distribution site in Alief.

He reminded Houstonians it is the third anniversary of Hurricane Harvey and stressed the importance of knowing your health status as the city may have to deal with both a pandemic and the impacts of a hurricane or tropical storm.

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"We really have to smile because we're dealing with coronavirus, and then at the same time who would have thought two storms coming into the Gulf in the same week as we are acknowledging the third anniversary of Hurricane Harvey," he said.

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Harvey made its first landfall along the south Texas coast on Aug. 25, 2017, before making a second landfall on Aug. 30 near Cameron, Louisiana. Parts of Houston were drenched with more than 50 inches of rain as the storm flooded thousands of structures and killed 68 people.

"Just preparing for a hurricane, you also want to make sure that you have your mask as part of that kit," said Turner. The sanitizers, all of those things that will put you in the best position. You should get tested. I can't emphasize that enough because, quite frankly, if you're having to bunk with other family members, or friends, or neighbors or go to a shelter, you really need to know your status."

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He said to take advantage of the 20 free public testing sites throughout the city.

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Turner confirmed the George R. Brown Convention Center will continue to serve as somewhat of a hub for shelter.

"During Hurricane Harvey we had about 10,000 people at the George R. Brown," he said. "We won't be able to have that type of number for them if there is a need. The occupancy will be literally cut in half because we'll have to spread people out and engage in social distancing."

His solution: Use hotel rooms.

The city of Houston has identified 3,000 hotel rooms that'll be available, along with a number of shelter and faith-based churches.

While Turner said the city is much more prepared now than during Harvey, he doesn't want to make weather history.

"Houston has a way of making history," he said. "I don't necessarily want to make history at this particular time, but I will tell you, when I was listening to the weather reports and they said not one storm but two storms moving in the Gulf at the same time, in the third week of Harvey, I just had to smile. I had to smile and say, 'You have got to be kidding.'"