Mayor Turner gives take on Texas reopenings

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Minutes after Gov. Greg Abbott announced new steps in his plan to slowly reopen Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner reminded Houstonians that the virus "is still out there."

Earlier on Monday, Abbott announced the executive 'stay-at-home' order will be allowed to expire as scheduled this Thursday and said restaurants, movie theaters, malls and other businesses will be allowed to open the following day.

READ MORE: Gov. Abbott announces next steps today to reopen Texas

Turner reported 74 new COVID-19 cases in the city, bringing the total to 3,358.

"Let me just say that it is my hope that with the measures that are being put in place that our numbers will not spike," said Turner. "That is my hope. I fully understand the need to reopen the economy. It's my hope that the 'opening up' he is proposing will work. We also want to make sure our health care needs are not hurt at the same time."

Turner said a new testing site is now open at Barnett Athletic Complex, located at 6800 Fairway in southeast Houston, where they'll be able to administer up to 250 tests a day. Turner also said mobile testing will begin Tuesday near at-risk communities.

Turner also emphasized the need to protect the city's nursing homes. City heath department leader Dr. David Persse said there are about 100 'classic' nursing homes within the city limits and they've been in contact with about 50 of them.

On Friday, Persse said the city began a new program in which health department teams were sent to each of the 100 nursing homes plus more than 200 long-term care and senior living centers.

"Within our nursing homes, we have 177 COVID positive cases across 21 different facilities," said Persse. "Twelve of them have three or less cases."

Plus, the city is now equipped with 25,000 more masks thanks to a donation from the Bush Foundation. Neil Bush announced his donation at the briefing.

Turner said this will help support the city's "Mask Up" campaign he launched last week. So far, 66,000 masks have already been distributed.

In an update provided by HFD Chief Samuel Pena, the fire department is preparing a contingency plan in case the city sees a rise in COVID-19 related calls.
"We have to do what we need to prepare and to take care of our fire fighters' safety," said Pena.

Meanwhile, HPD Chief Art Acevedo took time to remind people that even though the state will slowly reopen on Friday, without a mandate to wear a mask from the state, a business can still require you to wear a mask if they choose.

Here are the previous details on this story:

READ MORE: Harris Co. mask order official and comes with $1,000 fine

Additionally, Texas stores and businesses began reopening as "retail-to-go" before the weekend.

SEE MORE: Houston-area malls reopening with 'retail to-go' today

Now, Turner faces additional guidance from Austin on how to reopen the state wider. Gov. Greg Abbott is due to speak several hours after Turner and two U.S. lawmakers - Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia - helped open a new testing site in southeast Houston at the Barnett Sports Complex at 6800 Fairway. The site is the latest to offer testing to anyone with or without symptoms.
Abbott promised to advise about additional openings, which could have a profound effect on whether the Houston area can truly flatten curve.
As of Monday afternoon, the city confirmed 3,358 cases in nearly two months of the pandemic's presence in Houston. The death toll went up by four to 46. Before the weekend, Turner also announced the first city death involving a patient with no underlying health issues.

SEE ALSO: 35th Houston virus death is 1st with no underlying health issues

And in the middle of this all, Houston and Harris County are due to see their "Stay Home, Work Safe" order expire. Turner told reporters Friday that he will defer to the governor for next steps.

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