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Houston limits cooling centers, hands out air condition units as city enters first summer amid COVID-19 pandemic

The annual "Beat the Heat" program will focus on bringing cooling resources into the homes of vulnerable residents this year.

HOUSTON — Coronavirus concerns has forced Houston officials to find new ways of assisting vulnerable residents who are unable to cool their homes during the sweltering summer months.

Mayor Sylvester Turner shared details Tuesday about the “Beat the Heat” program, which in previous years set up cooling centers throughout the Houston area.

Seniors, disabled residents and those in low-income neighborhoods have always been the main concern, but this year, the city plans to target most its resources a those groups.

Officials said only four cooling centers will be opened— one in each major quadrant of Houston— on a selective basis. Of course, visitors will undergo health screenings before entering and social distancing will be enforced.

"What we recognize in the era of COVID-19 is cooling centers will be open on a selective basis," Turner said. "Seniors are the main ones primarily visiting the cooling centers. That's what makes the portable A/C units so important in keeping people home."

Controlling coronavirus spread is top priority and Turner said the city will make adjustments to the program in event of an emergency situation.

On the back end, the city and program sponsor Reliant Energy is working to support vulnerable residents with cooling their homes versus corralling residents inside cooling centers.

"Beat the Heat" operations have been expanded, including the distribution of portable air conditioning units and other cooling resources.

Call 832-393-4301 to apply for the Beat the Heat program. Information is also available by calling 3-1-1.

If you live in the Harris County Precinct 2, the city asked that you contact Precint2gether at 713-274-2222.