A “board of shame” could be coming for city businesses that violate Harris County’s face mask mandate.
At his daily news conference, Mayor Sylvester Turner said he was considering the board that would identify businesses that are “working against the rules.” The county’s mask order, which went into effect Monday, requires all businesses to mandate face masks for staff and customers when indoors.
Turner specifically spoke about bars and restaurants, where crowds have flocked to in recent weeks at a time when the Greater Houston area’s novel coronavirus numbers are beginning increase.
Under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening plan, bars are allowed to open at 50 percent normal capacity, while restaurants can welcome up to 75 percent of their normal capacity.
Over the weekend, however, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission suspended the license of 17 bars in the state, including two in the Houston area, for being over capacity and not enforcing social distancing.
Turner said members with both the Houston police and fire departments will be enforcing bars and restaurants this weekend and tipping off TABC about those businesses that aren’t following the rules.
No one will be jailed, but Turner said “I do think it’s important for people to know who’s being a good citizen and who’s not.”
“I do want to put people on notice that as we move closer to the weekend we are going to actively monitoring whether or not people are complying with occupancy requirements, wearing their masks, because we want to really crack down on people who are not adhering to the rules,” Turner said.
Houston reported 987 new cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths linked to the virus. Houston has more than 16,000 cases of the virus, including 204 deaths.
More than 3,500 people have recovered.
Throughout Greater Houston, which includes 20 counties tracked daily by KHOU 11, there are nearly 39,000 cases of the coronavirus and 570 deaths.
Fifteen of those deaths came on Thursday, the regions highest total since the pandemic began.
There are 16,402 recoveries in the region.
The Texas Medical Center reported Wednesday that 97 percent of its ICU beds were occupied, of which 27 percent by patients with COVID-19.
In a letter addressed to everyone in Greater Houston, TMC officials urged people to take precautions to slow the virus' spread.
“If this trend continues, our hospital system capacity will become overwhelmed, leading us to make difficult choices of delaying much-needed non-COVID care to accommodate a greater number of COVID patients,” officials stated in the letter.
TMC officials said that they could reach surge capacity for ICU beads on Thursday, which includes an extra 373 beds. If the current spike in cases continues, hospitals could go into emergency surge capacity by July.
“Please take this virus seriously,” Turner said. “The goal is to, again, flatten this curve and slow the progression to make sure we don’t become the epicenter of this virus in this country.”
Dr. David Persse, the health authority of the Houston Health Department, said all Houstonians can do their part.
“Wearing a mask and social distancing, those are the keys to changing the course of this virus and flattening the curve,” Persse said. “And everyone of us can do that.”
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