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Mayor Turner says Houston COVID-19 positivity rate increases to 8.8%; Curfew isn't needed at this time

The number of coronavirus cases in the City of Houston surpassed 100,000 over the weekend.

HOUSTON — The City of Houston's COVID-19 positivity rate has increased to 8.8%, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner. That's up from 8.4% from last week. The goal is to get to 5% or below.

Houston surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 cases over the weekend. As of Monday, there have been 101,300 total cases reported since the pandemic began in March.

One bright spot, Turner said, is hospitalizations were down this week and are much lower than during the summer surge.

Based on key numbers, the mayor said a curfew isn't necessary right now but it's still on the table.

RELATED: 'Already have a surge': Expert warns of 'dire' situation as Houston crosses 100,000 COVID-19 cases

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“I reserve the right to do it based on the numbers we are watching. That is a nuclear option. You’ll hurt not only your bad actors but your good actors as well," Turner said. "I’ll look at numbers, talk to medical pros first. If we need to go there, I’ll go there. Not there yet to pull the trigger."

Here are other key bullet points from the Monday afternoon briefing: 

  • Houston Health Department Director Stephen Williams said the vaccine won't be widely available until at least the spring of 2021. He said the city will make sure people in high-risk categories have access and equity. Vaccine strike teams will be sent into low-income neighborhoods and vaccines will be given at health centers and multi-service centers. 
  • Turner urged everyone "in the strongest terms" to get the vaccine when they become eligible. "By taking the vaccine, you protect not only yourself but others." The mayor said he'll take it publicly when it's his turn.
  • Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said HFD has submitted the names of 1,500 EMS first responders who qualify for the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine. Firefighters are eligible in the second phase. The vaccine will not be mandatory at this time. The vaccinations will be done by Methodist Hospital.  
  • Pena said the department is currently staffed at 220 firefighters below the optimal level. The shortage in manpower is made worse by the number of firefighters in COVID-19 quarantine. They've had to park some ladder trucks but all stations are open and all ambulances are running. The city has approved funding for more overtime to help. Pena said they plan to hire 280 more firefighters in 2021. 
  • The chief said crews responded to 105 complaints about occupancy at city businesses over the weekend. He pointed out that complying with the 75% occupancy limit can still cause problems if people don't social distance. "That’s the issue we keep seeing. Beyond occupancy, it’s the grouping of people," Pena said.
  • City Council will vote Wednesday on approving $2M in additional funding for the Houston Food Bank. They've seen a 200% increase in food distribution during the pandemic.
  • They'll also vote on CARES ACT funds for BARC to help find homes for thousands of animals. The number of people surrendering their pets is up dramatically because of the pandemic. BARC will use the money to transport them to other areas.

RELATED: Houston Food Bank doubles distributions during pandemic

On Sunday, infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez said we're in a dire situation in Texas and nationally and the Thanksgiving surge hasn't even reached its peak.

"People are coming in sicker than they were in the past," Hotez said. "That gives me a lot of concern that people aren't taking this seriously."

Hotez said things will get worse before they get better.

"This is going to be a very grim next couple of months, unfortunately," Hotez said. "These next two months is when the loss of life will be at its maximum."

The virus could kill 10,000 to 15,000 more Texans by Feb. 1 so Hotez and other public health officials are urging folks to not let their guard down this holiday season.

"This is a tough time. The key is not to lose your mother, father, brother or sister when we know if get them to the other side we can get them vaccinated," Hotez said.

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