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'Don't invite COVID for Thanksgiving dinner': Mayor urges Houstonians to limit holiday gatherings to household members

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made a plea to the city for everyone to do their part in order to slow the spread of the virus.

HOUSTON — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Dr. David Persse, the city's leading health expert, talked Monday about how Houstonians should proceed with celebrations this holiday season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Turner said the percentage of people receiving positive results from their COVID-19 tests, known as the positivity rate, was at 7.9%, up from a low of 5% five weeks earlier.

“We are moving in the wrong direction,” Turner said.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and most health experts are concerned crowded gatherings and celebrations will trigger another surge of coronavirus cases. Recently, Texas became the first state to reach more than 1 million cases.

"Don't invite COVID for Thanksgiving dinner," Turner said during Monday's news conference.

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Turner said large gatherings with people who don't live in the same house could lead to another spike in cases.

"As we approach the holiday season ... Thanksgiving is upon us. ... These traditional gatherings ... are not the way to proceed," he said. "This virus thrives on gatherings and will take advantage of holiday festivities to sicken our loved ones and further spread through our community."

Persse said around 40% of people infected with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms and often spread the virus unknowingly.

“The person you’re most likely to infect is a member of your own family,” Persse said.

Both Persse and Turner said the city has plenty of free test sites offering quick results.

“The more people who get tested, and the more frequently that we as individuals go to get tested, the more empowered we are as individuals to not only protect ourselves but also to protect our family workers and our co-workers and our neighbors,” Persse said.

Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System remains at a level 1 red, which means residents are strongly advised to limit outings and contact with others as much as possible. It's also an indication that overall coronavirus breakouts are a concern for local health officials. 

However, there is a glimmer of hope going into the holiday season. 

Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer are on track to seek permission for emergency use in the U.S. within weeks. Still, initial supplies will be limited and rationed. Both are reporting effectiveness of more than 90%.

RELATED: Dr. Fauci says Moderna COVID-19 vaccine news 'impressive'

Turner and Persse were joined Monday by Memorial Hermann Health System President and CEO Dr. David L. Callender as well as Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena.