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Houston's COVID-19 death rate among lowest of major U.S. cities: 'What we're doing is working'

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the precautions and guidelines put in place by local leaders have made an impact, but there's a long road ahead.

HOUSTON — While it appears the stay-at-home orders and the social distancing taking place across Harris County are working in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made one thing very clear.

There’s still a long road ahead.

Speaking at his daily COVID-19 news conference Wednesday, Turner said he spoke with officials at the Texas Medical Center who told him that it appears today the curve could be flattening.

“Yesterday was successful, today was successful,” Turner said of limiting the spread of the virus. “If we continue to stay home, if we continue to work safely, if we continue to engage in social distancing, wear our face coverings, then each day I think we can continue to flatten the curve, slow the progression of this virus.”

Turner pointed to a series of charts during the news conference that showed Houston’s COVID-19 numbers much lower than those of other large U.S. cities, such as New York, New Orleans and Seattle.

Credit: City of Houston
Credit: City of Houston

There were 1,462 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in New Orleans, a national hot spot for the virus, according to the mayor’s charts.

In Houston, that number was 99. In Harris County, not including the city, it was 68.

In terms of COVID-19-related deaths, New York has 94.1 deaths per 100,000 residents, the most in the nation.

Houston has 1.1. Harris County, not including the city, has 1.2.

“To put things in perspective: actions we are taking is worth it,” the mayor said. “I want to assure people.”

The mayor announced 52 new positive cases of the coronavirus in Houston today, bringing the city’s total to 2,331. There were also three deaths: two African-American men, one in his 60s the other in his 80s, and a Caucasian man in his 50s. All three had underlying health conditions.

Dr. David Persse, the city’s leading health authority, also cautioned that while the numbers today seem favorable to slowing the spread, that could change instantly.

“All of these things that we’re doing, all these strategies put in place by Mayor Turner and (County) Judge Hidalgo are working,” Persse said. “When we hit the peak, whenever that should be, that is not game over. That is halftime.” 

As for the medical center, Turner said he spoke with officials who told him given Wednesday’s numbers and the guidelines in place, there are currently enough staff, ventilators and ICU beds to handle the cases coming in.

“We want to keep it that way. We want to take it one day at a time,” Turner said.

At an afternoon news conference in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, President Trump said that "new (COVID-19) cases in Houston and New Orleans are declining. But Persse said while he hopes that's true, the current data doesn't show it.

Walgreens opening local testing sites 

Walgreens will open two drive-through testing sites in Harris County—one in Houston, another in Harris County—that will offer free COVID-19 testing to residents.

The testing will be prioritized to health care workers, first responders, people 65 or older or those with pre-exisiting health conditions with symptoms.

They will be located at the Walgreens at 14351 Westheimer Road off Highway 6 and in Pasadena at 101 West Southmore Avenue. (Note: The Westheimer location does not show up on most online map services because it is a closed location. Walgreens is re-opening that site to conduct testing.)

Reliant makes COVID-19 donations 

During the mayor’s news conference, Reliant announced it is donating $300,000 to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

An official with Reliant said it will donate $150,000 to city for personal protection equipment. Another $150,000 is going to the Houston COVID-19 recovery fund.

Great news if you watch TV with an antenna

KHOU has just upgraded its technology. If you were unable to receive KHOU with your antenna in the past, try again on channel 11.11. You may have to rescan your channels for it to work – if that’s the case, we’ve got some instructions at KHOU.com/antenna. If you already see KHOU on 11.1, you may now ALSO see it on 11.11 – it’s the exact same programming. We’re really excited to be able to bring our KHOU 11 News, CBS shows and sports, Wheel of Fortune, Ellen and Great Day Houston to more homes around the area. If you’re still having trouble, please contact us here and we’ll try to get you set up.

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