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Mask up or pay up: Houston police will hand out $250 fines to people who aren't wearing masks

HPD officers will give people without a mask a warning first, but if they refuse to put one on, they'll be fined. "Lives are at stake," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

HOUSTON — The City of Houston has reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for six straight days. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner hopes a crackdown on people who refuse to wear a mask will help drive those numbers down.

  • Turner said police will issue $250 fines to anyone they see not wearing a mask. The person will get a warning first, but if they refuse to put a mask on, they'll be fined. "Lives are at stake so I'm taking this step to drive these numbers down," Turner said.
  • There is some good news. The mayor said COVID-19 hospitalizations in Houston have dropped and the positivity rate is down to 17.6%. That's down from a high of nearly 26% last month.
  • Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse said that's still way too high and it needs to be 5% or lower before contact tracing can be effective.
  • He said the average age of COVID patients in Houston is now 34. It peaked at 53 a few months back. The mayor blames too many street parties and house parties for spreading the virus among younger Houstonians.
  • Dr. Persse said they're seeing progress in treating coronavirus patients with remdesivir and with new techniques for using steroids.
  • The number of COVID-19 cases in Houston is just under 50,000 and 472 people here have died.
  • Texas crossed the 7,000 COVID-19 death mark Monday. The state's death toll is now at 7,016. Two-thousand of those deaths were reported in the last 10 days.

Map: Keeping track of Houston-area coronavirus cases

  • Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena said many people are waiting too long to call 911. By the time they get to the hospital, it's often too late. He said some never even make it to the hospital and end up dying at home. 
  • Pena confirmed HFD has lost another firefighter to COVID-19. Jerry Pacheco, who was both a firefighter and paramedic, had served with the department for 17 years. He was assigned to Station 101 in Kingwood. Pacheco's son is also a firefighter.

RELATED: Longtime HFD firefighter, whose son is also a firefighter, dies from COVID-19 complications: chief

  • Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said the wife of an HPD officer has also died from coronavirus. He asked people to stop complaining about "their rights" and focus on the greater good by wearing a mask.

The devastating effect on minority communities in Houston is still a top concern. 

"I certainly don't see progress," infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Hotez told KHOU. "It's the same thing every damn day. It's Hispanic, Hispanic, Black, Black, Hispanic. I think it's historic decimation of the Hispanic/Latina community, not only in Houston, but across Texas."

RELATED: 'It's the same thing every damn day' | Dr. Hotez says Houston COVID-19 numbers are still too high

It's why Mayor Turner launched the Better Together campaign. It's an emergency outreach effort to make sure Houstonians have the knowledge and skills to protect their families from COVID-19. The goal is to drop Houston's positivity rate down to 5% by the end of August.

"It doesn't end by magic," Hotez said. "It doesn't end unless we have human intervention."