HOUSTON — In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city is facing a dire hospital capacity situation and needs the state, or authority for local governments, to enact certain public health safety measures in order to avoid a "last resort" scenario.
Turner said Houston's needs are unique and he needs help from the state in order to "save lives, protect our hospital capacity and support your efforts to reopen the economy by enacting appropriate safety measures."
Turner wants the state (or the power to do so himself) to enact these orders:
- Mandatory masking (for individuals when gathering with non-household members inside or outside, not just through businesses and employers as currently authorized)
- Removal of exceptions for gatherings of more than 100 people and a reduction of the number of any social group gatherings from 100 to 50, or even 10
- Establishments such as "BYOB" or "gentlemen's" clubs that are regulated separately from bars, should be subject to the same regulations and closures as bars
- Prohibit termination of an employee who stays home to isolate while waiting for a test result on those grounds
- Bowling alleys and gyms to operate at 25 percent capacity
Turner said models show on its current trajectory, Houston could exceed its COVID-19 hospital capacity of 1,500 beds by mid-July.
Turner also asked for additional measures in order to help the most vulnerable communities:
- More isolation facilities so construction and health care workers have the needed opportunity to isolate and not infect household members, particularly family members who are elderly or immune-compromised
- More PPE or funds for PPE for vulnerable households
- Stipends for lost income for infected individuals who are isolating (so they isolate rather than return to work while infected or awaiting test results)
- More tests and more rapid lab response (test results in the area are now delayed up to 4 to 5 days, and by then are less beneficial for public health reasons)
Turner said the "last resort" is a return to a stay-home order. He also acknowledged that it would be better received "if we can tell people the exact number of days we would be re-engaging in this practice."
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