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Houston reports 8.4% COVID-19 positivity rate; officials continue to push testing

As of Monday, the City of Houston reported more than 97,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 1,500 deaths.

HOUSTON — No new coronavirus deaths were reported in Houston during the Thanksgiving weekend, but public health officials are concerned a lack of testing and adherence to safety guidelines could keep the city on a dangerous track.

Mayor Sylvester Turner is specifically urging residents who traveled during Thanksgiving to get tested as they returned home.

Houston reported 685 new cases during a briefing Monday, bringing the city’s total to 97,703 total cases. There was a slight drop in the city’s positivity rate from 8.8 percent to 8.4 percent, experts said it’s not enough to suggest a downward trend.

November was the second busiest month for Houston Health Department testing sites, where more than 90,000 people were tested between Nov. 1 – 28.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also spoke during Monday’s briefing.

It was a somber weekend for the Houston Police Department following the death of senior officer Ernest Leal Jr. He is the first confirmed HPD officer death related to coronavirus.

Leal spent several weeks in intensive care before passing away Saturday. He was honored with a police escort.

HPD said a public visitation is scheduled for Wednesday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at St. Patrick Catholic Church at 4918 Cochran Street.

The funeral service will take place on Thursday at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church at 11507 Huffmeister Road. It’s reserved for family, friends, HPD staff and those who knew Leal.

There’s no doubt that COVID cases are on the rise, but Mayor Turner said there is still time to manage the virus.

Many have been wondering if Turner would enforce a curfew for Houstonians to slow the spread of the virus, and although a curfew has not been set, Turner has hinted that it’s not unlikely.

“If it gets to the point…in talking with the healthcare professionals…if they say to me that we just have to utilize some additional steps, then I’m going to listen, and sometimes you have to make the hard call,” Mayor Turner said. “It is important that we do everything we can to protect the health and safety and welfare of the people in our city.”

Mayor Turner said local government leaders are limited in what they can do, but a curfew is one of the few things they can implement.

On Friday, Turner said local hospitalizations are at 888, up 111 percent from last month. However, he said capacity remains high, and Houston is still in phase 1 of hospitalizations. The city was in phase 2 during the big summer spike.