As Sylvester Turner prepared himself and his city for the governor-ordered Phase I reopening of Texas on Friday, the Houston mayor reported three more deaths and 98 more positive cases of COVID-19 Thursday.
He once again repeated his mantra of caution. Just because theaters are clear to open up doesn't mean you have to be in one of those seats, he said. "The virus is still in our city, still prevalent."
"I will not be at the mall. I will not be at the restaurants. I will be home watching television," he said in response to a question. His fear is that if people start coming together and do not wear masks, do not keep to social distancing practices, that they will spark a resurgence of the coronavirus.
All city permitted and sponsored events will continue to be cancelled through May. The Houston Public Library System will remain closed through May also, he said. City employees working remotely will continue to do so through the end of May. "We may resume normal operations on June 1," he said.
Under the governor's orders announced April 27, all retail stores, restaurants. movie theaters and malls can reopen but must practice social distancing measures and limit themselves to no more than 25 percent of their normal occupancy. Sporting activities that involve four or fewer people at a time are allowed.
Independently, although given the green light to open, some museums such as the Blaffer Art Museum, the Czech Center Museum Houston, announced they will not be opening on May 1, preferring to take more time. The Holocaust Museum Houston is planning for a May 26 re-opening.
The city's health authority, Dr. David Persse, said that businesses reopening their offices should remember that water has been stagnant in their pipes for some days. "The Public Works Department is advising that you flush the water from all the faucets at least for several minutes." Any refrigerator ice makers should be run several times and the ice discarded until they are sure it is clean. "At the end the water should be clear and it should be odorless. If there are any problems please call 311."
Houston's Health Department has been working with Rice University researchers to test wastewater in one area of town. Turns out, the virus is shed in stool samples and they believe this will give them another way to measure the spread of the disease.
In additional to the city's numbers of COVID-19 cases, now totaling 56 deaths and 3,613 positive cases, Harris County reported Thursday that its total of coronavirus deaths stood at 58 with 2,743 total confirmed cases.
Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.