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As Coronavirus Testing Ramps Up in the City of Houston, Harris County Prepares to Shelter-in-Place


Testing for the novel coronavirus – COVID-19 – is about to ramp up in the Houston Metro Region, even as Harris County officials appear ready to order residents to shelter-in-place.

Harris County Opens 2 COVID-19 Testing Sites

During a press conference earlier today,  Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Harris County had finally received enough supplies to scale up local testing sites. But she also urged residents to use to assess their symptoms and only proceed with testing if recommended. For those without a computer, a 24-hour phone bank is available at 832-927-7575.

“We want folks who are tested who have symptoms,” Judge Hidalgo noted.

People in neighboring counties can also use Harris County’s two new sites. But because the locations can only handle about 250 patients per day, there will be a waiting list for testing appointments. Results could take up to four days.

749 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in Texas

The novel coronavirus has sickened more than 372,000 people throughout the world, including at least 41,708 in the United States.  So far, 749 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state of Texas, including 153 in the Houston Metro Region. Harris County accounts for at least 74 of those cases.

Because many people infected with COVID-19 experience either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, research suggests between 5 and 10 coronavirus infections are going undetected for every case that’s confirmed.

COVID-19 is also highly contagious before symptoms appear, and even those who never develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others.

Harris County Shelter-in-Place Order Could Come within 24-Hours

Harris County reportedly began drafting a shelter-in-place order over the weekend, and such a directive could come within 24 hours. Public health experts have urged authorities around the world to institute such steps in a desperate bid to slow the global pandemic.

Dallas County – where more than 100 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed – announced a shelter-in-place order yesterday. The directive takes effect at 11:59 this evening and requires all county residents to remain at home except for crucial work and errands.

People in Waco have also been told to shelter-in-place, while similar orders are in the works for Travis County and the city of Austin.

“We want to make sure that we are prepared,” Mayor Steve Adler Statesman said earlier today.  “A shelter in place order is part of the emergency planning that is happening. There are discussions happening right now to that issue.”

Texas Governor Halts Elective Surgeries, Orders Hospitals to Up Capacity

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Governor Greg Abbott signed two new executive orders directing all Texas hospitals to halt elective surgeries and maximize bed capacity in preparation for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

He also indicated the Texas National Guard would be deployed to help where needed in the weeks to come.

While Governor Abbott has resisted issuing a state-wide shelter-in-place order, all public gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned in Texas. That directive has effectively shut down all restaurants, bars, schools and gyms throughout the state.

Texas Healthcare Workers Short on Masks, Other PPE

Like their counterparts elsewhere, Texas healthcare workers are struggling to cope with a shortage of masks and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed to prevent COVID-19 infection while they care for patients.

On Sunday, Governor Abbot reiterated his plea to the federal government to step up the production and acquisition of PPE. But he also indicated Texas was ready and willing to purchase these supplies from private companies.

“We have ready money to pay for anybody who can sell PPE to us, we will cut you a check on the spot,” the Governor said.

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