Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ruling that all retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, libraries and museums will open at 25 percent has sent local leaders scrambling to adjust to the directive. To that end, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a new mitigation plan to address reopening the county.
“We want to get the economy back on track — safely,” she noted at an April 28 press conference. “As the epicenter of COVID-19 in Texas, we can’t take our eye off the ball,” Hidalgo added. “The mantra has been action, action, action.”
Hidalgo said the county’s plan is to “root out, stop, and contain COVID-19.” She noted a risk of a spike or resurgence in cases, as has occurred in other countries. “With good reason, folks are concerned about a second wave,” she said.
The judge laid out three facets of the new plan and how each would be addressed.
The county will soon have the ability to test 1,600 residents a day, and will deploy a “strike team” to test at nursing homes. Hidalgo noted that the county looks to keep new cases to 100 per day or less.
Harris County will exponentially expand its contact tracing workforce. Some 300 new workers will reach out to infected residents, to help contain and limit the spread of the disease. All new employees will be recruited and trained by experienced epidemiologists and an “army” of scientists, according to Hidalgo.
Hospital admissions are “not where they need to be,” which Hidalgo added is “concerning” with some 200 admissions a day. She pushed for residents to continue to wear masks.
“We continue to need your sacrifice, your efforts, and your help,” she added, which includes face covering, social distancing, and getting tested if there is a suspicion of symptoms.
Hidalgo’s announcement comes as the county’s mandatory mask order went into effect Monday, April 27. Abbott responded to Hidalgo’s order, saying: “We strongly recommend that everyone wear a mask. However, it's not a mandate, and we made it clear, no jurisdiction can impose any type of penalty or fine.”