City of Houston Securing Bed Space, Waiting on Additional COVID-19 Tests

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says the city is working to secure more bed space as more residents test positive for COVID-19 and need to be quarantined.

"We're in the process of solidifying lease arrangements with two hotels that provide us with an additional 180 rooms," Turner told reporters Wednesday. "In terms of hospitals and additional space, we have identified certain buildings and facilities in the city of Houston and we've made that information available to our hospitals and to the Texas Medical Center."

However, the mayor says they're still waiting for another shipment of testing kits. He also says the city, county and hospitals are still in dire need of n-95 masks.

The mayor also was pressed about city employees unhappy they're being forced to work during the county's "Stay Home Work Safe" order.

"I certainly understand the anxiety level that's out there, that is real," said Turner. "But the reality is we are public employees and we too are on the front line. We have to be available to make sure the city continues to run and the 2.3 million people in the city, that their needs are met."

"If they just feel uncomfortable and they don't want to work, they certainly can exercise their vacation time or their accrued sick leave time," he added. "What the city of Houston, the government, cannot do is we cannot afford to send thousands of employees home who are not able to do their jobs remotely, but they're just going home, and then continue to pay for them while they're at home."

Mayor Turner also defended METRO's decision to continue bus and light rail service across the city.

"For many people in our city, they don't have cars and trucks," he said. "If they work for an employer that's deemed essential, they have to get to their place of business. And for many individuals who don't have cars and trucks, the grocery stores are open and they need to get there."

Some also have questioned the definition of "essential businesses" since many remain open to the public under the "stay home" order.

"Your gas stations, the laundromat, cleaning services, they are open. And the rationale for that is if you're telling people to stay home, you still need those types of services to support them," said Turner. "Plumbers and electricians. You can't tell people to stay home and then they have housing issues that need to be addressed."

He directed any business owner or employee questioning whether they're an "essential service" to call Harris County at: (832) 393-4220.