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Houston mayor sets positivity rate challenge: lower it from 23% to 5% or below

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Mayor Sylvester Turner set a challenge for Houstonians heading into August: go from 23% to 5% in coronavirus positivity rate.

During his COVID-19 briefing from city hall Thursday, Turner pressed his city to make personal habits out of the necessary acts being recommended to lower the key virus indicator.

Turner is also hoping that his “Better. Together.” multilingual health education campaign will bolster that message.

“Thousands of our family and friends have been sickened and hundreds of Houstonians have died because of the virus,” said Turner. “‘Better. Together.’ means it will take Houstonians working together for our city to get better. It also reminds us the proven behaviors of wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands and getting tested work better together to slow the spread.”

Turner had the virus’ devastating impact on the Hispanic community in mind with the push.

According to the city, Hispanic Houstonians account for about 40% of cases and 45% of deaths. As of Thursday, the city has reported 45,415 cases of COVID-19 and 432 associated deaths.

Turner announced 15 new deaths on Thursday, which is the second-highest number of new deaths in a day in Houston.

Turner added the new campaign is important because the virus continues to spread out of control. He added that they’re going to continue to ramp up testing in the city’s most at-risk neighborhoods.

“One of the things that we are very much focused on doing is ramping up our testing and educational programs in areas that are dominated with those heavy Hispanic populations, because that community is getting even more disproportionately impacted because of COVID-19,” Turner said. “So there’s a strong emphasis on trying to expand our resources into areas that are heavily concentrated by Hispanics.”

In addition to television, radio, print and digital advertisements, “Better. Together.” will include direct outreach into the city’s most vulnerable communities through neighborhood canvassing, signage in public places, toolkits for businesses and organizations, and virtual education sessions.

“In order to bring our positivity rate down, we must continue to go directly into communities,” said Dr. Faith Foreman-Hays, chief of the health department’s Office of Chronic Disease, Health Education and Wellness. “This means we must educate people in their homes, schools, parks, businesses, houses of worship, restaurants and other places.”

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