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Houston surpasses 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, Mayor Turner says

The push for vaccinations has become more urgent as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase.

HOUSTON — Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday reported the city of Houston has surpassed 3,000 deaths from COVID-19.

During a news conference, Turner said 3,010 people have died from the virus since the pandemic began. He urged everyone to get vaccinated and said 69.4 percent of Houstonians have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 57 percent of Houstonians are fully vaccinated, he said.

"I don’t want anyone to live a life of regret and realize in their final moments that they could have avoided getting sick or experienced milder symptoms if they had only taken the vaccine," Turner said.

Dr. David Persse, the city's chief medical officer, said the COVID positivity rate in Houston is at 19.2 percent, on track to match the highest rate we saw in July 2020.

Dr. Persse said the city is seeing more people getting tested, so he is highly confident in the 19.2 percent positivity rate.

"Nearly 1 out of every 5 people getting tested is testing positive and spreading the delta variant," Dr. Persse said.

Dr. Persse also said we've reached the highest point of the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Houston at 1,817. The previous high was 1,670 people in July 2020.

He said 629 people in Houston diagnosed with COVID-19 are waiting for hospital beds, and 112 more are waiting for beds in the ICU.

"Our way out of this is through the vaccine," Dr. Persse said.

Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department, said his department continues to offer opportunities to get the vaccine at health clinics and multiservice centers, as well as testing sites throughout the city. Mayor Turner said as a result of the city's Super Saturday events each week in August, more than 2,500 people have been vaccinated, including 500 people last Saturday.

Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña said the increasing positivity rate is affecting his department as well as the police department and others throughout the area. He said call volume has increased by 20 percent and reported an increase from 1,000 calls for service per day to up to 1,200. He said hospital transports have increased to 400 per day to now 500 per day.

"This issue is affecting not only those sick with coronavirus; it’s affecting everyone needing calls for service," Peña said.

Houston Health Department is offering free vaccinations at more than a dozen pop-up and fixed sites throughout the area. There is also an option for in-home vaccinations for eligible seniors, persons with disabilities and veterans. 

The push for vaccinations has become more urgent in recent weeks as the city experiences a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The trauma service area that includes Houston has hit its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic. As of Monday, there were 2,977 patients in the nine-county region.

RELATED: Sources: US to recommend COVID vaccine boosters at 8 months

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