Houston officials on Wednesday announced new rules that would allow some live events like concerts and attendance by fans at some sporting events to resume as the positivity rate for the coronavirus in the city continued to drop.
Events will be limited to small audiences of up to 25% of a venue’s capacity. People will have to wear masks, practice social distancing, have their temperatures checked and answer a health questionnaire after entering a venue.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said such events could expand as the city’s positivity rate for coronavirus infections continues to drop to 5%. The city’s positivity rate has steadily dropped in recent weeks and was at 7% as of Wednesday. The city’s positivity rate got as high as 26% in July.
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The downward positivity rate trend is statewide as the rolling, seven-day average reached 8% Tuesday, the most recent day for which the average is available. That’s down from 16% on Aug. 22 and a peak of 25% on Aug. 11, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported Wednesday.
“Even though we have a desire to re-socialize, so does the virus,” Turner said. “We would rather be cautious rather than aggressive.”
Some of the events the city has already approved include a drive-in tailgate party the Houston Texans plan to hold on Thursday. Up to 100 cars and 400 people will be allowed at the party in the NRG Stadium parking lot as the Texans open their season in Kansas City. Also, the Houston Symphony will host a series of concerts, allowing up to 150 guests at its 3,000-seat hall.
Fan attendance at games by the Houston Dynamo and Dash, the city’s professional soccer teams, also received city approval.
Some events like parades, festivals and fun runs are on hold for the rest of the year because officials say they would attract uncontrollable crowds.
“There would literally have to be a very major, major change, major change, like a vaccine — a credible one, let me add that — before that could happen,” Turner said for events like parades to resume.
Statewide, Texas health officials said 4,285 new cases of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 645,791 for the outbreak that’s been tracked since March. The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
Of those cases, state officials estimated 73,205 cases are currently active and 3,604 required hospitalization. The 139 COVID-19 deaths reported Wednesday brought the Texas death toll for the outbreak to 13,692. Harris County, where Houston is located, has reported the most cases with 112,039 since March, with 2,363 of those cases proving fatal.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.