Update on Coronavirus
April 24, 2020

Over the last few weeks, I have been working with the mayor and City health officials to secure the resources necessary to bring free COVID-19 testing to District I and east/southeast Houston.

On Monday, April 27, the City will further expand its partnership with United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) by opening another FREE drive-through COVID-19 testing site at HISD's Barnett Stadium located at 6800 Fairway Drive. In the past couple of days, my team and I have been finalizing logistics with UMMC staff, the Health Department, HPD and HISD. While the Barnett site will be open to all residents who want to be tested, I especially want to encourage those who have symptoms or may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 to get tested.

Testing will be conducted by United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) in partnership with the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department beginning Monday, April 27 through Friday, May 1, at 9 a.m. each day. Only 250 tests will be performed per day on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no need to call ahead or to pre-register. No walk-ups will be allowed at this time. Operations will be reviewed at the end of the week and extended as needed.

Testing for COVID-19 continues to be a critical tool in our fight against the virus. The data generated through testing not only helps sick people self-isolate and seek the appropriate medical care, it helps health and government officials better understand the scope of the problem and direct needed resources to where cases are rising.

The testing being conducted in majority-minority communities like this one, where many have no or little health insurance and lack access to adequate health care, will be especially crucial to slowing and ultimately defeating COVID-19. This is an important step, and I will continue pushing for more testing and resources in our underserved communities.

Robert Gallegos
Houston Council Member
District I
Mandatory Face Coverings Required
Beginning Monday, April 27, all Harris County residents will be required to wear face coverings when in public.

The order signed last week by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo requires face coverings that may include homemade masks, scarves, bandanas, an old t-shirt or handkerchiefs for everyone 10 years of age and older. Your face covering doesn’t have to be a medical-grade mask – in fact, I urge you to leave the surgical and N95 masks for our healthcare workers. The CDC has more information online on how to wear and clean cloth face coverings. 

The order will be in effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, April 27, 2020 and will continue until May 26, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
COVID Cases, and FREE Testing
As of Thursday, April 23, the City of Houston reported 3,046 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths. That's an increase of over 700 new cases since my report to you last week. Statewide, there are 21,981 confirmed cases, and over 864,000 cases across the country. 

The City of Houston's testing sites are available to ANYONE who wants to be tested for COVID-19. You no longer need to have symptoms, but you do need to call 832-393-4220 to be provided a unique identification code and directions on where to go. The call volume is high, so if you're not able to connect the first time please try again. 

Residents can also take an online self-assessment tool to help determine whether you may need further assessment or need to be tested for COVID-19. Visit www.ReadyHarris.org for more information.

 Who should be tested for COVID-19?
People with fever* above 100.4°F (38°C) and respiratory symptoms who:
  • Have had close contact** with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Have other health conditions (diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, pregnancy)
  • Are age 60 and older
  • Are residents of nursing homes
  • Part of an investigation of a cluster or an outbreak
  • Are Healthcare workers/First responders
HISD to Stay Closed for Remainder of School Year
In accordance with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement last week (April 17) for all Texas schools, the Houston Independent School District will stay closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. 

This decision comes in response to a new executive order by Gov. Abbott to continue safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and that all public and private schools should not reopen for the current school year. Through the end of the school year on June 1, the district will continue online learning and virtual operations at the district level.
Food Distribution
HISD has continued its food distribution program this week and will continue with another 25 sites operating throughout the district during the week of April 27 . Distribution is taking place outside in the parking lot and families must sign-in. The program will be reviewed throughout the week and extended as needed.

This Saturday, April 25, HISD will be partnering with the Houston Food Bank to organize a mass food distribution site from 4-7 p.m. in the Yellow Parking Lot at NRG Stadium. The goal is to accommodate working families who are unable to visit HISD-sponsored distribution sites on weekdays. Those who walk to the site must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. There will be no forms to fill out.

The City of Houston is working with Gallery Furniture to provide care packages for seniors and disabled residents . If your are a senior or a resident with a disability, fill out a request form to receive a care package of toiletries and other non perishable foods delivered to your front door. Click here to submit your request . A request can also be made by calling 713-694-5570.

The Houston Parks Department continues its Curbside Meal Program for Youth, ages 1 to 18. The Curbside Meal distribution of a free snack and lunch will take place Monday – Friday from 1-3 p.m. The program is offered at 47 park community centers in the city.

The Tejano Center at 2950 Broadway continues to operate a free breakfast and lunch program for youth 18 and under. The program is operating as a drive-through service, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. Community Family Centers operates a small food pantry for families in need as well. For more information please call them at 713-923-2316. 

Additionally, Harris County Precinct 2 is distributing food at parks (for children only) and community centers (all ages). The program is operating as a drive-through service Monday through Friday on a first come, first serve basis. For more information, please contact Precinct 2 at 713-274-2222. 

Numerous organizations in our area have also partnered with the Houston Food Bank to operate several food distribution sites throughout the city. To find a food distribution site near you visit www.HoustonFoodBank.org or call their helpline at 832-369-9390.
Complete the 2020 Census TODAY!
The Census is happening NOW! Unfortunately, District I has been reporting low response rates - only about 40% of our friends and neighbors have responded to the Census. While that's a little higher than last week, we need all District I residents to complete their Census. The Census data will help determine billions of dollars in funding for our hospitals, emergency services, and healthcare programs - and we will need it to begin a strong recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

Visit www.my2020Census.gov or call 1-844-330-2020 to get started - It's quick, easy, and safe. The 2020 Census does not ask whether you or anyone in your home is a U.S. citizen. Everyone living in the country, including non-citizens, counts. Complete the 2020 Census online TODAY !
Economic Impact Payments
With passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2 trillion federal aid package, workers will receive a one-time Economic Impact Payment check of $1,200 for each adult making under $75,000 a year, $2,400 per couple earning under $150,000 a year, and $500 per child. 

Checks will be delivered directly by the IRS to most Americans who filed federal income tax returns in 2019 or 2018. Most people should receive their money by the end of April through direct deposit.

If the IRS does not have your bank account and has not already sent your payment, you can submit your banking information for direct deposit by visiting: irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments If the IRS doesn't have your bank information, it will send a paper check to your last known address. Those checks will likely be sent out starting at the end of April through early September.
Price Gouging is Illegal
We received questions and complaints about some businesses that are selling goods for unreasonably high prices. Price gouging is illegal in Texas, and a disaster declaration triggers tough penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The State Attorney General (AG) has a complaint hotline as well as an online complaint form. Residents who believe they have encountered price gouging should call the AG’s complaint line at 800-621-0508 or file a complaint online: www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection
Stay Informed
Please continue to stay informed through official resources such as the Houston Office of Emergency Management’s Coronavirus webpage and Harris County Public Health. If you have any questions regarding COVID-19, the Houston Health Department has established a Call Center: 832-393-4220. Residents can also call the Harris Health Ask My Nurse line for COVID-19-related questions at 713-634-1110 from 9 a.m.-7 p.m., 7 days a week. 

The District I office remains open and is here to serve residents. While our City Hall office is closed to foot traffic, our staff is working remotely from home. Please continue to send emails to districti@houstontx.gov or call 832-393-3011 if you need assistance with a city service. We are committed to providing residents the same level of support and service during this time.