Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will self-quarantine after a staff member in her office tested positive for COVID-19, she said Sunday.
The announcement came as Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials met with Gov. Greg Abbott in Dallas to talk about the surging infection rates across the state.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas have doubled in the last 10 days, and the rate of positive tests rose over the last week from about 9 percent to 13 percent, according to a Houston Chronicle analysis. Houston-area residents also have reported long wait times at testing sites, with some people arriving in the wee hours of the morning to claim their spot in line.
Hidalgo’s staff member, who was not identified in a news release, tested positive over the weekend. Hidalgo was potentially exposed to the virus June 22. She and other staff members plan to get tested and self-quarantine until July 6, two weeks from the date of the possible exposure.
Hidalgo has not shown any symptoms, and she plans to continue her duties virtually, the news release said.
“Given what we have learned, I will be quarantining at home. The reality of it is, there are thousands of residents across Harris County that are increasingly finding themselves in the same position I am in today,” Hidalgo said in the release.
“There are rising numbers of residents testing positive for this virus, and more and more requiring hospitalization. We are at Threat Level 1 – Red – and I continue to call on everyone to stay home except for essential activities, Hidalgo said. “That is the only way we avoid a crisis in our hospital system and put our community in a position to reopen in a smarter and more sustainable way. We will beat this threat together as a community and I will continue to ensure we are pursuing every option we have to bring this back under control.”
Normal county operations will continue uninterrupted, the release said. Most county judge staff members have already been working from home, and those who work from the office have been wearing masks and social distancing, according to a county spokesperson.
Harris County reported 113 new COVID-19 cases Sunday for a total of 29,272. The Houston region’s case tally jumped by 359 cases, bringing the total to 40,720. An additional two deaths in the region brought that figure to 526 overall.
The statewide COVID-19 total increased by 4,133 cases — from 147,374 to 151,507 — with 12 new deaths.
The surge in cases has been met with a renewed fervor to find tests.
In Houston, the line outside the Mexican consulate testing site started around 1 a.m. Sunday, said Alicia Kerber-Palma, the consul general. She arrived at the Caroline Street facility at 7 a.m. and saw several dozen more people standing outside the gate and others in cars.
Some, she said, were undocumented and hesitant to seek out testing at other facilities.
“When you’re undocumented, you’re afraid of everything,” Kerber-Palma said.
Kerber-Palma stressed that government documents for those seeking a test would not be necessary. She hoped to have anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people swabbed for the virus. The privately-run United Memorial Medical Center in Acres Home was operating the testing site.
By noon, cars snaked throughout the Museum District, the Medical Center and the neighboring highway in Midtown with motorists hoping to snag a free test. A convoy of cars with Mexican flags fluttering outside the windows passed the brunt of the line and honked their cars.
Many like Rolando Navear, 80, arrived early. He picked up two neighbors in Gulfgate and was in line at 2 a.m. Others were there before him, he said.
“I knew it was going to be a lot of people,” Navear said.
Waiting in the shade was Yoselin Galvan, 14, a future Eisenhower High School freshman, and her parents, Cecilia and John.
Galvan said her family walked to the consulate at 7 a.m. and by noon, the three of them were still waiting in line on tree-lined Caroline Street.
“My mom needed (the test) for work,” Galvan said.
A co-worker of her mother’s at a northwest Houston taqueria tested positive on Thursday, the teen said.
Martha Velenzuela tried for a week to find a test from an array of facilities, including the federally-funded municipal sites. She arrived at the site at 5 a.m. Sunday with her husband and five children. She was feeling OK but wanted to make sure she was not asymptomatic.
“But they had run out of tests so that’s why we came here,” Velenzuela said. “It’s a pain in the butt.”