Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo will self-quarantine after a staff member in her office tested positive for COVID-19, she said on Sunday.
The announcement came when Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials met with Governor Greg Abbott in Dallas to discuss rising infection rates across the state.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas have doubled in the past 10 days, and the rate of positive tests has increased in the past week, from around 9% to 13%, according to analysis in the Houston Chronicle. Residents of the Houston area have also reported long wait times at test sites, with some people arriving in the early hours to claim their seats online.
The Hidalgo staff member, who was not identified in a press release, turned positive over the weekend. Hidalgo was potentially exposed to the virus on June 22. She and other staff members plan to be tested and quarantined until July 6, two weeks from the date of the possible exposure.
Hidalgo has shown no symptoms and plans to continue working virtually, the statement said.
“Based on what we have learned, I will quarantine at home. In reality, there are thousands of people in Harris County who are increasingly in the same situation as I am today, “said Hidalgo in the statement.
“There are an increasing number 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 everyone to stay home except for essential activities, said Hidalgo. “This is the only way to avoid a crisis in our hospital system and to put our community in a position to reopen in a smarter and more sustainable way. We will overcome this threat together as a community and I will continue to ensure that we pursue all of the options we have to bring this under control. “
Normal county operations will continue without interruption, the statement said. Most county judge staff already work from their homes and those who work at the office wear masks and social distancing, according to a county spokesperson.
Harris County reported 113 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday for a total of 29,272. The number of cases in the Houston area jumped from 359 cases, bringing the total to 40,720. Two other deaths in the area have brought this figure to 526 overall.
The total statewide COVID-19 increased by 4,133 cases – from 147,374 to 151,507 – with 12 new deaths.
The increase in the number of cases encountered renewed enthusiasm for finding tests.
In Houston, the line outside the Mexican consulate test site started around 1 a.m. on Sunday, said Consul General Alicia Kerber-Palma. She arrived at the Caroline Street facility at 7 a.m. and saw dozens of people standing outside the door and others in cars.
Some, she said, were undocumented and hesitant to request tests from other institutions.
“When you are undocumented, you are afraid of everything,” said Kerber-Palma.
Kerber-Palma stressed that government documents for those looking for a test would not be necessary. She hoped that 1,000 to 1,500 people would be swabbed for the virus. The privately run United Memorial Medical Center at Acres Home operated the test site.
At noon, cars meandered through the museum district, the medical center and the nearby Midtown Expressway with motorists hoping to get a free trial. A convoy of cars with Mexican flags fluttering in front of the windows passed the bulk of the line and honked their cars.
Many like Rolando Navear, 80, arrived early. He picked up two neighbors at 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,” said Navear.
Yoselin Galvan, 14, a future recruit from Eisenhower High School, and his parents, Cecilia and John, were waiting in the shade.
Galvan said his family went to the consulate at 7 a.m. and at noon the three were still waiting in line on Caroline Street lined with trees.
“My mom needed (the test) to work,” said Galvan.
A colleague of her mother’s in a taqueria northwest of Houston tested positive on Thursday, the teenager said.
Martha Velenzuela tried for a week to find a test from a range of facilities, including federally funded municipal sites. She arrived Sunday at 5 am with her husband and five children. She felt good but wanted to make sure she was not asymptomatic.
“But they had no more tests, which is why we came here,” said Velenzuela. “It’s a pain in the ass.”