HOUSTON - Video of crowded Houston bars is now aggravating some medical experts inside area hospitals.
“I was very upset,” said Dr. Joseph Varon. “I’ve been working non-stop for the last several weeks. Now, I see that people go out and basically disregard everything we’ve been working for.”
For the last few months, Dr. Varon has been treating COVID-19 patients at United Memorial Medical Center.
“The mean age is pretty young,” said Dr. Varon, referring to COVID-19 patients. “We’re talking about a lot of millennials out there.”
United Memorial Medical Center has tested roughly 40,000 people for Coronavirus COVID-19. So far, roughly 3,500 of those tests had positive results.
According to Dr. Varon, almost half of those that have tested positive had zero symptoms.
“I have no question, some of them will have the Coronavirus,” said Dr. Varon, referring to people at crowded Houston bars.
Per Governor Abbott’s order, bars in Texas are allowed to open to a maximum of 25% capacity. While Houston city leaders acknowledge they don’t want to issue citations for the capacity rule, they do hope for voluntary compliance.
“We’ve responded to nearly 450 complaints [since Friday morning],” said HFD Chief Samuel Pena. “Our focus has been information, education, and voluntary compliance.”
Fire Marshals can issue citations for bars that choose to exceed capacity limits. However, city officials say citations will only be given if bars refuse to listen to Fire Marshals.
Sunday night, the Houston Firefighters Association sent out a memo saying, “The Mayor’s ill-conceived directive came without public guidance ... we have no reason to believe the mayor will back up city employees forced into this impossible situation.”
On Monday, Mayor Sylvester Turner responded to the memo.
“What they put out, doesn’t make any sense,” said Mayor Turner. “Enforcing occupancy requirements is what the Fire Marshals do.”
Chief Pena says HFD has responded to over 4,000 overcrowding complaints since the pandemic started weeks ago, but they’ve only issued 10 citations. Instead, they focus on educating restaurant and bar owners towards following guidelines.
“The union doesn’t run the fire department, we do,” said Chief Pena. “We’re doing the right thing. Our employees are doing the exact thing, the right thing for this community, to ensure the health and safety of the businesses, and the people we serve.”