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Alert sent to all Harris County residents discourages gatherings, urges COVID-19 testing

With Thanksgiving approaching, Harris County health authorities are using every tool they have at their disposal in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — During evening rush hour Tuesday, everyone with a cell phone in Harris County received the same alert. It was a public safety alert, encouraging residents to stop gatherings and get tested for COVID-19.

“We’ve got a narrow window to turn things around and one of the best ways to reach them is through these texts alerts," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Tuesday during a news conference.

RELATED: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo encourages all residents get tested for COVID-19, cancel gatherings

It’s a move other major cities, like Los Angeles, have taken. The goal is to get more people tested. On Sunday, Harris County set a record for daily new cases at 810. The county’s previous record was 485 in July.

“I’m urging everyone, regardless of whether you have symptoms, or you believe you have been exposed to please go ahead and get tested," Hidalgo said.

“What we have found over the past few months is that 50% of people who have COVID-19 have no symptoms whatsoever," said Dr. Linda Yancey, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Memorial Hermann.

She said that means you could infect someone else without even knowing you’re sick.

“With the holidays approaching and people gathering together, we could potentially be pouring gasoline on an already raging fire," Yancey said.

There are still skeptics. With hospitalizations not where they were this summer, she knows some people believe the virus is not as deadly as first thought.

“I would say, 'You don’t know anyone who has died yet.' We are not over this. We are not even halfway through this," Yancey said.