Houston-area coronavirus coverage from March 4 to March 15
HOUSTON – See how the coronavirus spread through the Houston area in the first couple weeks of the outbreak.
Sunday, March 15
9:12 p.m. - State extends the expiration date of some driver’s licenses
In an effort to fight the spread of the new coronavirus and keep people out of long lines in state facilities, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Sunday that it’s extending the expiration date of all driver’s licenses to 60 days after the end of the disaster declaration in the state of Texas.The decision applies to any driver’s license, personal ID card, commercial driver’s license or election identification certificate that expires on March 13, 2020 or later.
8:50 p.m.—Houston Public Library temporarily suspending services
Houston Public Library announced in a statement that it’s temporarily suspending services at all its locations until further notice. The suspension also includes all public programs and events organized by the Houston Public Library.
Members will still have access to the Houston Public Library’s online resources and digital services, which include e-books and e-audiobooks, streaming TV, movie and music services, online classes and tutoring, and databases.
“The Houston Public Library values the health and safety of our staff and customers as a top priority,” the statement read. “We are actively monitoring guidance from the Houston Health Department, as well as local, state and federal authorities to do our part to support the health of the entire community.”
8:12 p.m.— Harris County announces 2 more presumptive positive cases
Harris County confirmed Sunday two more presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.
One individual is a 40 to 50 year old woman who had contact with another person who has COVID-19 and lives in northwest Harris County, according to a release. The second new case is a man between 50 and 60 years of age who lives in northwest Harris County. Epidemiologists are investigating the man’s travel history, the release stated. The two new cases are not related to one another, according to officials. Both individuals are stable and in isolation.
6:30 p.m. — Holocaust Museum Houston to close through March 31
Holocaust Museum Houston announced it will close beginning Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31 due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
“It is our collective responsibility to protect public health and minimize risk,” said Museum CEO Dr. Kelly J. Zúñiga. “As the situation remains fluid, we will continue to monitor communications from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and city officials.”
11:45 p.m. — Patton Village police officer with coronavirus now still in critical condition
The Patton Village police officer, who is one of the four presumptive positive cases in Montgomery County, is still in critical condition, according to Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union. The officer, who is in his 40s, previously attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
11:35 a.m. — Trader Joe’s to reduce store hours
All Trader Joe’s will open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning Monday and until further notice.
6:00 a.m. — Local churches switching to online services
Houston’s megachurches plan to keep its doors closed due to coronavirus. Services will now be live-streamed online and on the church’s podcast.
Lakewood Church is not alone. Pastor Steve Wells of South Main Baptist Church in Houston preached in front of empty pews as parishioners received their Sunday message virtually.
“This is a building. The church is the people,” he said. “So wherever the people are that’s where the church is. So we’re gonna take the church right intro heir living rooms. Take God’s house in their house and then we’re gonna ask them to be the church in their neighborhood.”
The doors are closed at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston too. Barkely Thompson, a dean at the Episcopal church said streaming services online was in the best interest of everyone as the coronavirus continues to spread.
“We’re practicing social distance not because we don’t care about one another but because we love one another enough to do so,” Thompson said.
Many places of worship around the nation are taking similar measures to avoid large groups of people gathering. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has suspended all public gatherings worldwide.
Mosques are canceling Friday prayers while Shabbat services are on hold. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has to close its doors for two weeks.
Saturday, March 14
8:45 p.m. — Matagorda County officials confirm first presumptive positive case of COVID-19
Matagorda County officials confirmed Saturday night the county’s first presumptive positive case of the coronavirus.
The patient is a 60 year old female and Matagorda County resident. She was admitted to the Matagorda Regional Medical Center due to complications with pneumonia, which prompted a COVID19 screen, and ultimately a COVID-19 test, which resulted in a presumptive positive, according to a release. The woman is “resting comfortably” in a hospital where she’s receiving treatment, according to a release.
6:15 p.m. — City of Houston officials confirm fifth case of COVID-19
The Houston Health Department announced Houston’s fifth case of coronavirus Saturday evening. The new presumptive positive case is a man between the age of 50 and 60 with a history of international travel. He is hospitalized but in good condition, officials said in a release.
6:02 p.m. — Montgomery County officials confirm fourth case of COVID-19
Officials with the Montgomery County Public Health District confirmed Saturday the county’s fourth case of COVID-19. The woman, who is in her 40s, resides in Northwest Montgomery County. Her case is connected to Montgomery County’s third case, announced on Thursday, March 12th, officials said. The woman is currently in isolation at her home.
3:25 p.m. — Space Center Houston closing until March 27
Space Center Houston announced it will close to the public beginning today at 6 p.m., and will remain closed through Friday, March 27.
Here is the announcement, in part:
“As Houston’s leading science and space exploration learning center and a trusted community space, we are acting in an abundance of caution with the health and safety of our guests, staff and volunteers as our top priority and responsibility. There have been no cases of exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reported in connection with the center.”
“The closure includes regular operating hours and all public, education, and private programs and events. We will continue to monitor the situation and update you with any new developments.”
“We will continue to pay our salaried and hourly staff throughout this closure.”
Click here for more information.
1:11 p.m. — Officials confirm 2 presumptive positive cases in Brazoria County
Brazoria County Health Officials announced Saturday that two people have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.
According to a news release, both people lived together in the Alvin area. Both of them were tested after they reported feeling symptoms of the new coronavirus, officials said. They were tested at a Harris County health facility.
Officials said the two did not travel outside of Houston but did attend the Rodeo cookoff and events. The Brazoria County Health Department is conducting an investigation to identify other people who may have come in contact with them.
People who have questions concerning COVID-19 can now call the Brazoria County COVID-19 Information Line at 979-864-2167. The line is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m to 2 p.m.
12 p.m. — Medical experts answer questions about coronavirus
The Health Museum in Houston hosted a panel Saturday where people had the opportunity to listen to medical experts and ask questions about the coronavirus outbreak.
Physician-scientist in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development, Peter J. Hotez, Dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM, Scott C. Weaver and program director of Institutional Preparedness at UTMB Mike Mastrangelo were the featured panelists.
The event was open to the public. Tickets were the cost of regular admission to the museum or free for museum members.
Watch the full discussion on Facebook.
10:18 a.m. — City of Galveston announces changes to their permitting policy for events
The City of Galveston announced Saturday that it will temporarily be suspending special event permitting for events with 250 people or more.
In an effort to stay proactive, the city also announced that it will be limiting in-person interactions for city business.
All city services will still be provided, but they are encouraging people to handle city business online or by phone when possible.
Water bills can be paid online at Galvestontx.gov/paymywaterbill or you can send payments to 823 Rosenberg. You can also drop it off at City Hall using the overnight deposit.
For more information on permitting, the public pools or other city services, visit Galvestontx.gov.
Friday, March 13
10:08 p.m. — Fort Bend ISD to continue to pay employees during school closure
The Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees announced that after an emergency meeting Friday, they decided that all staff will get paid during the precautionary two-week school closure.
“As a Board, we are proud to join together and take action to support our staff members, who are at the heart of everything we do as an organization. Educating our students is always our top priority, and in times of crisis the lesson we teach often becomes one of compassion,” said FBISD Board President Jason Burdine in the press release.
The school district also announced that starting Monday, Fort Bend ISD will offer free ‘Grab and Go meals’ to anyone under the age of 18 and to students with disabilities regardless of age. Children do not need to be enrolled in Fort Bend ISD to get free breakfast and lunch, but all children will need to be present in order to pick up the meals.
9:44 p.m. — Firestone Complete Auto Care employee is one of the presumptive positive cases in Houston area, company announces
Bridgestone Retail Operations announced that one of their employees at a Houston area Firestone Complete Auto Care tested presumptive positive for coronavirus.
“On March 11, 2020, a Firestone Complete Auto Care teammate at our 2440 Fry Road store in Houston received a presumptive positive test result for COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus,” the company wrote in an email. “The test results are awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
As a precautionary measure the location has been closed and all employees were asked to self-quarantine.
“We also are in the process of contacting customers with vehicles at this store, as well as known customers who visited the store within at least the past 14 days to inform them of the situation,” officials wrote. “As of March 13, a vendor has completed their disinfection of the entire store, all customer vehicles, car keys, and other surfaces that our teammates may have touched."
Anyone who recently visited the store is asked to contact their healthcare provider immediately if they experience symptoms associated with COVID-19.
8:25 p.m. — Patton Village police officer with coronavirus now in critical condition
The Patton Village police officer, who is one of the three presumptive positive cases in Montgomery County, is now in critical condition, department spokesperson Misti Willingham confirmed to KPRC 2.
The officer, who is in his 40s, previously attended the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
6:57 p.m. — Galveston coronavirus patient is Friendswood resident, city announces
“On Friday, March 13 the City of Friendswood was notified by the Galveston County Health District (GCHD) that one of the people who has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 in Austin is a Friendswood resident,” the city wrote in a statement. “The individual has self-quarantined in Austin.”
City officials say the person became symptomatic on March 5 while in Friendswood and then traveled to Austin the next day.
“At this time, it is not believed that community spread has occurred within Friendswood or Galveston County,” the city wrote.
Officials believe the Friendswood resident contracted the virus through contact with a person from Montgomery County.
6 p.m. — UT President’s wife tests positive for coronavirus, another family member presumed to have virus
The president of the University of Texas at Austin, Greg Fenves, announced Friday in an email to the UT community that his wife Carmel tested positive for coronavirus.
“It is difficult for me to write this because the person who tested positive is my wife Carmel,” Fenves wrote in the email. "And a second member of my family (who works at UT) is presumed to have COVID-19 as well. I have been tested for the virus, and the three of us are in self-isolation."
He urged anyone who came in contact with his family to self-isolate.
6 p.m. — Harris County Juvenile Justice Center suspends visitation after employee shows symptoms
“Recently an employee with symptoms that warranted being tested for COVID-19 was at the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center (JJC),” officials wrote. “As a precautionary measure upon the recommendation of Harris County Facilities and Property Management, the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department (HCJPD) elected to close the Juvenile Justice Center on March 12th until further notice, and suspended visitation for the remainder of the week.”
There are on average 179 youth housed on-site per day. In-person visitation in Harris County has been suspended for at least the rest of the week. All staff at the facility is being screened before entering and officials say they have ramped up cleaning and sanitation procedures.
5:38 p.m. — H-E-B reduces hours of operation
H-E-B announced that it will temporarily reduce hours of operation and is adjusting services.
“To prepare our stores to better serve our customers, all H-E-B, Joe V’s Smart Shop, Mi Tienda and Central Market stores in the Houston area will shift to modified hours, closing at 8 p.m. today," the retail change announced. "Starting tomorrow, March 14 we will shift to modified hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. until further notice.”
The change is intended to help keep shelves stocked and ensure customers can secure the products they need.
5:10 p.m. — Houston Zoo closing through April 3
The Houston Zoo announced it will close its gates beginning Friday until at least April 3 to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
“The Houston Zoo connects communities with animals to inspire action to save wildlife,” zoo officials wrote. “We recognize that visiting the Zoo is much more than experiencing wildlife up close, but is also an opportunity to enjoy the wonder of the natural world with family and friends. We have been closely monitoring the constantly evolving situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and we feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to help reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19.”
4:36 p.m. — New presumptive case announced in Houston
A woman between the ages of 70 and 80 who recently traveled to Egypt tested positive locally for coronavirus in Houston, officials announced. This brings the city total to four and the area total to 23.
4:05 p.m. — Three more presumptive positive cases announced in Fort Bend County
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services announced three new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 bringing the county total to nine. The specimens were tested at the City of Houston Laboratory and will be sent to the CDC laboratory for further confirmation.
The three new cases are:
- A man in his 40s, with a history of international travel and exposure to confirmed COVID-19 cases abroad. He experienced moderate flu-like symptoms, which have resolved. He is in isolation at home.
- A woman in her 50s, with a history of international travel. She experienced mild symptoms that have resolved. She is in isolation at home.
- A man in his 70s with history of international travel. He was hospitalized and discharged in good condition. He is recovering in isolation at home.
Officials also said two previously announced presumptive cases were confirmed by the CDC. As a result, there are now seven presumptive positive cases and two confirmed cases in the county.
3:05 p.m. — Rodeo refunds entry fees for exhibitors
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo announced Friday that as the cancellation of the rodeo deeply impacted livestock and horse show exhibitors, the rodeo will be refunding all entry fees for any exhibitor who was unable to compete.
“Additionally, the Rodeo is working on a plan to support our junior exhibitors, with plans to be announced soon. We thank our exhibitors for their support of the Rodeo,” officials wrote.
2:30 p.m. — Texas Juvenile Justice Department suspends in-person visitations
Following a directive from Gov. Greg Abbott, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department suspended all in-person visitations at its facilities across Texas to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the state.
“The agency understands how important visitation is for both families and children, so to minimize this inconvenience, TJJD staff members are working to expand access to virtual visits and phone calls by increasing the number of tablets available for Skype and designating additional staff to facilitate extra phone calls,” officials wrote in a release. “Staff will also be adding minutes to each youth’s account.”
1:30 p.m. — Galveston County health officials give update on first presumptive positive case
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry and infections disease doctor, Philip Keiser with the Galveston County Health Department addressed the first presumptive positive COVID-19 case in the county.
Keiser said the woman was in the county only for about a day before she traveled to Travis County in Austin. She is one of the two positives cases Travis county officials announced Friday, Keiser said.
The woman has been cooperative with officials and has provided a detailed itinerary of where she had been and who she came in contact with, Keiser said. Officials are conducting an investigation in order to determine if any of those people need to be asked to self-quarantine.
Both Keiser and Henry emphasized that there is no need to panic. The best course of action is to remain calm and practice good hygiene.
Henry said the Galveston County Health District will be increasing staffing so people can call with their questions.
According to Henry, people who have called have been put more at ease about the situation.
The number to call is 409-938-7221
11:43 a.m. — First presumptive positive COVID-19 case involving Galveston County resident confirmed, officials say
Galveston County Health District confirmed its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in a county resident. Health officials said results are pending confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials said the person is a woman ranging in age 30-35 years old. The case is directly linked to Montgomery County Public Health’s presumptive positive case involving a man in his 40s, officials said.
The woman was tested by Austin Public Health and is currently self-quarantined in Austin, officials said. Officials said she is a resident of northern Galveston County.
10:51 a.m. — One Austin COVID-19 case linked to a case in Montgomery County, officials say
Health officials have confirmed that one COVID-19 case in Austin is connected to a case in Montgomery County.
Misti Willingham with Montgomery County Public Health District said that although they can confirm the two cases are connected, they can’t release information on how they are connected.
6:37 a.m. — MD Anderson to start screening patients and visitors for coronavirus
MD Anderson Cancer Center health officials said they will start screening patients and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms at six entrances on the TMC campus starting Friday.
Officials said this will affect how patients and visitors enter the main building and Mays Clinic, and how employees enter the main, Mays and Pickens Tower.
Officials said public safety officers at building entry points will ask patients and visitors questions related to symptoms, possible contact with someone who has had a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, or recent travel to a high-risk area.
According to MD Anderson, this screening at entry points will help them respond to patients with the potential to have the virus and visitors who may be symptomatic.
Patients have also been asked to limit visitors to two healthy adults that are 18 or older.
Thursday, March 12
8:30 p.m. — No, H-E-B is not closing. But they are taking extra protective measures
Texas grocery store chain H-E-B wants to clear up rumors that it is closing.
“While our customers may find our supply of some products low or temporarily out of stock, please rest assured that we’re maintaining close contact with our suppliers and our Partners (employees) are working around-the-clock to keep our shelves stocked,” Lisa Helfman with H-E-B said. “We encourage customers to check back with us if they cannot find what they need, we are receiving inventory and restocking our shelves throughout the day to serve our customers.”
All cleaning and sanitation schedules have been increased and in-store sampling has been discontinued.
“We are limiting product purchases to protect the supply chain and make sure our customers can find the items they need,” an H-E-B spokesperson told KSAT.
Customers will currently be limited on purchases of the following items:
- Disinfecting sprays/wipes – 4 units
- Hand sanitizer/soap – 4 units
- Water – 4 multipacks and 4 gallons per transaction (including baby)
- Latex Gloves – 4 boxes/units
- Bleach – 2 units
- Rubbing alcohol – 4 units
- Bath tissue – 2 packages
H-E-B replenishes supplies daily and “partners work around the clock to bring products to the shelf,” a spokesperson said. “If you cannot find what you need, please check back with us."
6:20 p.m. — Montgomery County Sheriff suspends jail visitation
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office announced that jail visitation has been suspended to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
“Effective immediately, out of concern for our inmates and the general public, visitation for the Montgomery County Jail will be suspended until further notice,” officials wrote. “Family and friends of those being housed in the County jail may still communicate with them via phone or written correspondence. Notice will be given once visitation in the jail has been reinstituted.”
6 p.m. — Rice University suspends in-person classes for the rest of the semester
Rice University told KPRC 2 in an email that classes are suspended for the rest of the semester. Most students will have to move out of residential colleges, officials say.
“Rice University will transition to fully remote instruction for all classes for the remainder of this semester, effective March 23, and undergraduate residential colleges will be closed to most students after March 25,” officials wrote.
For graduate students, classes and coursework will also be delivered remotely, officials said.
“Graduate research will continue in its present form and the graduate student apartments will remain open with additional precautions. For additional details see the letter sent to graduate students,” officials wrote.
For more information, visit the Rice University website.
School officials also told KPRC 2 quarantine was lifted for 17 members of the university community who came in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.
5:10 p.m. — Memorial Hermann staffers test negative for coronavirus
All the potentially exposed members of Memorial Hermann staff tested negative for coronavirus.
5 p.m. — CDC recommends older adults and people with chronic medical conditions to postpone travel
The Centers for Disease Control issued a travel notice Thursday urging older adults and people with chronic medical conditions to consider postponing non-essential travel.
For more information, you can visit the CDC website.
4:20 p.m. — Possible coronavirus exposure at two HCC campuses
Houston Community College announced two campuses were possibly exposed to coronavirus. The campuses are Fraga Academic Building and Coleman College.
“Out of an abundance of caution, these locations are being closed immediately until further notice,” officials tweeted.
2:30 p.m. — Man announced as third presumptive positive case in Montgomery County
A man in his 40s residing in northwest Montgomery County has been identified as the third presumptive positive case of coronavirus in the county. Officials say he only traveled to Florida.
1:40 p.m. — New presumptive positive case announced in Harris County
The Harris County Public Health Department announced that a middle-aged man is the fourth presumptive positive case of the virus in the county. There are also two confirmed cases in the county.
The man is between the ages of 40 and 50 and lives in the northwest quadrant of Harris County, officials said. The patient was discharged and is in isolation at his home where officials say he is recovering.
“HCPH is working with the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (16833 Jester Blvd.) to identify those who potentially were exposed to COVID-19,” officials wrote.
The church is aware and is contacted people who could potentially be at risk.
2:45 p.m. — Girl diagnosed with coronavirus in Houston attended rodeo on March 8
A girl between the ages of 15 and 25 was announced Wednesday night to be the third presumptive positive case of coronavirus in Houston. Officials believe the girls’ case is travel-related through direct contact with a known case in New York.
“While the person is actually a resident of New York state, she is staying in Houston,” officials wrote in a Thursday afternoon press release. “The Houston Health Department considers this a Houston case and will continue to include it in the Houston case count.”
Houston health officials also said the girl went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on March 8 while she was asymptomatic. Officials say there is low risk to attendees.
The girl is experiencing mild symptoms and is self-quarantined at her home.
12:09 p.m. — Patton Village officer identified as man who first tested for presumptive positive COVID-19 in Montgomery County
A man in his 40s who tested first for presumptive positive COVID-19 in Montgomery County is reportedly a Patton Village officer.
Mayor Scott Anderson of Patton Village in east Montgomery County confirmed to Channel 2 Investigates that the officer is being hospitalized with the coronavirus, saying, “We have not confirmed exactly all the locations. We are attempting to identify everything.”
Anderson said the officer attended the rodeo BBQ cookoff on Feb. 28.
“The locations that we know of, we have followed proper procedures for quarantine for those who were in contact. We also have taken active measures to control the spread,” Anderson said.
Anderson said his locations and movements have been relayed to Montgomery County OEM.
9:58 a.m. — Montgomery County reports second presumptive positive COVID-19 case; Total coronavirus cases reported in Houston area climbs to 16
Montgomery County Public Health District and Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management confirmed the county’s second presumptive positive case of COVID-19 Thursday.
Health officials said the woman, who is in her 40s, resides in south Montgomery County and is being treated at a hospital in the county. Officials are still awaiting CDC confirmation of the positive result. This case is still under investigation, and information is limited at this time, officials said. MCPHD said they confirmed she traveled to New Orleans recently, but she has not traveled abroad.
As of Thursday morning, MCPHD is still awaiting CDC confirmation of the positive result for a man who is in his 40s. He is still currently hospitalized in a hospital in Montgomery County, officials said.
8:30 a.m. — Princess Cruises halts operations for 60 days
Princess Cruises has announced, due to the new coronavirus, it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for 60 days, affecting trips departing March 12 to May 10.
Cruise ships have been particularly hard hit amid the new pandemic and have been turned away by dozens of ports and countries. The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which Japanese officials held in a flawed quarantine operation, infected hundreds of passengers and crew.
Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises, says “by taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us."
Passengers now on a Princess cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected through the end of the itinerary. Current voyages that extend beyond March 17 will be ended at the most convenient location for guests.
Under normal operations, it serves more than 50,000 passengers a day.
Wednesday, March 11
11:22 p.m. — Toll booths go cashless in Harris County
The Harris County Toll Road Authority is doing away with paying cash at tolls, HCTRA announced late Wednesday night.
“Toll collectors will no longer accept cash payment for tolls in booths in the lanes,” officials wrote. “Cash customers should drive through and pay later online. If the customer is unable to go online, a bill will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.”
For drivers who typically pay cash in the lanes:
- Drive through and pay the toll online at hctra.org/MissedAToll (HCTRA will waive the standard $1.50 administrative fee.)
- Drive through and HCTRA will send an invoice to the vehicle’s registered owner, for tolls only with no additional fees attached
Drivers with EZ tags will see no difference in the way things operate.
10:45 p.m. — A Ben Taub patient screened positive for coronavirus
Harris Health announced Wednesday that a patient previously screened and tested at the Ben Taub Emergency Department has been confirmed positive for COVID-19, according to a press release.
It is not clear if this is a new patient or one of the 15 confirmed cases.
According to the release, the patient was discharged home earlier this week with directions to self-quarantine until test results were received.
Ben Taub’s medical staff were notified Wednesday of the results. The healthcare team involved in the patient’s care is being notified tonight by Occupational Health Services with instructions for self-monitoring and other precautionary measures such as self-quarantine.
10:24 p.m. — Harris County Civil District Courts will not be calling any jury trials for the rest of March
The Harris County Civil District Courts will not be calling any jury trials for the remainder of March, according to the press conference. Each Court will exercise its discretion on a case-by-case basis regarding the calling of bench trails.
Please contact the applicable Court Clerk regarding hearings for the remainder of this month.
The ruling applies to Civil District Courts only, includes 11th, 55th, 61st, 80th, 113th, 125th, 127th, 129th, 133rd, 151st, 152nd, 157th, 164th, 165th, 189th, 190th, 215th, 234th, 269th, 270th, 281th, 295th, 333rd and 334rd.
9:50 p.m. — Lakewood Church will not hold public services this weekend
Houston megachurch Lakewood Church announced there will be no public services this weekend amid concerns of the community spread of coronavirus in the Houston area. All services will stream online. You can watch them on the Lakewood Church website.
9:05 p.m. — UT extends spring break for students by one week
The University of Texas is extending spring break for students by one week in response to the spread of COVID-19, the university said in a statement. Classes will resume on campus on March 30, and students should plan on returning prior to that date.
The university will remain open, and the additional week of spring break will provide UT faculty and staff members time to prepare to increase “social distancing” on campus. Social distancing includes avoiding group settings and mass gatherings, maintaining a safe distance from others and following good personal hygiene practices whenever possible
Students who wish to return to campus as previously scheduled on March 23 will still be able to do so — residence halls, dining halls, health and counseling services and other facilities will be open. Other university operations will also continue during the next two weeks and beyond, with the potential for flexible work arrangements that align with our focus on social distancing. Supervisors will work directly with employees to make changes, if necessary.
Students who are in self-isolation or are unable to return to campus on March 30 for health reasons should request an accommodation.
9:01 p.m. — Baylor University extended spring break by one week
8:39 p.m. — New presumptive positive case announced in Houston
The Houston Health Department said a girl between the ages of 15 and 25 has become the second presumptive positive case of coronavirus in the city. There is also one confirmed case in Houston.
The girl is experiencing mild symptoms and is quarantined in her home. She recently traveled to New York State.
“An investigation conducted by the department will identify potential contacts exposed to the virus,” officials wrote. “The department will provide close contacts guidance about the virus and monitor them for the development of symptoms.”
7:40 p.m. — HISD to temporarily limit all-campus visitors, including parents and teachers
HISD plans to continue holding classes for the remainder of this week, in alignment with guidance from the Houston Health Department. The district will be closed for spring break next week, from March 16 to March 20.
From March 23 to April 3, HISD will temporarily limit all campus visitors, including parents and volunteers. Parents will only be allowed on campus to pick up or drop off their students.
Visitors who have scheduled business – such as tutors, student teachers, substitute teachers, vendors, contract employees, and parents attending official meetings – must be screened by an HISD nurse before they will be allowed access to campuses. The screening will include a mandatory temperature reading and questions regarding recent travel and health-related symptoms.
All afterschool activities and large campus gatherings – including Parent University on March 24 – also will be canceled during this time.
7:10 p.m. — Houston, Harris County officially declare public health emergencies
Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo have officially declared public health emergencies in Houston and Harris County respectively.
“Mayor Sylvester Turner today signed a proclamation declaring a Local State of Disaster Due to a Public Health Emergency to help contain and mitigate COVID-19 from spreading,” officials wrote in a press release.
Along with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, other city-sponsored, produced and permitted events will be postponed or canceled through the end of March, officials said. The Tour de Houston planned this weekend has also been postponed indefinitely.
"This virus does not respect political or geographical boundaries,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in the release. “Our response to this challenge requires that we use every tool in our toolbox to contain and mitigate the very real threat this global outbreak has on our health and our communities. I strongly urge residents, businesses, and schools to take this seriously and to take reasonable precautionary steps to protect our most vulnerable residents from exposure.”
6:20 p.m. - The University of Houston cancels classes
The University of Houston will hold no classes, whether in-person or online, March 16-21, 2020. Classes will resume remotely (online or alternative format) beginning March 23.
Students, parents, and faculty can find all coronavirus updates, here.
2:49 p.m. - Prairie View A&M cancels classes
Prairie View A&M University said Wednesday that classes have been canceled until March 23, but faculty and staff are still required to report to work.
2:00 p.m. — Houston to receive $5M and Texas to receive $35M for COVID-19 response
The Centers for Disease Control Prevention have decided to award $560 million to state and local jurisdictions to help with the response to the coronavirus.
Texas will be receiving $35,226,922.50 and Houston will be receiving $5 million of that chunk, according to Peter Hoffman, Advisor for Regional Communications with the White House.
See how much money other states will receive here.
1:45 p.m. — Houston and Harris County to officially declare emergencies, officials say
Dr. David Persse, an official with the Houston Health Department, said officials are taking these steps to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
“This virus is new to the human population," Persse said. “None of us have any immunity to it. We don’t how wide it is going to spread. We are watching around the globe. We are seeing many communities and nations coming up with many, many cases and the spread is occurring very rapidly.”
Of those exposed to the coronavirus, about 80% display minimum or mild symptoms, Persse said.
“To some degree, that is a bit of the problem, because those folks could be the ones spreading it through the rest of the community.”
Persse said about 15% of the exposed population might require hospitalization and a smaller portion would need intensive or critical care. Overall, the coronavirus appears to have about a 2% mortality rate, affecting people over the age of 50 at a much higher rate, according to Persse.
He reiterated the best way to decelerate the spread of the virus is by implementing health precautions such as social distancing, washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home if you are sick.
“When we do those things together, we can slow down the spread of this virus through our community,” Persse said. “That is what did not happen in Wuhan. (Coronavirus) exploded in Wuhan. They didn’t know it was coming. They had no time to prepare.”
1:30 p.m. — Indian Embassy in Houston announces travel restrictions
In wake of the rapid spread of coronavirus, the Indian Embassy in Houston announced travel restrictions Wednesday.
In a Facebook post, the embassy said all existing visas, except diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment and project visas will be suspended until April 15, 2020. This will go in effect on March 13, the embassy said.
The embassy said the visa-free travel facility granted to OCI cardholders is suspended from further use until April 15, 2020, and will go into effect on March 13.
The embassy said any foreign national who might need to travel to India may contact the nearest Indian mission or consulate.
All incoming travelers, including Indian nationals arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain, and Germany after Feb. 15 will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days, the embassy said. Incoming travelers will also be subject to medical screening.
1:20 p.m. — Montgomery County coronavirus patient went to rodeo cookoff
The Montgomery County coronavirus patient visited the barbecue cookoff at the Houston rodeo on Feb. 28, officials announced.
The patient is a man in his 40s and is being treated at a local hospital.
“The patient is under isolation at a local hospital, and the risk to the general public remains low,” officials wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with HIPAA, we are not releasing the identity of the patient, or the hospital where the patient is being treated. Precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of other patients in the hospital.”
12:26 p.m. — WHO declares that virus crisis is now a pandemic
Expressing alarm both about mounting infections and slow government responses, the World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic but also said it’s not too late for countries to act.
By reversing course and using the charged word “pandemic” that it had previously shied away from, the U.N. health agency appeared to want to shock lethargic countries into pulling out all the stops.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief.
"All countries can still change the course of this pandemic. If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response," he said. “We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
The WHO added that Iran and Italy are the new front lines of the battle against the virus that started in China.
“They’re suffering but I guarantee you other countries will be in that situation soon," said Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.
11:23 a.m. — Houston Rodeo canceled amid growing concerns over coronavirus
A member of the Houston City Council has confirmed that officials with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo have decided to cancel the event due to growing concerns over coronavirus.
Meetings were held Wednesday morning at NRG and City Hall, where officials made the decision. A news conference is scheduled for noon to provide more details.
Rodeo officials said Rodeo grounds will close at 4 p.m. The Rodeo was scheduled to run through March 22.
There are currently over 25 cases of COVID-19 in the state of Texas. Fourteen of those cases are in the Houston area.
11:01 a.m. — Montgomery ISD to close for spring break early to deep clean campuses
A man in his 40s, who is a resident of northwest Montgomery County, was identified as the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus in the county, Montgomery County Public Health District announced Monday evening.
The man is currently receiving treatment at a local hospital. At this time, health officials said they are waiting to hear from the CDC for confirmation. Health officials said they are also monitoring other individuals and potential patients who have been cleared as of March 10.
“All healthcare providers are following strict guidelines from the CDC in all interactions with the patient,” officials wrote. “The patient is under isolation at a local hospital, and the risk to the general public remains low. Out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with HIPAA, we are not releasing the identity of the patient, or the hospital where the patient is being treated. Precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of other patients in the hospital.”
Officials said the spread of the virus can be prevented by washing your hands for 20 seconds, using an alcohol-based sanitizer if you’re unable to wash your hands, and using proper precautions when sneezing.
Melissa Miller, the chief operations officer of the Montgomery County Public Health District, said the man has never traveled outside of Texas before and has not traveled recently.
Rees said classes will resume on March 23. The district said students are allowed to stay home and receive excused absences if parents fear the virus will spread.
8:20 a.m. — Houston Chronicle employees may have been exposed to coronavirus
Employees at the Houston Chronicle are being asked to work from home after four journalists may have been exposed to the new coronavirus.
According to the website, those four journalists attended the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) conference in New Orleans from Wednesday through Sunday. They returned to work Monday and Tuesday before NICAR organizers released a statement that someone at the conference had tested positive for COVID-19.
Those four journalists will be under self-quarantine for two weeks. Other newsroom employees have been encouraged to work from home until the space has been thoroughly cleaned.
Over 1,000 journalists attended the conference, which is part of Investigative Reporters and Editors, known as IRE. There were no KPRC 2 reporters or employees at that conference.
Tuesday, March 10
11:40 p.m. — Meyerland private school closes for two weeks after student possibly exposed to virus
St. Thomas’ Episcopal School officials confirmed to KPRC 2 that the school located at 4900 Jackwood Street will be closed for two weeks after a student was possibly exposed to coronavirus.
“We did learn this evening that a student at our school was possibly exposed to COVID-19,” school officials wrote in an email. “Out of an abundance of caution, our school will be closed for two weeks.”
The school said it will share more information on Wednesday.
8:25 p.m. — Harris County reports an additional presumptive positive case of the new coronavirus
The Harris County Public Health announced that a woman has become the third presumptive positive case of coronavirus in Harris County. There are two other confirmed coronavirus cases in the county.
This latest patient is a woman, between the ages of 20 and 30 years old, and lives in southwest Harris County. Officials said the woman showed signs of mild flu-like symptoms and was tested for the COVID-19 by the Houston Health Department. The test result will be sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta for confirmation.
The woman was not hospitalized and is quarantined at home, where she will recover, officials said. The health department will continue to monitor the woman’s condition while she is under quarantine and will investigate those she has interacted with to see if they are at risk and need to be tested, officials said.
The woman is not connected to the group that traveled to Egypt. She flew on two flights in business and first-class. Officials are asking anyone who traveled on these flights to self-isolate and contact their health care provider and their local health department for additional guidance.
Here are the flights she traveled on:
Flight No. 1:
Lufthansa (LH309), Florence to Frankfurt
March 3, 10:05 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Flight No. 2:
United Airlines (UA47)
Frankfurt to Houston
March 3, 1:50 p.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Tuesday, March 10
5:15 p.m. — Texas A&M extends Spring Break by two days
Texas A&M University classes will resume on Wednesday, March 18 “to allow for planning and logistics to ensure the provision of all university services in the most efficient, effective and safest way,” the school wrote in a press release.
“Dining, transportation, health, counseling and other services will be available on a normal schedule Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17,” officials wrote. “There are no plans to cancel classes. Texas A&M is not requiring that all courses move to an online format at this time.”
4:30 p.m. — Montgomery County announces first presumptive positive case of coronavirus
A man in his 40s is the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus in Montgomery County, county health officials announced Tuesday. The man is being treated at a local hospital.
His locally tested positive test result has been sent to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation.
“The patient is under isolation at a local hospital, and the risk to the general public remains low,” officials wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with HIPAA, we are not releasing the identity of the patient, or the hospital where the patient is being treated. Precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of other patients in the hospital.”
Officials didn’t say if this man was connected to the group that traveled to Egypt or if he had traveled at all.
Montgomery County health officials will give an update in a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m.
1 p.m. — 37 people who were on museum-organized Egypt trip asked to self-quarantine
More than two dozen people who were on a trip to Egypt that was organized by the Houston Museum of Natural Science were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Houston on Monday.
Melodie Wade, a representative of the museum, said in a written statement that 35 people and two museum staff members were part of the trip that left on Feb. 24 for a tour of Egypt’s museums and ancient sites.
“Upon learning about the six confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Houston area, we immediately contacted our HMNS staff and travelers and provided links to information via email about the virus and precautions to take from local, state, national and international organizations,” Wade said. “We touched base with them daily during the remainder of the trip and asked them to check their temperatures daily and keep us informed of any concerns. Their safety is of utmost importance to us.”
Wade said museum staff who were on the trip have been prohibited from coming to the museum for 14 days, and those staff members have not been in contact with any other museum staff.
The trip sponsored by the museum appears to be a different trip than the Nile River cruise taken by the people in the Houston area who have already been reported as having the coronavirus.
12:40 p.m. -- Houston Methodist announces changes to visitor policies
Officials at Houston Methodist said Tuesday they are modifying visitor policies at all facilities, including hospitals, emergency departments and clinics. Patients are limited to two visitors at a time and visitors under 18 are not allowed to visit patients. Patients who are in isolation are restricted to one visitor.
Read more about hospital policy changes in the Houston area here.
10:01 a.m. — Texas Children’s Hospital alters visitation guidelines amid coronavirus cases in Houston area
Texas Children’s Hospital has altered visitation policies amid the spread of coronavirus.
Texas Children’s said they screen all patients at every point of entry across the health care system in Houston and Austin and are closely following the CDC while updating their screening protocols based on their guidelines. Based on the increasing incidence of COVID-19 in the Houston area and beyond, until further notice, Texas Children’s said they are limiting visitors.
“Texas Children’s Hospital’s highest priority is the health and safety of those we serve,” hospital officials said in a statement.
Monday, March 9
8:10 p.m. — HISD says 'several people have been placed on 14-day self-quarantine’
The Houston Independent School District says while there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus connected to the district, “several individuals have been placed on a 14-day self-quarantine.”
The district said the people recently “returned from a country on the CDC travel warning list or are closely related to someone who did.” The people have asked to self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.
“As a precautionary measure, impacted schools will undergo a deep cleaning and sanitization. This includes fogging all rooms with CDC-recommended disinfectant and cleaning all air ducts, a common practice for potential cases of airborne viruses,” the district wrote. “For all other schools, HISD is continuing to follow its standard procedure for routine cleaning and disinfection of schools, with special emphasis placed on disinfection of door handles, desks, and other frequently touched areas, as suggested by local and state health officials and the Texas Education Agency.”
The district is not announcing the names of the schools the self-quarantined people are connected to and say they will announce the names of the school only if positive cases are confirmed.
6:15 p.m. — Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issues statement amid coronavirus concerns
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issued a statement Monday evening to say they were taking coronavirus concerns seriously. Last week, it was announced that one of the people who tested positive for coronavirus in the Houston area had attended Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Cecilia Catholic Church.
“We have consulted top health experts at Harris County Public Health in setting current operational guidelines, and are monitoring this dynamic situation closely as it evolves,” the Archdiocese said. "If additional measures are required, the churches within the Archdiocese will be sure to use all available communication channels to keep parishioners thoroughly informed."
They urged any parishioners who are ill or suspect they might be ill to stay home and that they were under “no obligation to attend Mass.”
Meanwhile, one member of St. Cecilia Catholic Church told KPRC 2′s Mario Diaz that the was frustrated.
“You know it’s an epidemic, this can go farther and if I’m not affected at least test me and tell me..., ‘You’re not infected, just go back to work.' Don’t just send me an email and say, ‘Oh, by the way, there was a minimal risk,'” said Fernando Bobbio who attended Ash Wednesday Mass the same night as one of the coronavirus patients.
Bobbio says the infected person sat near the choir section, minutes before he went inside.
The Archdiocese said it was notified by Harris County health officials on Friday that the patient with coronavirus attended Mass at St. Cecilia Catholic Church at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 26.
“The Mass at 5:30pm was in English. The Mass at 7:30pm was in Spanish. Both of the Masses were celebrated by the same priest. The volunteers who assisted at the 5:30pm English Mass were not scheduled to volunteer at the 7:30pm Spanish Mass. Neither the Parish, School nor the Archdiocese is aware of any phone calls or requests for information from Mr. Bobbio,” the Archdiocese wrote in a statement to KPRC 2.
The county health officials have not responded to KPRC 2′s request for comment.
6 p.m. — Food Bank calls for volunteers to pack quarantine food kits
The Houston Food Bank is asking for volunteers to help pack quarantine food kits.
“The non-profit is asking for help because the population they serve, almost by definition, does not have reserves of food in the event of service disruptions/closures,” the group wrote in a press release. “These boxes are not yet being requested, but the food bank wants to be ready in the event there is a need due to COVID-19 occurrences in their service area.”
The food bank is taking extra precautions including increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, especially around high-traffic areas like volunteer areas, elevators, meeting rooms, bathrooms and food areas.
Volunteers are needed at the Houston Food Bank located at 5356 Portwall Street from Monday through Saturday between 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
To volunteer for a shift, register on the Houston Food Bank website.
3:48 p.m. — Get Answers
KPRC 2 has set up a phone bank with a panel of medical experts so you can call and ask your questions about coronavirus. The phone back will be operational between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday.
To speak to a medical professional you can call: 713-778-8920
Do you have a community group or neighborhood organization that would like to learn more about the coronavirus? You can submit a request for a speaker at this link.
12:49 p.m. — MD Anderson has started limiting visitors
MD Anderson has started limiting visitors and postponing campus tours in order to protect patients from the coronavirus. Workers are also being required to cancel all business travel for eight weeks, and workers who travel for personal reasons are being screened when they return to work.
State representative, Ron Reynolds and other leaders of Houston-area unions for school support and teachers held a news conference to urge schools to take “immediate and proactive" action to help prevent coronavirus from spreading in schools.
“Educators and other community allies will be urging a swift and proactive response to the coronavirus to ensure that all Houston-area schools and school buses are as safe as possible,” said Wretha Thomas, president of the Houston Educational Support Personnel. “We want all area school districts to do what it takes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This includes thorough and regular cleaning of all classrooms, gyms, bathrooms and school buses, providing staff the time to clean schools properly and considering the need to hire special cleaning services.”
During the conference, union leaders asked districts to put a plan in place to help both teachers and other employees like bus drivers and custodians in the event they cannot go to work. In that case, most districts are just telling employees to use their sick time, but some employees don’t have sick leave, so they will be missing out on pay for however long they are out, leaders said.
Thomas and other union leaders said most districts have put measures in place to get schools and buses disinfected, but more needs to be done by providing better training on how to properly disinfect everything. Districts should also aim to provide hand sanitizer for buses and classrooms, as well as protective gear, like gloves and masks, for teachers or staff who are having to disinfect items or areas regularly.
Memorial Hermann announced changes to the visitor policy which will take effect on Tuesday. Below is the statement from the hospital system:
"To further protect the health of our patients, workforce and the community, and prevent the potential spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Memorial Hermann is modifying its visitor policy across all Memorial Hermann acute-care and rehabilitation hospitals and Convenient Care Centers, effective Tuesday, March, 10, at 7 a.m. until further notice.
"The modified visitor policy limits the number of visitors per patient, restricts the number of access points and implements screening of all visitors.
- Visitation will be limited to two adult (18 years or older) visitors per patient, per day.
- All visitors and patients, including vendors and contractors, will be screened at designated entry points, including the Emergency Center.
- For patients in isolation, visitation will be limited to one adult (18 years or older) visitor per patient, per day. These visitors will also be required to wear personal protective equipment and will not be permitted to visit common areas within the facility.
"The brief screening process includes a temperature check and questionnaire. Individuals cleared through the screening process will receive a color-coded wristband which must be worn throughout their hospital visit. Visitors who are sick or do not meet screening criteria will not be allowed to enter the facility.
"Below are facilities impacted by the modified visitor policy:
- Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center
- Children’s Memorial Hermann
- Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center
- Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center
- Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital
- Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital
- Women’s Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital
- Women’s Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center
- TIRR Memorial Hermann
- Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital – Katy
- Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Greater Heights
- Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Katy
- Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Kingwood
- Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center at Sienna Plantation
- Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Spring
- Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center in Summer Creek
- Memorial Hermann 24-Hour Emergency Care in The Woodlands"
The Houston Health Department will open a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) call center on Monday for Houston residents needing more information about coronavirus disease.
The call center will be open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will return voice messages left after hours the following day on a first call, first-served basis.
Houstonians can call the center at 832-393-4220 to speak to department staff and obtain information about the disease or get their questions answered.
“While we are all bombarded with a huge amount of information about COVID-19, some people may find certain details confusing or even worrisome,” said David Persse, MD, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “Our aim is to make sure the public has the facts on how to best protect themselves and allay any fears.”
Sunday, March 8:
Harris County Public Health announced a new presumptive positive case of coronavirus in Harris County. This brings the total to four coronavirus cases in Harris County: two confirmed cases and 2 presumptive positive cases.
The individual, described as a female between 60-70 years old from unincorporated northwest Harris County, is in stable condition, has been quarantined and is continuously being monitored by the HCPH, per the release. Her test results were processed at the Houston Health Department and are considered presumptive positive until it is re-tested and confirmed by the CDC in Atlanta.
This travel-related exposure is related to the known group from the M.S. A’sara cruise traveling to and from Aswan, Egpyt. All of the coronavirus cases in the Greater Houston area are related to the cruise.
Rice University cancels all classes this week due to coronavirus concerns.
Out of an abundance of caution and to allow faculty and staff time to prepare for possible remote instruction this semester, in-person classroom instruction and undergrad teaching labs for the week of March 9 are canceled. During the week of March 9-13, faculty can provide material that can be completed remotely and does not require group interaction.
Click here for the full release from Rice University.
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health ask any local residents who recently traveled to Egypt and took a Nile River cruise to immediately self-quarantine for 14 days and contact their local health department.
On March 5, 2020, the M.S. A’sara cruise traveling to and from Aswan, Egypt was quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure. Local health department officials are seeking M.S. A’sara passengers from the Greater Houston area who traveled on the cruise line from February 12 to March 5, 2020, because they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
If you or your family traveled on the M.S. A’sara cruise (traveling to and from Aswan, Egypt) during the dates in question, please self-quarantine and contact your local health department. Only passengers on the M.S. A’sara cruise need to contact their local health department.
For Fort Bend County Residents:
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services
This number is staffed Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
For City of Houston Residents:
Houston Health Department
*This number is currently only for M.S. A’sara cruise passengers and will be staffed 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For Harris County Residents:
Harris County Public Health (HCPH)
This number is staffed 7 days a week 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday morning, Fort Bend County officials announced three additional presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. Officials said the cases are travel-related. All three people are in isolation at home, according to officials.
Here is the release from Fort Bend County:
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services is announcing 3 additional travel-related cases of COVID-19. One traveler was not part of the group involved in the other Houston-area cases but was on the same cruise in Egypt at a later date.
The cases are as follows:
- A man in his 70s who was symptomatic, hospitalized and discharged in good condition to isolation at home.
- A man in his 70s who had one day of fever which resolved. He is in isolation at home.
- A woman in her 60s who had mild symptoms which have resolved. She is in isolation at home.
The epidemiological investigation continues to expand and the health department is working to quickly identify close contacts with these individuals. Close contacts may include family members, co-workers, emergency responders, and other contacts.
People who recently returned to the United States from a COVID-19 outbreak area need to monitor fever, cough, and difficulty breathing for at least 14 days after return. Seek medical care right away if symptoms develop. Before, visiting their healthcare provider or hospital, symptomatic people with a travel history to a COVID-19 outbreak area must call ahead and tell the healthcare professional about their recent travel and symptoms.
If a person has not been around anyone with COVID-19 or has not visited an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak area, they are not at risk.
Privacy protection laws only permit the release of limited patient information. The health department is unable to release any additional patient information.
Saturday, March 7:
An active retirement community in Fort Bend County has confirmed Saturday one of their residents claims to have tested positive for COVID-19.
Del Webb Sweetgrass, the active retirement community, has two residents in self-quarantine, according to a statement.
Part of the statement reads, “The Community HOA has alerted the community about the situation and is asking residents to take appropriate precautions to restrict the spread of the disease.”
Here is the full statement from Del Webb Sweetgrass:
Yes, we have learned that a resident of Del Webb Sweetgrass apparently has contracted the coronavirus. The couple has notified the appropriate health agencies and has self-quarantined themselves. The community HOA has alerted the community about the situation and is asking residents to take appropriate precautions to restrict the spread of the disease. The health and safety of our residents is of paramount importance and we certainly hope for their quick recovery.
In Harris County, almost half-a-dozen Memorial Hermann employees are awaiting COVID-19 test results after possibly being exposed to the virus within the last week.
Memorial Hermann President and CEO, Dr. David Callender, said in a press conference Saturday that 11 healthcare workers are in self-quarantine after coming in direct contact with a patient who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Callender would not reveal at which hospital the possible exposure occurred but called the situation a “coronavirus curveball.”
“The patient with the virus presented with atypical symptoms and did not have a positive travel history according to the guidelines at the time,” Callender said.
According to Dr. Angela Shippy, three of the 11 employees are showing symptoms of coronavirus.
“They’ve all been tested,” Shippy said. “Their labs are being sent off to find out whether they’ve truly been exposed.”
The patient that their employees treated is linked to the Egypt cruise, according to Memorial Hermann. However, since Egypt was not a hot-spot for COVID-19 at the time, Dr. John Butler said the patient was discharged.
It was not until three days later, after learning about the other Coronavirus cases linked to Egypt, that they brought the patient back in, said Butler.
Butler also said it was not until Friday night that the 11 Memorial Hermann employees were told they might have been exposed to the virus.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released an update on the impact of coronavirus:
I know Houstonians are concerned about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), especially with the recent positive cases identified in our area. It’s important to note that all cases in our area thus far are linked by international travel and there is no evidence of community spread. For the general public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 remains low.
While I understand the concern expressed by some, based on the current situation, public health experts indicate there is no need for the general public to avoid large gatherings in Houston. This is true of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which has taken extra measures to help ensure the health and well-being of its attendees. The Rodeo has expanded the number of hand sanitizing stations, increased the frequency of sanitizing common touchpoints, added signage encouraging proper handwashing, boosted the frequency of cleaning and restocking of soap and paper towels in restrooms, increased the number of cleaning staff, and directed staff and volunteers with symptoms of illness to stay home. I applaud the Rodeo for taking these extra precautionary measures and encourage other local venues to take similar action.
I know the news of the cancellation of SXSW likely heightened the level of concern among some Houstonians. However, there are significant differences between the two events. SXSW attracts people from more than 100 countries, which raises the risk of COVID-19 transmission based on community spread occurring internationally. The Rodeo is primarily a regional event with attendees from the Houston area, where there is currently no community spread of COVID-19.
However, people who are elderly or have compromised immune systems should routinely consider the risk associated with attending large gatherings and make a decision on whether they should attend. Out of an abundance of caution, I encourage people who recently traveled internationally to self-quarantine for 14 days. Also, if you have traveled or plan to travel internationally, I advise you to wait two weeks before visiting nursing homes or senior living facilities, as an added precaution. And, people who are sick need to always stay home to prevent infecting others.
All of us must continue to practice routine healthy hygiene habits to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, such as washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and staying home if sick. “If the situation changes, community-based interventions such as event cancellations and social distancing may be needed. I will support the decisions of local public health officials, in conjunction with state and federal officials, based on the scope and severity of the situation.
We will continue to promptly update the public with developments, and I encourage Houstonians to visit HoustonEmergency.org for the latest information.
Port Houston released a statement on the impact of the coronavirus:
The entire greater Port of Houston (200 + private and eight public terminals) along the Houston Ship Channel 52-mile federal waterway falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Port Houston (Authority) owns and operates the eight public terminals. We, along with the maritime industry follow the direction and guidelines of the U.S. Coast Guard.
We are receiving regular updates from the U.S. Coast Guard and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We follow their direction and protocols, as well as guidelines from our local public health authorities.
We take health and safety as the number one priority of our employees, customers, visitors, and community.
This is a continuously evolving situation. We are remaining diligent in monitoring this situation. We are providing regular updates, and sharing the advised health information towards the prevention of spreading this virus.
As with other companies, we have paused international business travel in an abundance of caution and will continue to follow directions as advised by authorities as this situation evolves.
Memorial Hermann asked 11 healthcare workers who were in direct contact with one of the confirmed patients to self-quarantine for 14 days, as recommended by the CDC.
Memorial Hermann released a statement and planned a press conference to discuss coronavirus:
Memorial Hermann has learned that a small number of patients who were screened at our facilities for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) over the last several weeks have tested positive for the infection. These patients are being cared for under both the Memorial Hermann Health System infection control and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols and are in stable condition.
Out of an abundance of caution, Memorial Hermann asked 11 healthcare workers who were in direct contact with one of the confirmed patients to self-quarantine for 14 days, as recommended by the CDC. Only one of the healthcare workers is exhibiting minor symptoms, but all have been or will be tested for COVID-19 and their conditions are currently being monitored. Memorial Hermann is working closely with the Houston Health Department to effectively manage this potential exposure and ensure the safety of our employees, physicians and patients.
How did the potential exposure to healthcare workers happen? It is important to note in this particular incident, our healthcare workers followed all CDC recommended screening protocols.
“During an initial visit to one of our facilities, one of the confirmed cases did not present with symptoms, relevant travel or potential exposure that would have immediately prompted CDC testing protocols. Three days later, and once it was known that passengers on the Egypt cruise had been exposed to COVID-19, one of the patients returned to one of our facilities and was tested. The potential exposure to our healthcare workers was related to the first visit only.”
NACE International has postponed its annual CORROSION 2020 conference and expo in Houston until June 14-18, 2020. The five-day event is for corrosion professionals. More than 6,000 attendees from 61 countries were expected to attend the conference this month.
“Postponing our conference was a difficult decision, but after consulting with several members of our industry community and convening our board of directors, we believe it is the right thing to do,” said NACE International CEO Bob Chalker. “We determined the best way to protect the health and safety of our attendees, speakers, and exhibitors is to postpone our annual conference. After close consultation with the George R. Brown Convention Center, conference hotels, and our vendor partners, we believe this is the best solution under the current circumstances.”
NACE is working with all conference venues and vendors to ensure the process of moving CORROSION 2020 to June goes as smoothly as possible, the organization said in a release. More details about these efforts will be posted on the NACE website as they become available.
NACE International’s First Service team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-800-797-6223 or +1-281-228-6223 worldwide. The First Service phone lines will open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. to assist registrants.
Harris County Public Health Department released a notice on St. Cecilia Catholic Church coronavirus investigation:
Harris County Public Health (HCPH) epidemiologists have been in contact with St. Cecilia Catholic Church in West Houston as part of their contact investigation. An individual who tested positive for COVID-19 attended mass at the church at 5:30pm Wednesday, Feb. 26Th Persons who sat approximately within 6 feet of the individual could have potentially been exposed to COVID-19. The individual sat in the very last row on the left side of the church as you face the altar. (This is not a new case of COVID-19, but this investigation is part of HCPH’s existing diagnosed positive COVID-19 cases related to the travel group in Egypt).
As part of the investigation, HCPH is recommending that members of the public who sat in the last three rows on the left side (as you face the altar) at the 5:30 p.m. mass on Wednesday, Feb. 26th, contact Harris County Public Health at 713-439-6000 and contact their healthcare provider immediately (call before going) if they notice any symptoms. Additionally, any parishioner or church attendees experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 should stay home, away from other people, and contact their health provider for additional guidance. As a reminder, the symptoms include: fever, cough (and) shortness of breath.
Based on Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, parishioners should continue monitoring for these symptoms until March 11, 2020. HCPH will work their healthcare provider if testing for COVID-19 is needed.
Since being notified, and with the support of Harris County Public Health, St. Cecilia has taken safety measures to clean and sanitize the area, including sanitizing pews and touchpoints throughout the church, draining and sanitizing baptismal fonts, and providing hand sanitizers at all entry points. We want to thank St. Cecilia Catholic Church leadership and its parishioners for their engagement and support during this investigation.
Members of the public who have general questions about the virus, or are seeking additional information about the current state of the County’s response, including confirmed positive cases, and how to help stop the spread of the virus should visit www.ReadyHarris.org and www.hcphtx.org\COVID-19.
Friday, March 6:
St. Cecilia Catholic Church located at 11720 Joan of Arc Drive, announced Friday that one of the members of their church who had tested positive for coronavirus, attended the 5:30 p.m. Ash Wednesday Mass.
“Harris County Public Health also told us this individual received ashes and had communion in the hand; the person did not receive communion from the cup,” the church wrote on Facebook. “We were informed that the individual sat in the last pew on the left side of the Church at this service.”
If you are a church member who sat in the last 3 rows on the left side of the church at the 5:30 p.m. Ash Wednesday Mass, you’re asked to contact Harris County Public Health at 713-439-6000.
The church said it has taken several steps to protect parishioners:
- They drained and sanitized the baptismal fonts which will not be refilled for the remainder of the Lenten season
- They sanitized the pews, door handles and bathrooms
- They are providing hand sanitizers at all the church entrances
Montgomery County Public Health District says there is one case of possible coronavirus case “under investigation” in the county.
“We are not releasing the numbers of those under testing as they rapidly change from day to day,” officials wrote. “If we have a positive result, and therefore have a presumptive confirmed case, we will send out a press release immediately.”
Two more presumptive positive cases of coronavirus were announced in Fort Bend County Friday by local health officials.
Both patients are women in their 60s who traveled abroad where it is believed they contracted the virus. Both patients were under self-quarantine at home and while one woman’s symptoms “have resolved,” the other woman is exhibiting “mild symptoms,” officials said.
Houston health officials announced there was a confirmed case of coronavirus identified in a 60- to 70-year-old woman. The woman is hospitalized and is listed in stable condition, officials said.
A source confirmed to KPRC 2 that eight more people in Harris County are under investigation as possible coronavirus cases.
Thursday, March 5:
A man and a woman from Harris County were confirmed to have coronavirus, health officials announced. The woman is a staff member at Rice University and visited the campus. Seventeen members of the Rice University community were asked to self-quarantine as a result.
Later that night, Houston officials announced it’s first presumptive positive case of coronavirus. Harris County officials also announced a presumptive positive case. Both cases were men between the ages of 60 and 70.
Wednesday, March 4:
Fort Bend County officials announced a man in his 70s was the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus in the Houston area. He was hospitalized and in stable condition. Ten people that he came in direct contact with were under self-quarantine.
Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.