Coronavirus in Texas is prompting major event cancellations, the extension of college spring breaks and a handful of school closures as the number of cases surpasses 30. Also, health officials say they may have identified at least one case of the virus being spread through the community.
Here’s what you need to know.
How many people in Texas have coronavirus?
There have been at least 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Texas.
The largest numbers of cases have largely been centered in the Houston area, in North Texas and at a federal quarantine site in San Antonio.
Is coronavirus spreading person to person in Texas?
Yes. A Frisco man who traveled to California passed the virus to his wife and 3-year-old child. His relatives’ positive tests were publicly disclosed March 10. And officials in Montgomery County said March 11 they had identified a patient with coronavirus who doesn't have any recent travel history, meaning community spread of the disease could be in Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines community spread as the “occurrence of cases for which the source of infection is unknown.”
Dallas County’s second case was a person in their 50s who "is a close contact" of a 77-year-old “out-of-state traveler.” Both Dallas County cases were disclosed March 10. County officials said they expected the second person's coronavirus test to come back positive and “there is not a cause for concern."
The first instance of coronavirus spreading from person to person in the U.S. occurred in January, when a 60-year-old woman from Illinois contracted the virus in China and transferred the virus to her spouse, according to the CDC.
Are school districts closing?
Yes, but only temporarily so far. As of March 11, at least two Texas public school districts in areas near confirmed coronavirus cases have already temporarily canceled classes.
What are colleges and universities doing?
More than a dozen Texas universities have announced that they would extend students' spring breaks and would at least temporarily switch to online classes. Trinity University is transitioning to remote teaching for the remainder of the spring semester and permanently closing residence halls beginning March 16. Texas Tech University has canceled classes the week after its spring break and said teaching will move online beginning March 30. Rice University canceled in-person classes for the week of March 9 after an employee, one of several Houston-area residents who had been on a contaminated cruise in Egypt, tested positive for the virus.
Many colleges and universities have canceled events, prohibited large gatherings, stepped up their sanitation measures and restricted university-sponsored travel.
Have there been major event cancellations in Texas?
Yes. South by Southwest — an annual international festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the state's capital — was canceled after Austin and Travis County officials issued local disaster declarations. That is one of the state's biggest cancellations of conferences, major events or festivals in response to COVID-19. The 10-day event was scheduled to begin March 13.
Houston officials also decided March 11 to cancel the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo amid a seven-day emergency health declaration. On the same day, San Antonio officials said the Fiesta San Antonio Commission has no plans to cancel the weeklong Fiesta celebration in April because the event date is too far away, but they will be taking extra precautions.
And the University of Texas at Austin's home sporting events will be played without fans in attendance through March 22. Its athletics teams will continue to "travel to road competitions as scheduled at this time," according to the department's website. The National Collegiate Athletic Association said men's and women's college basketball tournaments in March will not be open to the public.
What’s the latest at Texas’ federal quarantine site in San Antonio?
The state’s first 11 cases were people who caught the COVID-19 disease overseas and were quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Since February, hundreds of American evacuees from China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the illness’ outbreak, and two cruise ships have stayed on the base during their quarantine periods.
The 11 people who tested positive while in quarantine were sent to San Antonio’s Texas Center for Infectious Disease for isolated treatment. Ten of those people remained there as of March 10.
Almost 100 people from a cruise ship arrived at Lackland to be quarantined on March 10, after the initial hundreds of evacuees who tested negative had been allowed to leave. San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said there are 120 more people expected to come to Lackland from the same cruise ship on March 11. But people who aren't from Texas are being rerouted to their home states, the San Antonio Express-News reported, in what it called a “last-minute change of plans” that has flustered officials throughout the government.
How does coronavirus compare with the flu?
Coronavirus comes with seasonal flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Severe cases of the virus can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure. It also can be deadly for a small percentage of the population, according to the World Health Organization.
Similar to respiratory illnesses like the flu, coronavirus spreads from person-to-person contact, such as coughing, sneezing or touching infected surfaces, according to the CDC. Both diseases are especially dangerous for people who are older than 65, but the flu is more dangerous for children and pregnant women, according to The New York Times.
However, early reports indicate the coronavirus appears to be more contagious and have a higher fatality rate than the flu. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine available to prevent or reduce cases of coronavirus.
How long does it take for symptoms to start showing?
The time between catching COVID-19 and showing symptoms — the incubation period — ranges from one to 14 days, most commonly five days, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO plans to update that estimate as more information is gathered.
What’s the fatality rate for coronavirus?
"Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said March 4. The seasonal flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1%.
According to a paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the fatality rates for the elderly or people with other underlying health conditions can be much higher — as high as 14% for people over the age of 80.
It is important to note that it is very early and data is still being gathered, so the fatality rate for COVID-19 could change, according to PBS NewsHour.