Coronavirus updates in Texas: Count climbs to 68; state gets a boost in medical safety supplies

Biology junior Morgan Hale researches viral proteins at the McLellan Lab at The University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday. (Texas Tribune) ((Texas Tribune))

In a guidance issued Sunday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that organizers cancel or postpone any in-person events that include 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.

"Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities," the guidance says.

The guidance only pertains to events, not day-to-day operations of schools or businesses. It is also only a recommendation and does not overrule decisions made at the local level. Texas has no statewide ban of large events in place, though local officials have canceled numerous events and most major festivals and sporting events have already been canceled. Austin has banned gatherings of 250 people or more, for instance.

"This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus," the guidance says.

State distributing more medical supplies

[4:06 p.m.] The Texas Department of State Health Services has started to distribute surgical masks and other various medical supplies to health care entities to help with responding to the new coronavirus.

The department, which announced the news Sunday afternoon, said Texas received the medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal-run repository aimed at helping states during national emergencies.

Items ranged from masks to respirators and face shields and gloves. Equipment had first arrived Saturday at a San Antonio warehouse, the department said. More would be sent to local partners, DSHS said, which would then distribute to local providers and health care facilities in the area. — Cassi Pollock

UT-Austin President tests negative for COVID-19

[2:15 p.m.] University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves has tested negative for the coronavirus and has not experienced any symptoms since late Thursday.

According to an email alert from Amy Young, UT Health Austin’s Chief Clinical Officer, Fenves will continue to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms.

UT is still in the process of contacting individuals who have had close contact with Fenves.

“Because of President Fenves’ extensive contact with those in his family who have tested positive and the fact that he had demonstrated symptoms, there remains a possibility he may have been infectious prior to his COVID-19 testing,” Young wrote. “Therefore, public health authorities are recommending continued self-isolation for those who were in close contact.”

On March 13, Fenves announced that his wife Carmel tested positive for the coronavirus after a visit to New York in early March.

“After the trip, Carmel started exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms. She tested negative for the flu yesterday and was then tested for COVID-19. This morning at 5:30 a.m., we received the news that she had tested positive,” Fenves wrote in a letter to the university community. — Raga Justin

Latest coronavirus count climbs to 68 cases statewide

[12:30 p.m.] The state’s coronavirus count reached 68 cases as of noon Sunday. Four counties are now reporting community spread: Brazoria, Dallas, Matagorda and Montgomery. In total, 17 counties–– and the Lackland Air Force Base–– are reporting at least one coronavirus case. Since Saturday at 7 p.m., the state has reported an additional five cases. — Raga Justin