HOUSTON – The remainder of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled Wednesday as officials in both Houston and Harris County declare a health emergency.
According to an alert from the Houston Rodeo app, the grounds at NRG Park will be closed as of 4 p.m.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the new presumptive positive case of coronavirus that was reported Tuesday in Montgomery County was not related to international travel, and there was evidence of community spread in that case. That is what led to the decision to cancel the Rodeo, Turner said.
“This decision has not come easily,” Turner said.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said it is believed that the Montgomery County coronavirus patient, identified only as a man in his 40s who lives in Montgomery County, attended the barbecue cookoff at the Rodeo on Friday, Feb. 28. She said epidemiologists are working to retrace the patient’s steps and determine whether the patient had symptoms when attending the event.
According to the rodeo attendance numbers, there were 73,433 people who attended the “World Championship Barb-B-Que Contest,” on Friday, Feb. 28. The total attendance numbers for that day were 77,632.
Officials said people who came into close contact with the Montgomery County patient and live in Montgomery County have been placed in a 14-day quarantine. People who live outside Montgomery County who came into contact with the patient are being forwarded to their local health departments for guidance, officials said.
The Rodeo was scheduled to run until March 22.
A total of 14 cases of COVID-19 have been officially reported in the Houston area – two cases in Houston, five cases in Harris County, six cases of Fort Bend County and one case in Montgomery County.
Refunds and scholarships
Joel Cowley, president of the Rodeo, said officials are working to develop a refund process for ticket holders. Scholarships will be fulfilled, he said.
Below is the written statement provided by Rodeo officials:
“In the interest of public health, the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department have ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to close. The Rodeo will respectfully and dutifully comply with the city’s order. The Rodeo is deeply saddened. However, the safety and well-being of our guests and our community is our top priority. Out of precaution, the city has decided that this is the best course of action for our community. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been a fabric of this community since 1932. Having to close early is extremely difficult as guests, volunteers, exhibitors, rodeo athletes, and entertainers look forward to the 20 days of the Rodeo each year. We look forward to the 2021 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to continue to promote agriculture, education, entertainment and Western heritage. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
There’s more information about obtaining refunds here.
The health emergency declaration will remain in place for seven days in Houston, according to Turner. The City Council will then vote on whether to extend the emergency. A similar measure is being issued for Harris County, Hidalgo said.
Dr. David Persse, of the Houston Health Department, said the evidence of community spread in the Montgomery County case took response efforts to a new level.
“This virus is new to the human population,” Persse said. “none of us have an immunity to it.”
He said officials have every reason to expect that the virus can spread to “many, many people in our community.” He said that while most people infected with the virus experience mild symptoms, there are some that require hospitalization. He said Wednesday’s move is a way to ensure that hospital beds are available when they are needed.
“We’re doing this in order to save lives,” Persse said.
Doctors urged people to practice proper hygiene, stay home when they’re sick and cover their cough. People who have recently traveled internationally are also asked to isolate themselves at home and contact their local health departments for guidance.
Other events also canceled, postponed
Turner said the Tour de Houston bike ride that was scheduled for Sunday is being postponed. He said if it cannot be rescheduled, it will be canceled.
Turner said any events that are sponsored, produced or permitted by the city are either postponed or canceled.
Officials at the Bayou City Art Festival announced Wednesday that the event at Memorial Park is postponed. It was originally scheduled for March 27 to March 29. Officials said they are working with city officials to determine when the event can be rescheduled. Below is the full statement from the organizers:
"In the interest of public health and in compliance with the Mayor of the City of Houston’s emergency health declaration, the Bayou City Art Festival scheduled for March 27-29, 2020 in Memorial Park will be postponed. The Bayou City Art Festival leadership is working closely with the Mayor’s Office to determine the date for rescheduling.
“In its 49th year since the founding of the Westheimer Art Festival, now known as Bayou City Art Festival, the Art Colony Association, Inc. has raised more than $3.6 million for local nonprofit programs from proceeds of its festivals. Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park in the spring and Bayou City Art Festival Downtown in the fall has provided a venue for more than 20,000 artists to showcase their work to thousands of art lovers. The festivals are funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, corporate sponsorships, private contributions, in-kind support and volunteer assistance. Bayou City Art Festival Downtown will be held October 10-11, 2020.”
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