HOUSTON — We are continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Today's top headlines:
- President Trump, government's top infectious disease expert spar over unproven drug
- What about buses? METRO Houston's plan to stop coronavirus spread
- US tourists stranded abroad don't know when they'll return
- 2 Harris County sheriff deputies test positive for coronavirus
- Houston mayor: 3 more public COVID-19 test sites should open next week
- Texas runoff primary election postponed until July
Here are the latest updates from around the Houston area and the world (all times are Central/Houston time):
MARCH 21 11:15 p.m. — Liberty County confirms its first positive case of COVID-19.
Officials said the case is a 40- to 50-year-old woman experiencing mild symptoms and isolating at home.
MARCH 21 8:36 p.m. — Chambers County confirms its first positive case of COVID-19.
Officials said the case is 50- to 60-year-old woman who is a resident of west Chambers County. They said she is quarantined at home and in stable condition. Her case is possibly travel-related.
MARCH 21 8:04 p.m. — The Texas Attorney General's Office has issued a stern warning for anyone guilty of price gouging. Anyone who preys on consumers to pad their own pockets during the coronavirus crisis could face jail time and fines.
State law strictly prohibits price gouging and other forms of disaster scams in the wake of a disaster declared by either the Governor or the President. Read more here.
MARCH 21 6:22 p.m. — Spring Branch ISD will begin serving curbside pickup meals, Grab and Go Meals, for breakfast and lunch starting March 23. The meals will be served on Mondays and Wednesdays until April 10.
Service hours are 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. at the following schools:
- Hollibrook Elementary
- Tiger Trails Pre-K Center
- Bear Boulevard Pre-K Center
- Lion Lane Pre-K Center
- Wildcat Way Pre-K Center
- Spring Forest Middle School
MARCH 21 6:07 p.m. — Two more HCSO employees tested positive for COVID-19. One is a deputy in his early 30s, who last reported for duty on Thursday, March 19. He is now quarantined at home. The other is a male civilian clerk employee in his late 20s, who last reported for work on March 6. He is being treated at a local hospital.
The agency’s total number of confirmed cases is four. Read more here.
MARCH 21 5:15 p.m. — Brazoria County confirms three new positive cases, bringing the county's total to 14. These include:
- A 25- to 35-year-old man who resides in Angleton. He is in stable condition and recovering in home isolation. Investigating to determine if the case is travel-related.
- A 55- to 65-year-old man who lives in Clute. He is in stable condition and recovering in home isolation. Investigating to determine if the case is travel-related.
- A 20- to 30-year-old man who lives in Rosharon. He is in stable condition and recovering in home isolation. Investigating to determine if the case is travel-related.
MARCH 21 4:22 p.m. — Fort Bend County confirms 5 more positive cases, bringing the county's total to 29. These include:
- A man in his 70s, hospitalized and released, now recovering at home
- A woman in her 20s, moderate symptoms, history of travel to a high incidence area, now recovering in isolation at home
- A man in his 50s, moderate symptoms, recovering at home
- A woman in her 50s, moderate symptoms, recovering at home
- A woman in her 20s, moderate symptoms, recovering at home
MARCH 21 3:58 p.m. — Harris County is reporting 10 more positive cases, including two children, and Wharton County reports its first positive COVID-19 case. Many of the Harris County cases are in the northwest portion of the county and are a result of community spread. The two children are between 0-10 years old, health officials said.
In Wharton County, a woman in her 30s tested positive after traveling to an area with a high amount of positive cases. She's in isolation at home. More details here.
MARCH 21 3:12 p.m. — Beach access points on Galveston's far West End will close to all vehicles in an effort to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Galveston police will set up barricades from access point 35 to the San Luis Pass. The pass bridge remains open, and beaches are still open to foot traffic. All beach amenities were closed on Thursday.
Galveston County has reported eight positive cases of COVID-19.
MARCH 21 2:49 p.m. — Galveston County reports two more positive COVID-19 cases. A woman in her 30s who traveled in the U.S. and another woman in her 60s who also has a recent history of domestic travel. Both are in self-isolation. Click here for a list of all cases in the Houston area.
MARCH 21 2:30 p.m. — Houston Public Works wants to squash some rumors: the city's drinking water is safe. "We continue to make sure our City has safe water that meets all Federal and State standards," the department tweeted Saturday. "Call 311 with ANY questions or concerns. #FactsNotFear"
MARCH 21 1:46 p.m. — The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.
In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region. The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.
MARCH 21 1:36 p.m. — The Federal Aviation Administration said that all departures to airports within New York airspace will be diverted because of "staffing issues." Flight Radar reported that flights inside New York airspace are being "held at their origin" and flights already in the air will continue "if able" or will be diverted. Departures in Philadelphia are also being held along with others citing staffing issues related to Coronavirus.
MARCH 21 1:16 p.m. — There are now eleven confirmed COVID-19 cases in Brazoria County; this is an increase of one. The patient is a male, between the ages of 50-60. He resides in Pearland and is at home recovering in isolation. This case is not travel related. The Brazoria County Health Department continues to investigate all confirmed cases in the County.
MARCH 21 12:56 p.m. — A person connected to the first case in Grimes County has tested positive. County officials didn't disclose if it was a man or woman, or an age for the individual. The person was infected while traveling outside the county. More on cases.
MARCH 21 12:38 p.m. — Gov. Greg Abbott has waived several regulations to help meet Texas’ growing need for nurses as the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. The governor’s actions will expand Texas’ active nursing workforce by doing the following:
- Allowing temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses and graduate vocational nurses who have yet to take the licensing exam.
- Allowing students in their final year of nursing school to meet their clinical objectives by exceeding the 50 percent limit on simulated experiences.
- Allowing nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses.
"In the coming weeks and months, Texas will continue to see a growing need for medical professionals to help us respond to these unique and challenging times," said Governor Abbott. "With these actions, Texas is taking an important step to meet that need. Nurses are essential to our ability to test for this virus, provide care for COVID-19 patients, and to continue providing other essential health care services. Suspending these regulations will allow us to bring additional skilled nurses into the workforce to assist with our efforts and enhance our COVID-19 response."
MARCH 21 12:26 p.m. — Vice President Mike Pence says a staffer who tested positive is doing well, hadn't been to the White House since Monday and had no direct contact with him or President Donald Trump. Pence says he and his wife will be tested for coronavirus today.
MARCH 21 12:17 p.m. — Mayor Sylvester Turner has arrived to inspect the city’s testing site. The city says 79 people have been tested. It is open only for people age 65-plus with cough, difficulty breathing and fever. Call the Houston Health Department at 832-393-4220 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to be screened.
MARCH 21 11:41 a.m. — Fort Bend County leaders are taking extra steps to stop the spread of coronavirus. County Judge K.P. George announced measures that go beyond what the state mandated, and those measures are in effect from March 21 through 11:59 p.m. April 3.
Texas had already banned dining in restaurants and closed bars, gyms and schools. Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order also limited gatherings to no more than 10 people. The new Fort Bend County order also closes down hair and nail salons as well as massage and tattoo parlors, game rooms and bingo halls. Read more.
MARCH 21 11:10 a.m. — U.S. Olympic leaders face a growing rebellion after the USA Track and Field chief added to the call for a postponement of the Tokyo Games because of the mushrooming coronavirus crisis. Read more.
MARCH 21 10:26 a.m. — Matagorda County is reporting its fourth case of COVID-19. A woman between 75-85 who has no recent history of travel outside the county has been hospitalized. Health officials report she's in fair condition and is responding well to treatment. More details on all local cases here.
MARCH 21 9:13 a.m. — U.S. elections have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. At least 13 states have postponed voting and more delays are possible as health officials warn that social distancing and other measures to contain the virus might be in place for weeks, if not months. While election officials routinely prepare for natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires, the virus outbreak poses a unique challenge.
MARCH 21 9:09 a.m. — Members of the White House coronavirus task force are expected to hold a briefing later today at 11 a.m. central. KHOU 11/CBS News plans to carry this as a Special Report live.
MARCH 21 8:09 a.m. — The Houston SPCA will be providing pet food to local communities in need as COVID-19 continues to spread its negative impact in Houston. They will join Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale’s community food distribution at Gallery Furniture’s North Freeway beginning Saturday, March 21 at 1 p.m.
The Houston SPCA’s Chief Medical Director and veterinarian, Dr. Dev, along with Chief Animal Cruelty Investigator, Adam Reynolds, will be going live on Facebook with "Mattress Mack" to talk about pet safety, pet health and COVID-19 during a special Facebook Live Event at Gallery Furniture on facebook.com/houstonspca.
In addition, the Houston SPCA is currently accepting pet food donations from the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily using curbside bins outside the adoption center located at 7007 Old Katy Road, Houston. For additional information, the public should call 713-869-7722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
MARCH 21 7:08 a.m. — Spain has recorded almost 5,000 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours as it climbed into third place in the global ranking of infections behind China and Italy.
Health authorities said Saturday that virus infections have reached 24,926, up from 19,980 the day before. Total deaths were 1,326, up from 1,002 on Friday. Over 1,600 patients are in intensive care units that authorities admit are at their limits. Madrid is the hardest-hit region with almost 9,000 infections.
MARCH 21 6:20 a.m. — The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office will be distributing disinfectant from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. The address is 1521 Eugene Hermann Circle in Richmond. Print and complete the attached form to help speed the process.
MARCH 21 5:50 a.m. — Hospitals across the country are asking people to sew them heavy-duty masks to help during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more.
MARCH 21 5:20 a.m. — Iran announces 123 more virus deaths, bringing toll to 1,556 amid 20,610 confirmed cases.
MARCH 20 10:27 p.m. — The city of Rosenberg announced its closing the following facilities to the public through April 3: city hall, municipal court, fire administration office, city hall annex and the animal shelter. Click here for more information.
MARCH 20 10:15 p.m. — United Memorial Medical Center reports as of 8:45 p.m. its testing labs have returned 105 results, seven of which have tested positive for COVID-19. Several hundred other tests are undergoing microbiological testing.
MARCH 20 8:56 p.m. — Harris County Sheriff's Office confirms two of its deputies tested positive for coronavirus.
Officials said both deputies, who did not work in the same location, are now quarantined at home where their symptoms are being monitored.
They said one of the deputies is a male in his late 60s who recently traveled to New York and has not reported for duty since returning from his trip. The man last reported for duty on Wednesday, March 11.
Officials said the other case is a woman in her late 20s who last reported for duty on Monday, March 16. Read more.
MARCH 20 8:46 p.m. — Montgomery County confirmed two additional coronavirus cases, bringing the county's total number to 12.
County officials said one case is a man in his 90s and a resident of southwest Montgomery County who is currently hospitalized with no recent travel history. The other case is a man in his 50s who is a resident of southwest Montgomery County. His case is still under investigation.
MARCH 20 8:33 p.m. — The Texas runoff primary election has been postponed until July 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Friday announcing the election originally slated for May 26 would now be moved to July 14, the same day as the special election for Texas State Senate District 14. Read more here.
MARCH 20 8:13 p.m. — The White House says a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus.
Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller said Friday that the staff member, who is not being identified, did not have “close contact” to either the vice president or President Donald Trump.
Miller said contact tracing, or contacting everyone the individual has been in contact with, is being conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Miller says Pence’s office was notified Friday evening of the positive test result.
“This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus. Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines,” the vice president's press secretary said.
MARCH 20 8:04 p.m. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning people about unauthorized, fake coronavirus test kits. Federal officials say they're also monitoring the market for products claiming to help treat COVID-19.
The FDA said on Friday that it's learned of some products being marketed as in-home coronavirus test kits which claim to diagnose, prevent or treat the illness caused by the new virus spreading worldwide. The federal agency says it hasn't OK'd any test that people can buy to test themselves at home. Read more here.
MARCH 20 6:51 p.m. — Mayor Sylvester Turner has a very specific message for everyone: the city is not shutting down.
The mayor called a news conference late Friday afternoon to dispel rumors circulating on social media that the city was going on lockdown. The mayor said those rumors were just that—rumors.
“There’s no lockdown, the city is not shutting down,” Turner said. “There are only three people in the state of Texas who can do that: the mayor, county judge or governor.” Read more here.
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80-percent of the cases there were mild.
But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.
The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Stay up to date on coronavirus
Human coronaviruses are usually spread through:
- The air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Help stop the spread of coronavirus
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Eat and sleep separately from your family members
- Use different utensils and dishes
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, hot your hand.
- If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
Lower your risk
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.