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Coronavirus updates: Gov. Abbott extends disaster declaration for all Texas counties

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines and updates for Tuesday, May 12.

HOUSTON — We are continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

>> This blog has been archived. Get the latest COVID-19 headlines anytime by texting FACTS to 713-526-1111 or checking khou.com/coronavirus

Get the latest updates and top headlines in our live blog below.

Today's top headlines

The latest COVID-19 numbers 

As of Tuesday morning: There are 4,194,326 million confirmed cases worldwide, an increase of about 70,000 from the day before. There are 286,669 deaths reported worldwide and 1,466,075 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins at this time. The U.S. leads the world with 1,347,936 confirmed cases, up by about 17,000 cases from the previous day. 

As of its latest update, Texas Health and Human Services reports 39,869 COVID-19 cases in the state with 1,100 deaths and an estimated 21,713 recoveries. There are 8,176 confirmed cases in Houston and Harris County combined as of the May 11th update. You can see the chart of daily new cases reported for the county and city here:

Credit: KHOU
Daily new case numbers for Houston and Harris County as of May 11, 2020

>> This blog has been archived. Get the latest COVID-19 headlines anytime by texting FACTS to 713-526-1111 or checking khou.com/coronavirus

Latest COVID-19 updates

Here are the latest updates from around the Houston area and the world (all times are Central/Houston time):

MAY 12 8:43 p.m. — Wanna get away? Southwest's summer fare sale starts at $49 one way as the airline tries to dig out from the dramatic drop in air travel due to the coronavirus.

MAY 12 7:23 p.m. — School districts are having to get creative with graduation ceremonies for high school seniors. Some are still hosting outdoor, in-person graduations, while others are turning to virtual ceremonies. Here's more.

MAY 12 6:42 p.m. — How badly are airports and airlines hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic? New data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics a 50% decrease in people flying from March this year to March last year. And local airport officials at Bush Intercontinental and Hobby expect the numbers to be as low for the month of April. Read more here.

MAY 12 5:05 p.m.  Governor Greg Abbott today issued a proclamation extending his Disaster Declaration for all Texas counties in response to COVID-19. The Disaster Declaration provides the state a number of resources to effectively serve Texans as the Lone Star State continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

"As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, our top priority remains the health and safety of all Texans," said Governor Abbott. "By extending the disaster declaration, we are ensuring that Texas has the resources and capabilities in place to safely and strategically open the state while containing the spread of this virus. As we move forward in our response, I urge all Texans to continue following the health and safety guidelines laid out by the CDC and Texas’ team of medical experts."  View the Governor's proclamation.

MAY 12 4:44 p.m. — Walmart announced plans to give another cash bonus to all U.S. hourly associates to recognize their contributions to communities during the coronavirus pandemic. 

This includes hourly associates in stores, clubs, supply chain and offices, drivers, and assistant managers in stores and clubs.

The bonus will be $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly and temporary associates. More details

MAY 12 3:12 p.m. Governor Abbott today announced Texas will provide more than $1 billion in food benefits to families with children who have temporarily lost access to free or discounted school meals due to COVID-19-related school closures.

The federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT)  provides a one-time benefit of $285 per child, which can be used in the same way as SNAP food benefits to pay for groceries. 

Families with children aged 5 to 18 who received SNAP food benefits for the month of March -- when school campuses first closed -- will automatically receive P-EBT on their current Lone Star Card by May 22. Families who have children certified for free or reduced-price meals during the 2019-20 school year but did not receive SNAP benefits for the month of March will need to apply. Click here for more info.

RELATED: Texas families with children who receive free or discounted meals at school will get $285 from state

MAY 12 2:30 p.m. — Texas prison inmates have begun testing themselves for the coronavirus in an effort to help stop the spread. 

The state sent tens of thousands of COVID-19 oral fluid tests -- manufactured by Curative, Incorporated -- to TDCJ prison units across Texas. Clinical studies show Curative’s oral fluid test has equivalent sensitivity to nasal swab tests that require a nurse, according to TDCJ. 

Thirty TDCJ inmates and seven prison employees have died from COVID-19 and more than 1,700 have tested positive. Of those tested before Tuesday, 74% were positive.

MAY 12 1:13 p.m.  The Texas Department of State Health Services is distributing 1,200 vials of the drug remdesivir to hospitals to treat patients with COVID-19. 

Texas started shipping the limited supply today to 15 hospitals in 14 communities, ensuring that patients in regions across the state will have access to the drug while providing additional supplies to areas that have had more COVID-19 cases. 

In Houston, Ben Taub Hospital & Memorial Hermann Hospital System received six cases.

MAY 12 12:55 p.m. — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has emerged as a champion of defying stay-home orders intended to stop the coronavirus from spreading, picking up support from President Trump. 

He tweeted Tuesday morning that Tesla's San Francisco Bay Area factory should be allowed to open despite local health department orders that it stay closed except for minimum basic operations.

Among Musk's biggest critics is California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who used an expletive to describe the CEO after his threats to relocate his operations to Texas or Nevada. She said the company is disregarding worker safety and bullying public officials. Read more.

 MAY 12 12:28 p.m. — Mayor Sylvester Turner unveiled the details of his 2021 city budget Tuesday morning calling it the toughest one he's ever had to put together.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a $169 million gap in the city of Houston’s budget. Because of coronavirus, the city is expected to lose $107 million in sales tax revenue that will have a significant impact on city services.

Turner announced five Houston police cadet classes will have to be deferred and 3,000 city workers will be furloughed for a total of 10 days. Those furloughs start in July and will not impact police, firefighters or public waste workers. More here

MAY 12 11:15 a.m. — Russian president's spokesman hospitalized with coronavirus | Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has been hospitalized with the coronavirus. The infection of the 52-year-old spokesman is the latest in a series of setbacks for President Vladimir Putin as Russia struggles to contain the growing outbreak. Peskov has worked with Putin for nearly two decades. The Tass news agency quoted him as saying that he last saw Putin in person “more than a month ago.” The announcement comes a day after Putin said Russia was successful in slowing down the epidemic and announced he was easing some of the nationwide lockdown restrictions. Russia has reported more than 232,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. (AP)

MAY 12 10:30 a.m. — Update from Fort Bend County: "Today, we are reporting 19 new cases of #COVID19 and 4 additional recoveries. We are sad to report two additional deaths, a man in his 80s and a man in his 40s, both underlying health conditions.Our thoughts are with their family and friends."

MAY 12 10:01 a.m. — A wonderful update from the Houston Food Bank and United Airlines: "Yesterday, @united reached 1 million pounds of product bagged and boxed at the United Airlines cargo! We are beyond grateful for United Airlines for all of their hard work and support during these extraordinary times. #unitedtogether #beingunited"

MAY 12 9:30 a.m. — HISD will hold virtual graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 | There won't be any pomp and circumstance for the 11,000 members of the Class of 2020 in the Houston Independent School District. Instead, they'll be honored with virtual graduation ceremonies beginning on Sunday, June 14.  Read more here.

MAY 12 8:56 a.m. — Fauci warns of 'suffering and death' if US reopens too soon | Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is warning Congress that if the country reopens too soon during the coronavirus pandemic, it will bring “needless suffering and death.” Fauci is among the experts testifying to a Senate panel on Tuesday. His testimony comes as President Donald Trump is pressuring states to reopen after the prolonged lock-down aimed at controlling the virus’ spread.  With the U.S. economy in free-fall and more than 30 million people unemployed, Trump wants to restart the economy. Fauci is testifying via video conference, after self-quarantining as two White House staffers tested positive for the virus. (AP) You can stream it here and read more follow-up coverage here.

MAY 12 7:38 a.m. — Business news: Steak 'n Shake to permanently close over 50 locations citing coronavirus pandemic | A report says that the pandemic has had an 'adverse effect' on operations. The locations that will close have not been listed. There are currently three locations in the Houston area. Read more here.

MAY 12 7:15 a.m. — Update from the UK: More than 8,000 people died with the coronavirus in British nursing homes since the first recorded death from March 2 to May 1. The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics says in the two-month period there were 8,312 recorded deaths in care homes in England and Wales that mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate. The figure doesn’t include deaths in Scotland or Northern Ireland, which would add several hundred to the total. In all, there were 35,044 deaths involving the coronavirus in England and Wales to May 1. The figure is higher than the official government toll, which stood Monday at 32,065, because it includes cases in which COVID-19 was suspected but not confirmed by a test. (AP)

MAY 12 7:15 a.m. — Pope Francis is urging governments hire more nurses and invest in their training and working conditions, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has shown a “number of deficiencies” in the way governments provide medical care for their people. Francis hailed the “courage and sacrifice” of nurses and says their “fundamental importance” had been reaffirmed during the pandemic. He issued the message on the World Health Organization’s International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Francis noted many nurses have died during the pandemic. He asks world leaders "to invest in health care as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person.” (AP)

MAY 12 6:55 a.m. — If your business recalls you, it's go back or go unpaid | Stores, office buildings, and some restaurants are now reopening. But many employees are not sure they want to go back yet and are wondering if they can stay home and collect unemployment a couple more months. Hair salons in some states are now reopening calling stylists back to work, but Chrissy Yelton isn't sure she feels comfortable. Read more here.

MAY 12 6:20 a.m. — U.S. sends ventilators to South Africa | The U.S. government has donated 1,000 ventilators to South Africa to help the country respond to COVID-19. South Africa has the most confirmed cases of the disease in Africa with more than 10,600, including 206 deaths. The new ventilators are valued at $14 million, and with accessories, service plans and shipping, the total donation is worth $20 million, said the U.S. embassy in a statement issued Tuesday. The ventilators, produced in the United States, will help South Africa’s hospitals treat patients in intensive care units, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will work with the South African government to distribute the equipment across the country. (AP)

MAY 11 5:33 a.m. — Cubicle comeback? Pandemic will reshape office life for good | Office jobs are never going to be the same. When workers around the world return to their desks, they’ll find many changes spurred by the pandemic. For a start, there will be fewer people as working from home becomes a more accepted practice. Workers who do go to the office will arrive in staggered shifts to avoid rush hour crowds. Staff might take turns working alternate days to reduce crowding. One-way paths will be laid out for better flow. Elevators could be limited to a few people at a time. Floor markings or sensors will remind people how far apart to stand. And there will be a lot more cleaning. (AP)

MAY 11 5:03 p.m. — Burlington stores in and around Houston are opening its doors Friday, May 15. 

The company said all of its stores will be following the recommended guidelines from the World Health Organization (“WHO”), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), and other applicable federal, state and local authorities.

The safety measures include, but are not limited to social distancing measures, wider check-out lanes and one way entrances and exits throughout the store, cart wipes, and masks for all associates. 

MAY 11 4:59 p.m. — Governor Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to test all residents and staff at Texas nursing homes.

The Governor also instructed all of the agencies to develop and implement a plan based on the guidance of Vice President Mike Pence and Doctor Deborah Birx.  

"The State of Texas is working to rapidly expand our testing capacity—especially among vulnerable populations in Texas nursing homes," said Governor Abbott. "This important collaboration among HHSC, TDEM, and DSHS will ensure that any potential clusters of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are quickly detected and contained.

MAY 11 3:54 p.m. The Houston Health Department reported 226 new coronavirus cases today, bringing the city's total to 4,760. These numbers are a result of a two-day total as the city did not announce any cases Sunday due to it being Mother's Day. 

The city also reported six additional deaths, bringing the total death toll 100.

One of the deceased individuals is a Hispanic boy between the age of 10 and 19. He died on May 7. 

The health department said he and the other five individuals all had underlying health conditions.

The other deceased individuals:

  • Black man in his 40s who died on April 26
  • Black man in his 70s who died on April 13
  • Black woman in her 80s who died on April 15
  • White man in his 60s who died on April 25
  • Asian woman in her 90s who died in May 6

MAY 11 3:10 p.m. — The White House is requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering after coronavirus scares near President Donald Trump.

A memo sent to all staff outlined the new directive Monday after two staffers last week tested positive for COVID-19.

MAY 11 12:19 p.m. — Kroger is joining the front lines by providing free COVID-19 testing to individuals who are symptomatic, first responders and health care workers. 

The free mobile drive-thru testing sites operate in 13 states across the U.S. There are currently seven testing sites in Texas with five of those being in the Houston area. Click here for the locations. 

MAY 11 11:32 a.m. — The White House is recommending that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for the new coronavirus in the next two weeks.

Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, told governors on a video conference call Monday that it’s the federal government’s strong recommendation that such testing be done. Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, told governors to focus over the next two weeks on testing all 1 million nursing home residents. She says the White House will help states that need it.

Nursing homes and the elderly have been shown to be especially susceptible to the virus.

The Associated Press obtained a recording of the meeting. (AP)

RELATED: Nurse who worked at 2 Corpus nursing homes now under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, never experienced symptoms

RELATED: At a Brenham nursing home: 102 coronavirus cases, 19 deaths

RELATED: Nearly half of Texas COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities

MAY 11 11:32 a.m. — Restart or re-stop? Countries reopen amid second-wave fears | Countries in Europe are reopening their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic but in chaotic ways. Life resumed in Paris' iconic streets and schoolchildren returned to class in the Netherlands as countries tried to balance how to reopen economies without rekindling new outbreaks. The issue is being highlighted by several new infection clusters in South Korea, Germany and China. Nightclubs in the Seoul region were ordered to shut down again after dozens of new infections occurred among visitors. Trump administration officials spoke optimistically about a relatively quick economic rebound but Vice President Mike Pence himself has had to self-isolate after an aide tested positive. (AP)

MAY 11 11:30 a.m. — Italy's numbers continue to improve | For a fifth straight day on Monday, Italy’s daily number of new COVID-19 infections has declined.

According to Italian Health Ministry data, there were 744 confirmed new cases registered since Sunday evening. That number is lower than daily caseloads when contagion containment measures went into effect nationwide in early March. The country where Europe’s outbreak began now has 219,814 cases, a tally that experts say is surely significantly lower than actual infections, since many with mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms didn’t get hospitalized or tested. In recent days, the number of daily new deaths also has been significantly lower than in early weeks, with 179 registered on Monday. (AP)

MAY 11 10:31 a.m. — Tesla to Texas: City leaders throw in their support for headquarters moving to Houston area | On Saturday, when Tesla CEO Elon Musk threatened to move Tesla's headquarters and future programs to Texas because of California's response to COVID-19, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made sure Musk knew he was listening.   Well, it seems like Abbott isn't the only one who is all ears for this possible venture.

Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw threw in his support for Tesla by tweeting, "Good conservative principles make good governance, and attract the best and the brightest. The future is happening in Texas."

Read the full story here.

MAY 11 9:10 a.m. — Funeral service for HCSO Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski set for Thursday | Funeral services for Harris County Deputy Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski have been set for Thursday in Humble. Scholwinski, 70, died on May 6 after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The service will be held at First Assembly of God located at 1915 FM 1960. Read more here.

MAY 11 8:31  a.m. — 'Tale of 2 outbreaks': Singapore tackles a costly setback | A second wave of coronavirus infections in tightly packed foreign workers' dormitories has caught Singapore off guard, and exposed the danger of overlooking marginal groups in a health crisis. Infections in Singapore, an affluent Southeast Asian city-state of fewer than 6 million people, have jumped more than a hundredfold in two months — from 226 in mid-March to over 23,800, the most in Asia after China and India. About 89% of the cases are linked to foreign workers' dorms that were a blind spot in the government's praised crisis management. The government is now treating the dorm outbreak as separate from infections in the local community, a policy some say is discriminatory. (AP)

MAY 11 7:18 a.m. — VERIFY: No, Harris County contact tracers cannot place you under house arrest, lock you up | As Texas reopens Harris County leaders have said that contact tracers will be key to doing that safely. But there have been claims circulating on social media about how these people in charge of tracing the spread of coronavirus in our community operate. Our Verify team is getting answers. Read more here.

MAY 11 7:03 a.m. — Trump claim of becoming 'King of Ventilators' may result in unexpected US glut (AP) | As requests for ventilators from the national stockpile reached a crescendo in late March, President Donald Trump made what seemed like a bold claim: His administration would provide 100,000 within 100 days. At the time, the Department of Health and Human Services had not ordered any new ventilators since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in January. But records show that over the following three weeks, the agency scrambled to turn Trump’s pledge into a reality, spending nearly $3 billion to spur U.S. manufacturers to crank out the breathing machines at an unprecedented pace. Read the full AP story here.

MAY 11 7 a.m. — Amtrak now requires passengers to wear face masks | Amtrak says they will deny service to customers who do not abide by the new face-covering policy. Read more here.

MAY 11 5:22 a.m. — HOV/HOT lanes reopen in Houston, tolls to resume | Some good news for commuters as HOV/HOT lanes reopen Monday morning. The HOV/HOT lanes are now open on Interstate 45, U.S. Highway 59 and U.S Highway 290. Read more here.

MAY 11 5:06 a.m. — Shanghai Disneyland reopens with anti-virus controls | Visitors wearing face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as the theme park reopened in a high-profile step toward reviving tourism that was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. The park will limit numbers of daily visitors and keep some attractions closed in line with social distancing guidelines. The reopening comes as companies and the ruling Communist Party try revive the world’s second-largest economy following a shutdown that plunged it into its worst slump since at least the 1960s. (AP)

MAY 10 11 p.m. — New Braunfels resident says social distancing isn't happening on the Comal River | Cars lined the street at Prince Solms Park in New Braunfels over the weekend. With tubes in tow, people headed down to the Comal River. It was a concerning sight for Charles Rogers, who said he and his wife were driving along the river when they noticed the crowd. Rogers was surprised to see so many people out in the middle of an ongoing pandemic.

"Between Hineman Island and Prince Solms park, at least a thousand (people)," Rogers contends.

He said social distancing didn't seem to be a priority and that few people were wearing masks. Read/watch the full story here.

MAY 10 6:28 p.m. — The number of total confirmed cases in Texas rose by more than 1,000 again on Sunday, to 38,869. There was also a slight uptick in new deaths to 1,088, up 39 from Saturday.

MAY 10 5:55 p.m. — Vice President Mike Pence is self-isolating after an aide tested positive for the coronavirus last week. 

An administration official says Pence is voluntarily limiting his exposure and will work from home. He has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 since his exposure but is following the advice of medical officials. Read more here.

MAY 10 5:34 p.m. — Galveston County Health District reports 5 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's case total to 685. Total recoveries remain at 400.

MAY 10 3:54 p.m. — Three of the five new coronavirus cases being reported Sunday in Brazoria County are prison inmates. As of today, 661 people have tested positive and nine people have died from the virus in that area.

MAY 10 3:20 p.m. —  Alarm is growing in the medical community about access to remdesivir, the drug that the FDA has cleared for emergency use for some coronavirus patients. 

Trying to head off another chaotic scramble for scarce supplies, the White House said Friday it will step in to help coordinate distribution of the first drug that appears to help some COVID-19 patients recover faster.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of White House Coronavirus Task Force, will become one of the chief consultants on where the intravenous medication remdesivir will be distributed.

Read more here.

MAY 10 11:37 a.m. — China and South Korea have reported new spikes in coronavirus cases, setting off concerns in countries where local outbreaks had been in dramatic decline. In the United States, former President Barack Obama harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster." Many families celebrated Mother’s Day weekend from afar, delaying or changing their normal plans each year in a time of social distancing and isolation. France is letting some students go back to school Monday, while Britain's prime minister will announce a “road map” later Sunday that is expected to keep most of the lockdown restrictions in place. Worldwide, 4 million people have been confirmed infected by the virus, and nearly 280,000 have died. 

South Korea reported 34 more cases as new infections linked to nightclubs threaten the country’s hard-won gains against the virus. It was the first time that South Korea’s daily infections were above 30 in about a month. 

China reported 14 new cases Sunday, its first double-digit rise in 10 days. Eleven of 12 domestic infections were in the northeastern province of Jilin, which prompted authorities to raise the threat level in one of its counties, Shulan, to high risk, just days after downgrading all regions to low risk.

Authorities said the Shulan outbreak originated with a 45-year-old woman who had no recent travel or exposure history but spread it to her husband, her three sisters and other family members. Train services in the county were being suspended. (AP)

MAY 10 11:35 a.m. — a nice message from Harris County Public Health this morning: "Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there! #COVID19 has changed things this year, if you can't physically be together to celebrate, know that you are still connected in a way that’s bigger than any distance. Stay calm and call your moms today!"

MAY 10 10 a.m. — From Fort Bend County: "Today, we are reporting 14 new cases of #COVID19 & 8 additional recoveries. We are sad to report two addl deaths, a man in his 90s and a woman in her 80s, both underlying health conditions.Our thoughts are with their family and friends."

RELATED: Map: Keeping track of Houston-area coronavirus cases

MAY 10 9 a.m. — Houston mom spends first Mother's Day on the frontlines in New York | We already know that being a mother is a full-time job. Many moms out there have also been on the frontlines every day since the fight against COVID-19 started. Healthcare workers have flocked to hot zones to help control the spread of coronavirus. Among them is Megan Amerson-Brown who, for the last two weeks, has been in New York working in infection control. Read/watch the full story here.

MAY 10 8:50 a.m. — Happy Mother's Day! Is it safe to visit mom on Mother's Day or give her a card and flowers? The very special annual celebration of mothers is here, even as many try to keep socially distant. Here are some things to keep in mind along with some key questions to ask yourself before visiting mom.

MAY 10 8:27 a.m. — As Trump pulls back from virus, Congress races to fill void |  President Donald Trump is trying to move on from the coronavirus, and Congress is rushing to fill the void. The lack of comprehensive federal planning as states begin to reopen has jolted lawmakers of both parties. And now they're jumping in to develop policies and unleash resources to prevent a second wave of the pandemic. As a result, the legislative branch is stepping up in the absence of a consistent, convincing White House strategy. It's similar to the way way governors have been forced to go it alone during the nation’s pandemic response. A first-term New Jersey congresswoman says, “This is going to be on us." (AP)

MAY 10 8:15 a.m. — Schumer calls on VA to explain use of unproven drug on vets | The Senate’s top Democrat is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why it allowed the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the coronavirus. Sen. Charles Schumer says veterans may have been put at unnecessary risk. In an interview with The Associated Press, he says the VA should provide Congress more information about a recent bulk order for $208,000 worth of a malaria drug that President Donald Trump has heavily promoted, without scientific evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19. Major veterans organizations have urged VA to explain under what circumstances VA doctors initiate discussion of hydroxychloroquine with veterans as a treatment option. (AP)

MAY 9 9:22 p.m. — Two correctional officers with the Texas prison system have died, possibly due to the coronavirus.

Officers Maria Mendez, 59, and Jesse Bolton, 62, died this week, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said this evening. Their deaths are being investigated if their linked to COVID-19.

Seven TDCJ employees have died due to the virus.

Mendez, an 11-year veteran with the department, died this morning after she was hospitalized with shortness of breath and a cough and fever on April 12 and tested positive for the virus. Three days later, she was moved to intensive care and placed on a ventilator. She most recently worked in the Wynne Unit in Huntsville.

Bolton was hospitalized May 6 with stroke-like symptoms at a Huntsville hospital. He originally tested negative for COVID-19 but a second test was positive. He died Friday afternoon. Bolton worked with TDCJ for 12 years and most recently worked at the Eastham Unit east of Madisonville.

“Losing any employee is difficult, but learning of two deaths in a single day is unthinkable,” said Bryan Collier, executive director of TDCJ. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire agency are with all the family and friends of both Officers Mendez and Bolton.”

There are 587 employees, staff or contractors who have tested positive for the virus. Another 1,427 prisoners have tested positive.

MAY 9 8:19 p.m. — South Korea's capital has shut down more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars and discos after dozens of coronavirus infections were linked to club goers who went out last weekend as the country relaxed social distancing guidelines. 

MAY 9 7:28 p.m. — After closing amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Park Service is testing public access at several parks across the nation, including two in Utah, with limited offerings and services. Visitor centers and campgrounds remain largely shuttered at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, but visitors are welcome at some of the site. Here's what you need to know if you plan to visit a national park.

View previous blog entries/updates here

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Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.

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 for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

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, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Follow social distancing

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.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.