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Coronavirus updates: Houston shines blue to honor health care workers, first responders

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas and the world for Thursday, April 9.

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

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that all city parks will close through Easter weekend to avoid the spread of the virus. Houston reported 615 new cases and two deaths Thursday.

Get today's latest updates and top headlines below.

Today's top headlines

How you can get tested for COVID-19 | Map: Local COVID-19 cases | Coronavirus symptomsFrequently Asked Questions

Latest updates

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

APRIL 9 10:04 p.m. — To honor health care workers, first responders and all essential employees on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, buildings and stadiums across Greater Houston shined blue in appreciation for those fighting to keep us safe.

See more pictures here.

APRIL 9 9:04 p.m. — This interactive map shows you mass layoffs and county-by-county unemployment. Staggeringly, in just four weeks, unemployment in Texas grew 1,840%. 

APRIL 9 8:31 p.m. — President Donald Trump says the United States is "at the top of the hill" of coronavirus-related infections.

Trump made the comments during a White House briefing Thursday. He did not give data to support his claim or elaborate on what measure he used to come to that conclusion.

"I'm pretty sure we're at the top of the hill and no we're going downward. In some cases, we've already started that process," he says.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

APRIL 9 8:27 p.m. — Inmates at the Fort Bend County jail have been sewing masks for themselves and essential county employees. "We must be innovative and use all of our resources to keep our inmates, employees and their families safe," Sheriff Troy Nehls said. More about the program here.

APRIL 9 7:46 p.m. — Are Houstonians really staying home during the county's "Stay Home, Work Safe" order? Well, Transtar data show that traffic on the Katy Freeway has dropped in half. KHOU 11 Investigates takes a closer look.

APRIL 9 7:34 p.m. — Richmond is closing all city parks until Monday morning to "discourage gatherings of 10 or more people." The closure includes George Park, which the city says will be locked. "Officers will be patrolling and checking all the other parks," city officials said in a tweet.

APRIL 9 6:50 p.m. — Houston Arts Alliance has started a special fund to support local artists who may be out of work or otherwise in dire need of financial help due to the coronavirus crisis. More details here.

APRIL 9 6:38 p.m. — A 36-year-old Seabrook woman is facing potential prison time for allegedly lying to a police officer that she tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Normally a Class B misdemeanor, making a false report now carries a state jail felony charge under Harris County's disaster declaration, meaning up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, if convicted. More here.

APRIL 9 6:09 p.m. — Wall Street closed out its best week in 45 years on Thursday after the Federal Reserve launched its latest titanic effort to support the economy through the coronavirus outbreak.

The central bank announced programs to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to households, local governments and businesses as the country tips into what economists say may be the worst recession in decades. It’s the latest unprecedented move by the Fed, which has rushed to ensure cash gets to parts of the economy that need it after markets got snarled by a rush of investors pulling cash out of the system. More here on the big day.

APRIL 9 6:03 p.m. — Galveston is reporting 21 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's total to 308. Seven people have recovered. The county also has two new deaths: a man between 61-70 and a woman between 81-90. Both had previous medical conditions.

APRIL 9 5:11 p.m. — Harris County is reporting 91 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death. The county has a total of 1,052 cases, 264 recoveries and 20 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

Here are total cases for the following counties:

  • Chamber: 24 total cases, 6 recoveries
  • Liberty: 15 total cases
  • Matagorda: 45 total cases, 10 recoveries, 3 deaths
  • Waller: 12 total cases, 5 recoveries
  • Washington: 31 total cases, 3 recoveries, 1 death
  • Wharton: 24 total cases, 6 recoveries

Click here to see a map of cases for all counties across the Greater Houston area.

APRIL 9 4:52 p.m. — The city of Pearland is closing parks until further notice to further promote social distancing and help flatten the curve of COVID-19. Houston and Harris County announced earlier that they have also closed all parks. More details here.

RELATED: Update: All Houston, Harris County parks will be closed through Easter weekend

APRIL 9 4:45 p.m. — Houston police chief Art Acevedo is asking for prayers for HPD's Ramon "Ray" Cervantes. The 57-year-old cold case detective is in critical condition with COVID-19. Read more here.

APRIL 9 4:02 p.m. — A woman between 70-80 years old has died in Brazoria County due to COVID-19. The Pearland woman died on April 6. It's the county's second death related to the virus.

APRIL 9 3:09 p.m. — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is ordering all city parks closed through Easter weekend to encourage social distancing. At a news conference this afternoon, Turner announced 615 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the city's total to 1,995. That drastic increase was the main reason why Turner chose to close the parks. Read more here.

Turner also announced two more deaths: a white male in his 80s who died March 27, and a Hispanic female in her 70s who died on April 2. Both had underlying health conditions. Houston has 14 total deaths linked to the coronavirus.

Houston fire chief Sam Pena said there are 149 firefighters in quarantine, a number that's been slowly dropping since the beginning of the week. 

Houston police chief Art Acevedo said four more HPD officers have tested positive for a total of 31. There are 120 HPD employees in quarantine: 88 officers and 32 civilians.

Montgomery County is reporting 21 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 231 positive cases. There are now 76 total recoveries.

APRIL 9 3:03 p.m. — The number of Harris County Sheriff's Office employees who have contracted the coronavirus climbed to 38 confirmed cases Thursday, according to officials. Read more here.

APRIL 9 2:08 p.m. — From FEMA: "Disaster survivors who are living in FEMA-purchased temporary housing units in California, Florida, North Carolina & Texas will not have to pay rent in April, May, or June. This temporary suspension will help ease financial burdens during the coronavirus pandemic." Read more here.

APRIL 9 1:46 p.m. — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care. He had been in intensive care for three days after his symptoms for coronavirus worsened. Read more here

APRIL 9 1:39 p.m. — The American Lung Association is committing $25 million to help end the global coronavirus crisis and prevent similar pandemics from happening in the future.

The COVID-19 Action Initiative will be used to expand the association’s ongoing respiratory research program, enhance key public health measures, and establish an advanced network to stop future respiratory virus pandemics.

APRIL 9 1:31 p.m. — REMINDER: Texas has waived certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for those with disabilities and tilting to protect residents from the coronavirus. You'll have up to 60 days after TxDMV operations return to normal. Read more here.

APRIL 9 12:31 p.m. — This afternoon, members of the Sino Professionals Association and other Chinese American groups will be donating 30,000 surgical masks and 1,000 isolation gowns to Houston Methodist Sugar Land. The volunteers will be joined by State Rep. Gene Wu and Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman.

APRIL 9 12:09 p.m. — Fort Bend County Health and Human Services is reporting 20 cases of COVID-19 and 10 more recoveries.

APRIL 9 11:15 a.m. — Sign up for free digital alerts from the USPS to see when your stimulus check (or direct deposit notice) is on the way: For those anxiously awaiting their stimulus checks from the federal government, an alert service from the United States Postal Service may help keep you informed. Read more here.

APRIL 9 11:11 a.m. — Houston ISD meal program update. New sites just announced/updated. Get the details here.

APRIL 9 11 a.m. — Confirmed cases surpass 1.5 million: There are now more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of Thursday morning, there has been nearly 90,000 COVID-19 deaths while nearly 340,000 people have recovered. Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 10:56 a.m. — From the City of Galveston: "The City of Galveston received the COVID-19 test results of the 26 police department employees who were tested earlier this week.  Two additional employees tested positive for COVID-19 and 24 tested negative.  This testing occurred after a person in the Galveston Police Department on Saturday tested positive for COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, the City of Galveston tested 26 employees who had recently worked with or shared workspace with the individual. We will continue to provide testing as appropriate for employees within our police and fire departments to provide for their safety and that of the public they serve." Map: Local COVID-19 cases

APRIL 9 10:40 a.m. — Food alert: Some of Houston's top chefs have been busy cooking up 10,000 meals to feed their out-of-work colleagues in the hospitality industry. They teamed up with Second Servings, a food rescue group, to launch the "Dinners on Us" program. The chef-prepared meals will be handed out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Read more here.

APRIL 9 9:44 a.m. — Legacy Community Health launches virtual pediatric clinic to help families avoid in-person visits  | This service is available to children younger than 17. Read more here.

APRIL 9 9:30 a.m. — A nursing home in Missouri City has more than two dozen COVID-19 cases among workers and residents. HMG Healthcare, LLC confirmed that Park Manor Quail Valley nursing home has 16 COVID-19 positive patients and 12 COVID-19 positive employees. Read more here.

APRIL 9 8:33 a.m. — La Porte ISD has confirmed that a female faculty member, who works at College Park Elementary, tested positive for COVID-19. Also, a staff member at La Porte Jr. High School has had direct exposure to an individual with a suspected case. Read more here.

APRIL 9 7:35 a.m. — Heartbreaking news this morning from the museum district where the Houston Museum of Natural Science has announced furloughs and salary reductions. The museum released a statement Thursday that indicated 70% of its staff would be temporarily let go. Read more here.

APRIL 9 7:30 a.m. — This morning's jobless report is out: With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: Roughly one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks. The figures collectively constitute the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948. They paint a picture of a job market that is quickly unraveling as businesses have shut down across the country because of the coronavirus outbreak. More than 20 million American may lose jobs this month. Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 6:45 a.m. — The government is set to report another shocking level of unemployment claims Thursday even after nearly 10 million people applied for benefits in the previous two weeks because of business shutdowns from the coronavirus. The number will likely keep increasing, in part because many states are still clearing out backlogs of applications for unemployment aid. And with more companies running through their cash cushions as the virus-related shutdowns persist, they are resorting to layoffs to save money. Read more here.

APRIL 9 6:05 a.m. — Federal stocks of protective equipment nearly depleted: The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and other supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients. The House Oversight committee has released documents showing that about 90% of all the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments. The remaining 10% is being held in reserve for federal workers. Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 5:52 a.m. — Easter fears: From the AP- Leaders are warning that hard-won gains in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing practices during Easter. A spike in deaths in Britain and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and in India’s congested cities make it clear that the battle is far from over. The warnings come even as the U.S. and some of the hardest-hit European countries are considering when to start easing restrictions.  Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 4:45 a.m. — Models show the US peak will come Sunday: There are 432,132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of midnight ET Thursday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been 14,817 deaths and 23,906 recoveries. A forecast model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which has been cited by the White House, now predicts the U.S. peak will come sooner and with fewer deaths. IHME now predicts the the highest number of deaths in one day in the U.S. will happen Sunday with a projected 2,212. But there are factors of uncertainty that could put that number as high as 5,000, and the model assumes social distancing measures continue to be practiced. Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 4:30 a.m. — Shares have risen in Europe and Asia after a 3.4% overnight rally on Wall Street. Benchmarks rose in Paris, London and Hong Kong and ended flat in Tokyo. Investors seem reassured by signs that deaths and infections may be nearing a peak or plateau in some of the world’s hardest-hit areas, despite expectations of further bad news on U.S. employment. A meeting of oil producers planned for Thursday also has raised hopes energy companies might get some relief in the form of production cuts to help support crude prices. Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 4 a.m.  — South Korea says at least 74 people who had been diagnosed as recovered from the new coronavirus tested positive for the second time after they were released from hospitals. Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 9 4 a.m. — The number of Americans getting on airplanes has sunk to a level not seen in more than 60 years -- not including the days immediately after 9/11 -- as people shelter in their homes to avoid catching or spreading the new coronavirus. The Transportation Security Administration screened fewer than 100,000 people on Tuesday, a drop of 95% from a year ago.  Read more national/world headlines here.

APRIL 8 10:05 p.m. — A Madison High School staff member who handed out laptops has tested positive for COVID-19. The Houston Independent School District is asking all parents and students who picked up laptops from March 23 through April 6 to self-quarantine. The staff member is recovering at home and all other staff are being asked to self-quarantine. Read more here.

APRIL 8 9:48 p.m. — To honor Houston’s first responders, the Astros Foundation donated nearly 500 pizzas to all of the city’s fire stations this week. That pizza fed the 4,000 Houston firefighters who are on the front lines as the city combats the COVID-19 pandemic. “Providing lunch is a small way for us to say thank you to so many of the first responders in our city,” said Astros owner Jim Crane. “They truly are our unsung heroes. We wanted to show them how much they are appreciated.” Read more here

Read older 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.