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Hundreds of thousands of masks seized from auction house in SE Houston

County leaders told us only around 1,000 of these masks are even usable.

HOUSTON — Harris County seized 750,000 masks today from an auction house in southeast Houston. It’s a story KHOU 11 News first brought you earlier this week.

County leaders told us only around 1,000 of these masks are even usable. Some have mold damage and others are meant for construction. However, the owner said he was upfront with bidders and everyone buying them had plans to give them away.

As a moving truck and a row of cars sped out of a warehouse in southeast Houston. Tim Worstell, owner of Auctions Unlimited, was confused.

“Before all this happened I was naive in thinking county, state and federal officials were all on the same page,” said Worstell.

He’s been contacted by FEMA, the Texas Attorney General and Harris County—all wanting the same thing: the 750,000 masks he had up for sale.

Worstell told us he’s sold similar supplies for years and it’s how his family makes a living.

“We are the literally the Buc-ees and Chick-fil-a of the auction industry,” he said.

But the Texas Attorney General disagreed, filing suit for price-gouging. Then, an order came from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo to seize the masks. Worstell says he handed them over willingly with his own forklift.

“We are not who they are making us out to be,” he said.

But as county officials began to inspect them, there were problems.

“It may have been one of those things that may have been too good to be true to start with and it turned out there were not nearly the number of masks that were of a quality that could be used by the county," said Robert Soard, first assistant county attorney.

Worstell says just wishes it would all go away.

“The attorney general’s office, they don’t need a subpoena, I’ll open everything I’ve got up to them 100% access," he said.

Worstell says right now he has access to 2 million more masks, but because of the Texas Attorney General’s injunction, he’s not able to make any moves.

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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, headaches and stomach issues.

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
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  • 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.

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