HOUSTON — We are continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Get today's latest updates and top headlines below.
Today's top headlines
- Struggling to apply for unemployment? Texas Workforce Commission increases hours, adds staff for historic call volume
- Galveston County's beaches reopen to the public, island beaches still closed
- Trump could introduce new panel Tuesday aimed at reopening the country
- Pastor who reportedly vowed to hold church services til 'jail or hospital' dies of coronavirus
- The IRS is now depositing coronavirus stimulus checks | Here's what you need to know
- Houston COVID-19 testing sites accepting people without symptoms
Here are the latest updates from around the Houston area and the world (all times are Central/Houston time):
APRIL 14 10:26 p.m. — What happened at a Galveston County nursing home over the last week was one of the first big tests of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients in Texas.
Fifty-six residents at this senior facility in Galveston County contracted the novel coronavirus. Dr. Robin Armstrong said 39 of them gave him permission to treat them with hydroxychloroquine pills. Read more about the treatment here.
APRIL 14 9:37 p.m. — What are you supposed to do with your pets if you get sick with COVID-19? The Harris County Office of Emergency Management has some tips:
- Have a family member in your household care for them until you get better
- Avoid contact with your pet. That means no petting, snuggling, being licked or sharing food
- If you have to be around your pet, but sure to wash your hands before touching them.
APRIL 14 9:04 p.m. — H-E-B has updated its list of product limits. The list, which was updated on April 13, shows food and non-food items that currently have purchase limits in place. The limits were put in place "in an effort to make sure all customers have access to products they need." This was prompted by shoppers who began panic-buying amid the coronavirus pandemic. See the full list here.
APRIL 14 7:58 p.m. — Beware of scams linked to the coronavirus. In Brazoria County, authorities are warning of scammers trying to gain access into homes. The scammers, authorities said, are asking residents to fill out forms that ask for personal information, such as your social security number.
APRIL 14 7:09 p.m. — TDCJ reported the death of an offender which may be related to COVID-19. The individual was identified as Leonard Clerkly, from the Pack Unit in Navasota. His death is currently under investigation. ]
APRIL 14 6:19 p.m. — There are 15 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Galveston County, health officials report, bringing the county’s total to 392.
There are 38 new recoveries, for a total of 130.
Two more people have died from the virus. One was a woman who passed away on April 14. She was between 81-90 years old. The other was a man who died April 3. He was between 81-90 years old. Both had pre-existing medical conditions, health officials said.
The county is opening testing to anyone, regardless of if they experience symptoms. It’s also expanding its drive-through testing site to Galveston.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the county has tested 665 people at its drive-through site. Testing there is open to anyone.
APRIL 14 5:25 p.m. — President Trump announced he is cutting funding to the World Health Organization while US reviews virus warnings regarding China.
Trump says the outbreak could have been contained at its source and spared lives had the U.N. health agency done a better job investigating reports coming out of China. Read more here.
APRIL 14 5:19 p.m. — The Harris County Sheriff’s Office now has 91 employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, the majority of whom work in the Harris County Jail.
Five employees are currently hospitalized and there are 50 inmates in the jail who have tested positive. Here are the latest numbers released by HCSO:
- 79 employees who work in the jail have tested positive
- 253 employees currently quarantined
- 115 previously quarantined employees have returned to work
- 55 inmates who are in quarantine awaiting test results
- 1,758 in observational quarantine after potentially coming into someone who tested positive
APRIL 14 4:56 p.m. — Fort Bend ISD students will be learning from home for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre announced.
"There are several factors we took into consideration, with safety and security being our top priority – we know that, even if Governor Abbott allows schools to reopen as of May 4, many families and staff members will be reluctant to return to school and work to avoid potential exposure to the virus. Additionally, because there are only three weeks remaining of instruction after May 4, we believe it will be even more disruptive to our students, staff and teachers to ask them to pivot back into our buildings and the traditional classroom environment," Dupre said.
Commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 will be postponed until July.
APRIL 14 4:30 p.m. — A third person died from COVID-19 in Brazoria County, health officials announced Tuesday.
The man lived in Pearland and was between the ages of 60 and 70. Officials said he had underlying health conditions.
APRIL 14 4:00 p.m. — Harris County Sheriff's Office Deputy Hilbert Nunez died this month, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez announced Tuesday afternoon.
His death was COVID-19 related.
Nunez served the Sheriff's Office for 34 years. He last served in courts.
APRIL 14 3:38 p.m. — U.S. Senator John Cornyn announced Harris County will receive a federal grant of $66,639,833.65 to help promote non-congregate shelter-in-place facilities and best practices for homeless and/or high-risk individuals.
Non-congregate sheltering will be used for those who test positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization. This specific sheltering is used for individuals will need isolation -- including those exiting from hospitals, those who have been exposed to COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization, and asymptomatic high-risk individuals needing social distancing as a precautionary measure, such as people over 65 or with certain underlying health conditions (respiratory, compromised immunities, chronic disease).
APRIL 14 3:33 p.m. — Between 10 percent and 20 percent of U.S. coronavirus cases are health care workers, though they tend to be hospitalized at lower rates than other patients, according to health officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first national data on how the pandemic is hitting doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. Medical staff have also been hit hard in other countries: Media reports said about 10 percent of cases in Italy and Spain were health care workers.
APRIL 14 3:25 p.m. — METRO has received confirmation that three bus operators have tested positive for COVID-19. This brings the total number of cases to 10 METRO employees and one contractor.
The first bus operator last worked March 21, 23-26, 28, 30-31 and April 1-2. During that time, the operator drove the following routes:
- 202 Kuykendahl Park & Ride
- 29 Cullen/Hirsch
- 40 Telephone/Heights
- 85 Antoine/Washington
- 52 Hardy-Ley
- 27 Shepherd
- 99 Ella-FM 1960
- 56 Airline/Montrose
- 6 Jensen/Greens
- 86 FM 1960/Imperial Valley
The second bus operator last worked March 30 through April 3. During that time, the operator drove the following routes:
- 102 Bush IAH Express
- 60 Cambridge
- 86 FM 1960/Imperial Valley
- 51 Hardy-Kelly
The third bus operator last worked March 23-25, 28-31, April 1, 4-5. During that time, the operator drove the following routes:
- 202 Kuykendahl Park & Ride
- 102 Bush IAH Express
- 86 FM 1960/Imperial Valley
- 29 Cullen/Hirsch
- 6 Jensen/Greens
APRIL 14 3:15 p.m. — The Houston Health Department reported 40 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the city's total to 2,279.
The city of Houston also reported five additional deaths today, bringing the city's total death count due to coronavirus to 23.
The five individuals who died all had underlying health conditions.
APRIL 14 2:48 p.m. — The Galveston County Health District said it will be opening its free COVID-19 testing to anyone, regardless of symptoms, on Thursday. The health district is also expanding its drive-thru testing to include people who live in the city of Galveston.
Testing will be available in Galveston Thursday-Saturday (April 16-18) by appointment only at Fire Station No. 5, which is located at 5728 Ball Street. To make an appointment in Galveston, please call 409.978.4080.
Testing will continue to be available by appointment only in Texas City at the Galveston County Health District, 9850 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway. To make an appointment in Texas City, please call 409.978.4040.
Those being tested should bring a form of identification including driver’s license, a bill with their name, etc. Only those who have an appointment will be tested.
The entire testing process – from entry to exit – is estimated to take 30 minutes. A Galveston County Health District representative will contact those being tested with results within 48-72 hours.
APRIL 14 1:45 p.m. — The Texas Juvenile Justice Department will temporarily stop all new admissions to its facilities for two weeks, starting today.
This decision, which is intended as an additional safeguard to prevent the spread of coronavirus, will remain in effect through April 27, but it could be extended beyond that depending on the circumstances.
APRIL 14 12:15 p.m. — Dr. Fauci says 'We're not there yet' on key steps to reopen economy: The government's top infectious disease expert says the U.S. still lacks critical testing and other procedures needed to begin reopening the nation's economy, adding a dose of caution to increasingly optimistic projections from the White House. Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Associated Press that easing off strict social-distancing rules would be on a “rolling” basis around the country. He says localities should be prepared to see new COVID-19 cases when that happens and act quickly to contain them. Asked about May 1, an increasingly discussed target date, Fauci called that possible but “a bit overly optimistic.” Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 12:10 p.m. — Trump meets with former coronavirus patients: President Donald Trump is meeting with patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. Among the former COVID-19 patients meeting with Trump at the White House is Michigan state lawmaker Karen Whitsett. Whitsett has publicly credited Trump for publicizing the use of an anti-malaria drug — which she says she used during her illness — as a treatment for the disease. Whitsett thanked Trump again during Tuesday’s meeting and said hydroxychloroquine must to readily available for the people of Detroit, which is in her district. Trump has promoted the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 although it hasn’t been approved by the federal government for that specific use. Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 12:05 p.m. — In case you missed it: Galveston County's Bolivar beaches reopen to the public; island beaches are still closed. Social distancing guidelines will be enforced for those beaches that have opened, the sheriff's office says. Read more here.
APRIL 14 11:18 a.m. — US clears first saliva test to help diagnose COVID-19 | The test would prevent health care professionals from having to actually be in the face of somebody that is symptomatic. Read more here.
APRIL 14 10:45 a.m. — Pflugerville resident who lost job due to COVID-19 charged late fees on rent | She was charged $75 the first day she was late, and $10 every day thereafter. Get the full story here.
APRIL 14 10 a.m. — AAA auto insurance customers can expect to get some money back soon! Here's a portion of the statement out this morning from the company: "AAA Texas Announces $125 Million in Financial Relief for Auto Insurance Policyholders, Free Roadside Assistance for Medical Personnel and First Responders, and a $1,000,000 Donation to United Way | AAA members who insure their vehicles through the Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club and its affiliate insurers (Auto Club Enterprises Insurance Group) will receive premium refunds totaling approximately $125 million. Every policyholder with auto insurance in effect from March 16, 2020 to May 15, 2020 will receive a 20% policy refund check for this period. We expect to mail refund checks by the end of May. Members do not need to take any action to receive their refund."
This relief package is due to reduced driving and claims because of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders and recommendations. Auto Club Enterprises Insurance Group provides insurance for over 3.5 million vehicles through AAA clubs in 21 states, including Texas.
APRIL 14 9:46 a.m. — Report: Positioning coronavirus patients on their stomachs can save lives... “By putting them on their stomachs, we’re opening up parts of the lung that weren’t open before,” says one doctor. Read more here.
APRIL 14 9:40 a.m. — Statement from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's office: "In response to the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs is adding $25,000 of restricted arts funding to programs to support artists and others affected by the public health crisis.. Grants from the Greater Houston Area Arts Relief Fund will help artists and arts workers who lost wages and opportunities as a result of COVID-19. The Fund is housed at the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), a 501(c)(3) public charity, and local arts agency under contract with the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA). Tax-deductible contributions to the Relief Fund can be made by going to http://bit.ly/GHAAReliefFund"
APRIL 14 9:34 a.m. — Update from the Houston Dynamo: MLS likely not returning by mid-May as earlier hoped... "Major League Soccer continues to regularly evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how it will affect our plans for the 2020 season. Although we hoped to return to play in mid-May, that is extremely unlikely based on the guidance of federal and local public health authorities. Our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so. We continue to learn more every day from the medical experts, and we expect to have additional details in the coming weeks regarding when we can return to play. As we have throughout this process, we will update our fans with every decision, and we thank them for their support and understanding during this extremely challenging time."
APRIL 14 8:40 a.m. — Governors vs. the President: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s claim of “total” authority to reopen the nation’s virus-stalled economy. Cuomo said on NBC's “Today” on Tuesday that “We don't have a king. We have a president.” He said on CNN that if Trump ordered him to reopen New York's economy prematurely, he wouldn't do it. Trump said Monday that for the president of the United States, ”the authority is total.” He was reacting to moves by governors on both coasts to form multi-state compacts to coordinate reopening society amid the global pandemic. Get more national/world updates here. (AP) Trump soon is expected to unveil a new economic team focused on reopening the country, read more about that here.
APRIL 14 8:37 a.m. — Beaten down by the coronavirus outbreak, the world economy in 2020 will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the International Monetary Fund says. The IMF expects the global economy to shrink 3% this year before rebounding in 2021 with 5.8% growth. It acknowledges, though, that prospects for a rebound next year are clouded by uncertainty. (AP) Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 7:13 a.m. — Update from Fort Bend: Fort Bend ISD is looking at the possibility of holding a graduation ceremony for high school seniors in July. FBISD Superintendent Charles Dupre posted a video on Twitter announcing that a face-to-face ceremony would not be held in May and that the district is considering dates at the Smart Financial Center in July. Read more here.
APRIL 14 6:58 a.m. — ICYMI: As of April 13, Austin-area officials have extended the stay-at-home order for Travis County until 11:59 p.m. on May 8 with additional requirements for facial coverings. The original order was announced on March 23 and was issued to last until April 13; however, the order will now remain in place in a continued effort to practice social distancing and to flatten the coronavirus curve. Read more here. Currently, the federal government's social distancing guidelines are in effect through April 30. Harris County & Houston's (along with many others in our surrounding area) also have stay-at-home orders set to expire at the end of April, unless they are extended.
APRIL 14 5:45 a.m. — President Trump to focus on economy - when should the country reopen? Every day, a team of public health officials turns up in the White House briefing room to lay out measures being taken to contain the coronavirus pandemic. A different team, expected to be formally announced as early as Tuesday, has begun meeting behind closed doors in the West Wing to tackle another matter paramount to President Donald Trump: how to begin reopening the American economy. Read more here.
APRIL 14 5:30 a.m. — Will there be meat at the counter the next time you go to the grocery store? Several major packing plants across the country, including the world’s biggest pork producer, have closed because of employees catching COVID-19. Some analysts say there shouldn't be too much of a disruption in the supply chain, but the price of some meat could go up. Read more here.
APRIL 14 5:18 a.m. — Spain’s recorded coronavirus death toll is now over 18,000 after 567 more people succumbed to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, a number slightly higher than Monday’s but below most daily increases in the past two weeks. Confirmed infections are now roughly 172,500 after Spain’s Health Ministry reported 3,045 new positive cases on Tuesday, a 1.8% day-to-day increase. Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 5:05 a.m. — News from Wall Street: Shares rose Tuesday in Europe and Asia on Tuesday though investors were bracing for news on how the coronavirus pandemic has hurt corporate earnings and the Chinese economy. Wall Street futures were up more than 1% in pre-market trading. Read more here.
APRIL 14 5 a.m. — Hundreds of COVID-19 deaths in UK care homes: Hundreds more people with COVID-19 have died in Britain than have been recorded in the government’s daily tally, official figures show. That includes a tide of deaths in nursing homes that staff say are being overlooked. The Office for National Statistics said Tuesday that 5,979 deaths that occurred in England up to April 3 involved COVID-19, 15% more than the 5,186 deaths announced by the National Health Service for the same period. As of Monday, the government has reported 11,329 deaths in the U.K. of people with the new coronavirus. (AP) Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 4:55 a.m. — China's animal markets criticized: Australia’s prime minister is criticizing the World Health Organization's support for the reopening of markets where live animals are butchered in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. Scott Morrison calls the WHO's decision “unfathomable.” Some scientists believe the virus came from wild animals at one of Wuhan's ”wet markets." China temporarily shut wet markets after the outbreak and suspended the sale of wildlife. WHO says wet markets should not sell illegal wildlife for food and should be hygienic, but do not need to be closed. (AP) Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 3:30 a.m. — Tokyo organizers say they have no “B Plan” if the Olympics need to be postponed again. They say they are proceeding under the assumption the Olympics will open on July 23, 2021. That date was set last month by the IOC and Japanese officials after the spreading coronavirus pandemic made it clear the Olympics could not be held as scheduled. Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 1 a.m. — A prominent Virginia pastor who reportedly vowed to hold church services til 'jail or hospital' has died of coronavirus. His church confirms the Bishop died the day before Easter. Read more here.
APRIL 14 12 a.m. — More Amazon jobs: Amazon says it has filled 100,000 job openings it announced on March 16 and is now looking to fill another 75,000 positions. On its COVID-19 blog, the company said the positions include warehouse workers, delivery drivers and shoppers. Amazon also said it expects to spend $500 million in wage increases worldwide, up from a previously announced $350 million. Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 14 12 a.m. — Thousands of American Airlines pilots, flight attendants take leave, early retirement: More than one-third of American Airlines pilots and flight attendants will take voluntary leave or early retirement, according to the Dallas Morning News. About 4,800 pilots are reportedly being offered voluntary leave while 715 are taking early retirement with partial pay and full benefits. That's in addition to 1,500 who were given voluntary leave for April. Get more national/world updates here.
APRIL 13 11:30 p.m. — Struggling to apply for unemployment? Texas Workforce Commission increases hours, adds staff for historic call volume Last week, 14 million calls came into Texas Workforce Commission offices. Get the full story here.
APRIL 13 9:05 p.m. — Texans superstar J.J. Watt delivered an uplifting message for Pearland ISD students. In a video, he encouraged students to keep chasing their dreams no matter what obstacles they face during the pandemic. Watch the video here.
APRIL 13 9 p.m. — Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman is asking residents aged 65 and older to vote by mail in the upcoming primary runoff elections due concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.
APRIL 13 8:30 p.m. — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reported that there are 85 TDCJ employees, staff or contractors have tested positive and 193 offenders who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Two additional facilities were placed on precautionary lockdown Monday, the Lopez and Sanchez Units.
APRIL 13 6:03 p.m. — The number of Harris County Sheriff's Office employees who have contracted the coronavirus reached 76 individuals Monday after the department received several long-awaited test.
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.
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