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Coronavirus update: Houston Public Library is suspending service at all locations until further notice

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Sunday, March 15.

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

>> This blog has been archived; view the latest posts here

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Latest updates:

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

>> This blog has been archived; view the latest posts here

MARCH 15 8:30 p.m. — Houston Public Library is suspending service at all locations until further notice.  This suspension also includes all locations until further notice. This suspension also includes all public programs and events.  More Houston-area closings

MARCH 15 8:15 p.m. — Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told school superintendents and lawmakers Sunday to be prepared for long-term school district closures, potentially through the end of the school year, especially in areas where the new coronavirus has spread. Read more here.

MARCH 15 8:05 p.m. — On Sunday night, Harris County health officials announced two additional confirmed COVID-19 cases. The two new cases bring the total number in Harris County, outside of Houston, to eight. Click here to read more.

MARCH 15 6:45 p.m. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday announced new large events and mass gathering guidelines surrounding the coronavirus, COVID-19. The federal agency said it recommends for the next eight weeks organizers should cancel or postpone in-person events that involve 50 people or more throughout the United States. That includes conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, etc. Click here for the full guidelines.

MARCH 15 5:35 p.m. — Houston's Holocaust Museum will be closed from March 15 through March 31. Any changes to museum operations can be found here.

MARCH 15 4:30 p.m. — President Donald Trump is urging the public to stop hoarding groceries, telling Americans to “take it easy” and “relax.” Trump said at a White House briefing that stores are working to keep up with demand but added “there's no need for anyone in the country to hoard” essentials. Read more here.

MARCH 15 4:00 p.m. — The White House held a press conference with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force on Sunday. Trump started by congratulating the Federal Reserve for taking emergency action by slashing its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to nearly zero. Feds also announced it would purchase more Treasury securities to encourage lending to try to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.

MARCH 15 3:06 p.m. — The City of Houston Municipal Courts Department has suspended all jury trials and jury duty from March 16 through March 31.

MARCH 15 2:58 p.m. — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Sunday that he is issuing an order to close all Ohio bars and restaurants due to concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus(COVID-19). Read more here

MARCH 15 2:39 p.m. — In new guidelines announced Sunday to "protect older, medically fragile individuals from COVID-19," Texas' Health and Human Services department is now requiring nursing facilities to prevent 'non-essential visitors' from entering their facilities. 

The guidance comes at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Visitors are being asked to communicate through FaceTime, Skype and other digital services unless it's a compassionate care situation, such a resident's end-of-life, state health officials said. 

Facilities are also going to be required to have screening protocols for anyone entering the premises— including staff and medical professionals, according to federal guidelines. Read more here

MARCH 15 2:09 p.m. — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Sunday drive-thru testing for the coronavirus is now available in Austin. Houston and Dallas testing centers are expected to open later in the week, he said. 

Drive-thru testing centers are already operating in San Antonio.

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MARCH 15 1:04 p.m. — The University of Houston Baseball team is being quarantined as a precaution while the school awaits test results for a staff member who was showing possible symptoms of the coronavirus. Read more here

MARCH 15 12:29 p.m. — Lance McCullers donates 10,000 meals to the Houston Food Bank to help families affected by the coronavirus.

MARCH 15 10:19 a.m. — Carnival Cruise Line is temporarily suspending its services across its fleet of North America based ships through April 9. Services will resume April 10. 

MARCH 15 9:59 a.m. — The City of Austin banned gatherings of 250 people or more until at least May 1 to help tackle the spread of the coronavirus. Read more here

MARCH 15 8:20 a.m. — The British Press Association is reporting one government proposal, reportedly expected to be introduced this month, could ask people over the age of 70 to stay home for up to four months. Under the proposal, those individuals will be "instructed" to keep under strict isolation in their home or in a care facility for four months in a "wartime-style mobilization effort."

MARCH 15 8:14 a.m. —  A New Jersey city is imposing a curfew on residents. Those living in Hoboken must stay inside their homes from 10 p.m. - 5 a.m. starting March 16. Bars and restaurants are also being limited to only offering takeout and delivery services. Read more here.

MARCH 15 7:50 a.m. — President Trump has declared today National Day of Prayer amid the coronavirus crisis. Some churches, like Lakewood, will hold services online while others are holding in-person services. The cardinal of the archdioceses of Houston Galveston Daniel Dinardo has not canceled services.

MARCH 15 7:29 a.m. — REMINDER — Dozens of Houston-area school districts have extended their Spring Break into next week. In most cases, students and staff won't be returning until March 23. Click here for a full list of the latest school closure updates. 

MARCH 14 10:16 p.m. — It’s been one unprecedented week for Harris County, but Harris County Judge Lina Hildalgo tells residents the upcoming days could mark a turning point as the city is recommending all events larger 250 be canceled and other strategies for curbing coronavirus spread. Read more here. 

MARCH 14 8:08 p.m. — Matagorda County confirmed its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19. 

Officials said the patient is a 60-year-old woman who did not travel internationally and was admitted to the Matagorda Regional Medical Center due to complications with pneumonia.

MARCH 14 7:36 p.m. — Walmart announced Saturday it is adjusting its operating hours beginning Sunday, March 15.

Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets will be open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice. Stores currently operating under more reduced hours will keep their current hours of operation. Read more here.

MARCH 14 6:30 p.m. — President Donald Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus. The White House says anyone close to the president or vice president will get a temperature check.

MARCH 14 6:12 p.m.  The Houston Health Department has confirmed the city's fifth presumptive positive case of coronavirus.

Officials said the case is a man, age 50 to 60, with a history of international travel. They said he is hospitalized but in good condition.

MARCH 14 6:10 p.m. — After distributing free meals to hundreds of families at Chavez High School Saturday morning, HISD added 31 campuses to its list of locations where families can pick up free meals next week. Read more here.

Read older updates/previous entries here << 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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