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Coronavirus updates: Houston, Harris County bars must close and restaurants now limited to pickup, delivery services

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Monday, March 16.

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


Scroll down for today's top headlines and the latest updates in our live blog.

Latest updates:

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


MARCH 17 12 a.m. —  Fort Bend County health officials issued a set of guidelines for the public to follow through April 1, or until otherwise noted. The guidelines went into effect on March 16 at midnight.

Read more about the guidelines here.

MARCH 16 10 p.m. —  The Houston area has its first death related to coronavirus. A man in his late 90s passed away Sunday after experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Tests from the city of Houston came back positive on Monday.  

MARCH 16 6:20 p.m. — H-E-B is donating $3 million to support local organizations working to stop the spread of the coronavirus such as nonprofits working to distributing food, several food banks and medical research groups. The goal is to provide much-needed relief to seniors, children and low-income families. Read more here.  

MARCH 16 5:50 p.m. — Houston ISD, Katy ISD, Spring ISD and countless other area school districts announced Monday they will be extending their school closures for several more weeks, with most districts planning to reopen in mid-April. FULL LIST of updated closures available here.

MARCH 16 5:26 p.m. — All restaurants in the Houston and Harris County area will be limited to pickup, delivery or drive-thru services for the next 15 days, , according to Harris County Judge Lina Hildago and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. In addition, local bars and nightclub in the area must close.

These closures and restrictions will start 8 a.m. Tuesday.

"I know this is very difficult. It's a difficult time, and that's why we're taking extraordinary measures," Hildago said. "History will say that we prioritized human life. History will say that we erred on the side of action. This doesn't work unless we all buy in."

The new guidelines also include establishments in unincorporated Harris County. Read more here.

MARCH 16 5:06 p.m.  The City of Dallas has ordered the closure of all bars, lounges, taverns, gyms and theaters. Additionally, the Dallas Independent School District has announced it is closing indefinitely. 

MARCH 16 4:43 p.m. — Regal announced Monday it will be closing all its theater locations starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020 as a precaution amid the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.

MARCH 16 3:30 p.m. — Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing updated guidance to the 17,000 regulated child care operations throughout Texas, including new screening requirements for staff and visitors, as it continues to monitor updates concerned with coronavirus, or COVID-19. 

MARCH 16 3:04 p.m. — Amazon says it seeks to hire 100,000 people to keep up with the crush of orders. The company will temporarily offer $2 per hour raises.

MARCH 16 3:03 p.m. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus in an employee. The person is isolated and in good condition, according to a statement from the organization.  

MARCH 16 2:52 p.m. —  Effective immediately, the City of Baytown will be cancelling City events for the next 8 weeks, or until further guidance is received. 

MARCH 16 2:28 p.m. —  In an effort to honor social distancing, Studio Movie Grill (“SMG”) is immediately reducing seating capacity nationwide. Movie-goers will now sit 10 feet apart to a maximum of 50 seats in all its theaters. 

MARCH 16 2:33 p.m. — During a press conference on Monday, President Trump said his administration "strongly recommends" Americans to avoid groups bigger than 10, discretionary travel, eating at restaurants and bars and food courts and do schooling from home. 

March 16 2:30 p.m. — The Tyler County district attorney's office has charged a person for falsely reporting on social media that they had tested positive for the COVID19 at Tyler County Hospital over the weekend.
The person, who has not been identified, has been charged with making a "False Alarm/False Report" which is a class A misdemeanor.

MARCH 16 2:21 p.m. — Food Town says that while they have abbreviated 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours to keep stores stocked, they will open an hour early just for our senior citizens. Click here to view a list of Houston-area stores that have changed their store hours amid coronavirus concerns. 

MARCH 16 2:17 p.m. Effective midnight Monday, San Francisco will require residents stay at home except for "essential needs."

MARCH 16 1:53 p.m.   British actor Idris Elba says he has tested positive for COVID-19. He said he is not showing symptoms but got tested because he realized he was exposed to someone who had also tested positive. Read more here.

MARCH 16 1:29 p.m.    Major League Baseball will be delaying its season by eight weeks, in accordance with CDC guidelines to limit gathers of 50 or more people.  

MARCH 16 1:04 p.m. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will close his country's border to non-citizens-- with the exception of Americans. Read more here.

MARCH 16 12:26 p.m.  — U.S. researchers have given a healthy volunteer the first shot of an experimental coronavirus vaccine. The National Institutes of Health (HIH) is funding the trial that is taking place at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Read more here.

MARCH 16 11:56 a.m. — The NFL has announced that the 2020 draft will proceed as scheduled, but without a public audience. The event is scheduled to take place April 23-25 in Las Vegas. The selection process will be televised. Read more here.

MARCH 16 11:52 a.m. — The U.S. surgeon general says the number of coronavirus cases in the United States has reached the level that Italy recorded two weeks ago. It's a sign that infections are expected to rise in America as the government steps up testing and financial markets continue to fall. Read more here.

MARCH 16 11:31 a.m. — H-E-B President Scott McClelland said the varieties of groceries may lessen in exchange for more product. “That’s kind of what we’re up for in times like this.” He explained that if we don’t flatten the curve, we will extend this for a longer period time. He added that, “Never seen anything like this in my 30 years with H-E-B.”

MARCH 16 11:29 a.m. — H-E-B said it is planning to shift employees from some “less necessary” departments, such as floral departments, to help with other services including curbside delivery or restocking.

MARCH 16 11:20 a.m. — Kroger representatives said they are donating $3 million to Feeding America and No Kid Hungry. They are also reducing store hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for more cleaning and shelf-stocking.

MARCH 16 11:15 a.m. — H-E-B President Scott McClelland said 1,300 trucks rolling out to stores. For social distancing in stores, keep a full cart’s distance. They plan on restricting flow of customers to keep shelves stocked. They have also added sneeze guards in stores to protect cashiers/customers.

MARCH 16 11:05 a.m. — Mayor Sylvester Turner emphasizes that grocery stores are not shutting down, and there are no problems with food supply chain. He added that panic-buying is what is clearing the shelves. The mayor also said water in city of Houston is safe. “Just buy what you need, and be sensitive to the needs of others,” he said. Think about healthcare workers and first responders who are working nonstop. Turner also explaining that grocers are hiring right now. If you have been temporarily laid off, that may be an option for some.

MARCH 16 10:46 a.m. — The national testing date for the ACT has been pushed back to June. Testing officials released the following statement: "The safety of students and test center staff is ACT’s top priority. ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S. in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date."

MARCH 16 10:38 a.m. — At an 11 a.m. news conference, Mayor Sylvester Turner will discuss panic buying and discourage stockpiling of groceries and supplies. Joining the mayor will be representatives from state and national grocery store chains who will provide an update on water and food supplies and inform the public about store hours and plans to promote social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stream it in the video player above or here.

MARCH 16 10:21 a.m. — The Supreme Court has announced it will postpone oral arguments scheduled for the March session due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. The arguments include those over subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial records.  Read more here

MARCH 16 9:49 a.m. — NY, NJ, Connecticut to close bars, eateries, theaters, gyms to fight coronavirus: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that effective at 8pm Monday evening, crowd capacity at public and private venues will be limited to 50 people. Cuomo joined the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey  and announced they have agreed to close bars, restaurants, movie theaters and casinos starting at 8 p.m. Monday. Read more here.

MARCH 16 9:45 a.m. — We're answering the most searched questions about the coronavirus. Check out the FAQ here.

MARCH 16 8:56 a.m. — From the governor's office just now: Governor Greg Abbott today announced that he has waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. "Your health and safety are top priorities, and the state of Texas will give school districts flexibility to protect and ensure the health of students, faculty, and their families," said Governor Abbott.  Read more & his full statement here.

MARCH 16 8:53 a.m. — Dow is down more than 2,600 points: US stocks plunged Monday morning, halting trading for 15 minutes for the third time in two weeks. The S&P 500 index declined by more than 7%, triggering a Level 1 Market Wide Circuit Breaker. The Dow opened at 2,250 points lower, or 9.7%. The Nasdaq composite fell 6.1%. Read more here.

MARCH 16 8:31 a.m. — Stock trading has been halted after the S&P immediately hit a circuit breaker at the opening bell. The Dow average is down 2,250 points with trading set to resume at about 8:45 a.m. Houston time. Read more here.

MARCH 16 8:14 a.m. — Olympics update from the AP: The leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics says there is no May deadline to cancel the games and he remains confident the event will go ahead despite sports coming to a virtual standstill globally amid the coronavirus epidemic.

MARCH 16 7:20 a.m. — Dow futures are currently down 1,000 points ahead of the opening bell. Earlier this morning, Wall Street pre-market trading halted as Dow, S&P fall 5% on coronavirus concerns. Read more.

MARCH 16 6:43 a.m. — World news from the AP: Iran reported a record rise of 129 fatalities from the new coronavirus on Monday, pushing its total death toll to 853 amid nearly 15,000 confirmed cases. Lebanon went into lockdown and Iraqis prepared for a curfew as part of regional efforts to contain the new coronavirus.

MARCH 16 6:24 a.m. — From the National Security Council on Sunday evening: Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19. #coronavirus

MARCH 16 6:10 a.m. — Fighting misinformation and bad advice: Apple, Google, Amazon are all blocking "nonofficial" coronavirus apps from their app stores, reports CNET. "[Apple] reportedly rejected apps from at least four developers whose apps would've displayed stats about which countries had confirmed cases of the disease, which has since been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. "

MARCH 16 6:04 a.m. — If you're stuck at home, several famous museums are offering virtual tours to keep you and your kids entertained... Here are some museum virtual tours you can take while cooped up: view here

MARCH 16 3:52 a.m. — National news: A clinical trial evaluating a vaccine designed to protect against the new coronavirus will begin Monday. A government official says the first participant in the trial will receive the experimental vaccine. The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial that is taking place at a Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle. Testing will begin with 45 young, healthy volunteers with different doses of shots co-developed by NIH and Moderna Inc. Public health officials say it will take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. 

MARCH 16 3:44 a.m. — Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 fell 5%, triggering a halt in trading, despite the Federal Reserve's decision to slash interest rates to zero Sunday. It's a sign that Friday's nearly 2,000-point gain may be short lived. Asian markets were also taking a beating in Monday trading as more governments imposed anti-virus controls that are shutting down business and travel. Read more here.

MARCH 16 3:10 a.m. — United Airlines says the coronavirus outbreak has led to 1 million fewer passengers for the first two weeks of March than the same period a year ago. And, the company says it expects things to get worse, which is why it's slashing its upcoming flight schedule in half. Read more here.

MARCH 16 1 a.m. — An Australian television network entertainment editor has tested positive for the new coronavirus after meeting Tom Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson, in Sydney. Hanks and Wilson have been isolated in an Australian hospital since they were both diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 12. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 16 12:30 a.m. — Thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and packs of antibacterial wipes and medical masks have been donated after a failed attempt by two Tennessee brothers to resell them for profit. News outlets report boxes were taken Sunday from a storage unit and the home of Matt Colvin of Hixson, Tennessee. Read more here.

MARCH 16 12 a.m. — Starbucks will be 'to go' only for 2 weeks in US, Canada due to coronavirus .. There will also be no Starbucks open in social gathering places such as malls and university campuses. Read more here.

MARCH 15 10 p.m. — No big airport delays in Houston: George Bush Intercontinental Airport is not one of the airports designated by health authorities to conduct additional health screenings for international travelers. Watch Sunday night's report here

MARCH 15 9:35 p.m. — 'Unbelievable act of kindness': Customer leaves $2,500 tip for staff at Ohio restaurant A customer left a huge tip for the staff at an Ohio restaurant, just after the governor announced all restaurants will be closed to dine-in guests. Read more 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 7 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. Read more here.

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

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