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Coronavirus updates: METRO bus driver, dispatcher test positive for COVID-19

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Sunday, March 29.

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

Get more updates and the top headlines below.

>> This blog is archived, the latest updates here

List: Where you can get tested | Map: Local COVID-19 cases | How to file for unemployment | Coronavirus symptoms | FAQ

Latest updates

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

MARCH 29 7:00 p.m. — Two METRO employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The positive results for a bus driver and a METROLift dispatcher came back on Sunday.

The dispatcher was last on the job on March 26. The employee does not interact with the public.

The second employee is a bus operator and was last on the job on March 25. The bus operator drove the 412 Greenlink Circulator route from 6 a.m. until 2:17 p.m. on the following days; March 9,10, 11,12, 13, 16, 17,18,19, 20 and 23. The operator also drove the 247 Fuqua Park & Ride from 6:18 a.m. to 9:17 a.m. on March 24 and 25.

Anyone riding the routes driven by the operator in the last 14 days should monitor themselves for possible symptoms, contact your health care provider as soon as you develop any symptoms, and self-isolate to avoid possibly exposing others, including refraining from using public transportation.

MARCH 29 7:00 p.m. — Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said he's worried about a COVID-19 outbreak after an inmate tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Read more here.

MARCH 29 4:57 p.m. — Fort Bend County is reporting 14 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's total to 119 cases, 9 recoveries and 1 death.

MARCH 29 4:43 p.m. — President Donald Trump is extending federal guidelines recommending people stay home and away from one another for another 30 days as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country. Read more here. 

MARCH 29 4:43 p.m. — The City of Galveston has closed all public beaches from now until April 5. The city has also banned all vehicular traffic on the beach west of the end of the Seawall.

The orders are part of the City of Galveston’s response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. As of Saturday afternoon, the most recent reporting, the Galveston County Health District had confirmed 60 cases of COVID-19 within the county. 

MARCH 29 4:38 p.m. Harris County Public Health reports its second coronavirus-related death. The victim is a woman between 60-70 with underlying health condition who had been exposed to another confirmed case. She tested positive for the virus after passing away.

To date, 240 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Harris County, including 34 residents who have made a full recovery.

MARCH 29 4:24 p.m. — Galveston County reports 10 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county's total to 70.

MARCH 29 3:46 p.m.  The Houston Health Department confirms 54 new positive COVID-19 cases. See the full list of cases in the Houston area here.

MARCH 29 3:07 p.m. — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order banning the release of dangerous felons" from prison or jail.

MARCH 29 3:03 p.m. — Montgomery County reports two new cases of COVID-19 and one recovery. The new cases are:

  • A woman age 20 to 29 years old, community spread, in isolation at home
  • A woman age 50 to 59 years old, community spread, in isolation at home

MARCH 29 2:58 p.m. — Nearly all road travelers from Louisiana into Texas are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival under an expansion made to executive orders issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. The order does not include military, commercial or infrastructure travel. DPS checkpoints have been establish to enforce the new policy. 

The order also expands an existing order requiring all air travelers to self-quarantine, which originally included New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Orleans. It now also includes Miami, Atalanta, Detroit, Chicago as well as all air travelers from California and Washington state. Read more here.

MARCH 29 2:45 p.m. — Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena says five firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19. He said there are no reports of complications requiring hospitalization of the department's personnel.

The department made recent changes to help firefighters when responding to medical calls during the pandemic. Read more here.

MARCH 29 1:32 p.m. A 39-year-old male has become the first Harris County Jail inmate to test positive for COVID-19. The inmate was booked into the jail on March 17 after being arrested by for a parole violation. He is in stable condition in the medical unit at the 1200 Baker Street jail facility.

There are currently about 30 inmates in the Harris County Jail with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. There are about 500 inmates who were potentially exposed to the virus, but they do not have symptoms. They are in quarantine for observation. Read more here.

MARCH 29 1:29 a.m. — CBS veteran journalist Maria Mercader died from the coronavirus in a New York hospital, according to CBS News. She was 54 years old. Read more here.

MARCH 29: 11:14 a.m. — National update: With schools and many day care centers closed, states, local governments and philanthropists are scrambling to free up parents who are medical workers, emergency responders and others needed on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. The New York City schools chief has put out a call for sidelined educators to volunteer at emergency child care centers. A hedge fund billionaire in Connecticut has pledged $3 million toward care for the children of hospital workers.  View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 10:26 a.m. — From the Associated Press: The billions of tax dollars headed for hospitals and states as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus response bill won't fix the problem facing doctors and nurses: a critical shortage of protective gowns, gloves and masks. The problem isn’t a lack of money, experts say. It’s that there’s not enough of those supplies available to buy. What’s more, the crisis has revealed a fragmented procurement system now descending into chaos just as demand soars, The Associated Press has found. Hospitals, state governments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are left bidding against each other and driving up prices. View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 10:25 a.m. — From FEMA: "Due to #COVID19, the National Flood Insurance Program is giving a 120 day grace period to people who are expected to renew their policies between Feb. 13 & June 15, 2020. You will have 120 days after your policy expiration date to renew & there will be no lapse in coverage." Read more here.

MARCH 29 9:43 a.m. — The U.S. government's foremost infection disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the U.S. will certainly have “millions of cases” of COVID-19 and more than 100,000 deaths. As the U.S. tops the world in reported infections from the new coronavirus, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases predicts 100,000-200,000 deaths from the outbreak in the U.S. The U.S. is currently reporting more than 124,000 cases and more than 2,100 deaths. Fauci was speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union” as the federal government is discussing rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been hard-hit by the outbreak. Fauci says he would only support the rollback in lesser-impacted areas if there is enhanced availability of testing in place to monitor those areas. He acknowledged “it’s a little iffy there” right now. View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 9:11 a.m. — Update from Matagorda County: "The current number of positive cases in Matagorda County is 12.... 3/28/2020 we have a male between the ages of 45-50, at home with no related travel.... 3/28/2020 we have a female between the ages of 20 and 25, at home with no related travel" Map: Local COVID-19 cases

MARCH 29 9:03 a.m. — The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) will receive a $236,756,360.44 federal grant to aid its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator John Cornyn announced. 

MARCH 29 8:45 a.m. — In case you missed it: Abbott, a global health care company in Maine that focuses on point-of-care testing and technology, announced Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 test that delivers results in as little as five minutes. Read more here.

MARCH 29 7:59 a.m. — The Montgomery County Animal Shelter wants you to know it is still able to facilitate adoptions despite the county being under a ‘stay home, stop the spread’ order amid the coronavirus outbreak. With 193 animals onsite, the shelter is looking for people to adopt or sign up as emergency fosters even though the doors to their facility are closed. Read more here.

MARCH 29 7:33 a.m. — The City of Houston's community-based testing location is now available to anyone with specific symptoms, but you must call in advance to get pre-screened. More info from the Houston Health Department: "Our community based testing site is now available to anyone with #COVID19 symptoms of fever, cough & difficulty breathing. Call 832-393-4220 from 9AM-6PM to be screened. People who meet criteria will be given a code and instructions on where to go."

RELATED: Here's how Houston-area residents can get tested for coronavirus

MARCH 29 7:25 a.m. — World news:  Pet owners in Serbia are furious over the populist government’s decision to ban even a brief walk for people with dogs during an evening curfew to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. Angry dog owners have flooded social networks, warning that the ban could harm their dogs’ health and cause frustration and anxiety for both the animals and their owners. View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 6:05 a.m. — How to make sure you actually get your stimulus check: Actually receiving that payment could be a more involved process for some people - particularly people who may be most in need of it. The government doesn't exactly just send people out with money to find you - for those without readily available addresses, bank accounts and tax record, it's easy to get overlooked by the bureaucracy. Read the full story and get the details here.

MARCH 29 5:57 a.m. — U.S. News: As the coronavirus rages across the United States, mainly in large urban areas, more than a third of U.S. counties have yet to report a single positive test result for COVID-19 infections, an analysis by The Associated Press shows. Read more here.

MARCH 29 5:30 a.m. — World news: Australia has announced that public gatherings will be limited to two people, down from 10, and has enacted a six-month moratorium on evictions for those who cannot pay their rent as part of its latest measures in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new measures on Sunday. View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 5 a.m. — World news: Airline flights from the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak resumed Sunday in another step toward lifting restrictions that kept tens of millions of people at home. The first flight took off from Yichang, a city in Hubei province, bound for the eastern city of Fuzhou with 64 passengers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Most access to Wuhan, the city where the first coronavirus cases were reported in December, was suspended on Jan. 23. Restrictions spread to other cities in Hubei, cutting train, air and road links. View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 5 a.m. — World news: Spain says it has hit a new daily record for coronavirus deaths with 838 fatalities in the last 24 hours for a total of 6,528, the world's second-highest death count behind Italy. View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 29 5 a.m. — World news: Pope Francis is backing the U.N. chief's call for a cease-fire in all conflicts raging across the globe to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also said his thoughts are with those constrained to live in groups, citing in particular rest homes for the elderly, military barracks and jails. During his traditional Sunday blessing, the pope called for ‘’the creation of humanitarian aid corridors, the opening of diplomacy and attention to those who are in situations of great vulnerability.’’ View more national & world updates here.

MARCH 28 10:39 p.m. — KHOU mental health expert Bill Prasad said he's seeing the impacts of the coronavirus on people's mental health as the virus has started impacting our daily lives. Prasad said most people have a hard time dealing with the unknown so washing their hands or staying inside isn’t enough. “Sometimes that has led to panic buying like what we saw at grocery stores and sometimes it’s lead to panic selling as what we saw on Wall Street,” Prasad said. Read more here.

MARCH 28 10:24 p.m. — DPS troopers are now stationed at Houston's airports indefinitely to enforce Gov. Greg Abbott's new orders that anyone traveling from hotspot locations around the U.S. must self-quarantine for 14 days. More here.

MARCH 28 10:10 pm. — Austin CEO delivers thousands of masks from Mexico to Texas doctors in need of protective equipment... Tom Banning's friend told him he had a shipment of 525,000 masks coming to Texas. Banning personally delivered 7,500 of them to doctors in Houston and Austin. Read, watch the full story here.

MARCH 28 9:58 p.m. — The Bureau of Prisons says the first federal inmate in the U.S. has died after contracting coronavirus. Officials tell The Associated Press that the man died Saturday. He had been housed at FCI Oakdale I, a low-security prison in Louisiana. The Bureau of Prisons has said five inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Louisiana prison complex.

MARCH 28 9:23 p.m. — Confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the United States doubled in two days, surpassing 2,000 Saturday and highlighting how quickly the virus is spreading through the country. Johns Hopkins University reported that confirmed deaths rose to more than 30,000 around the world. The U.S. ranked sixth in deaths, after Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy alone had more than 10,000 dead. The U.S. death toll has risen abruptly in recent days. It topped 1,000 just Thursday. Rhode Island announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus, leaving just three states with zero reported deaths: Hawaii, West Virginia and Wyoming.

MARCH 28 8:57 p.m. — The CDC has issued a travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, urging residents from the New York tri-state area to "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days." It goes into effect immediately. Read more.

MARCH 28 8:41 p.m. — Two more Galveston firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus. The three employees with the virus are self-quarantined. In all, 26 firefighters have been tested. Of those, two tested positive, 17 tested negative, and results are pending for seven others.

MARCH 28 8:37 p.m. — President Trump is calling for a "strong Travel Advisory" be issued to for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to stem the spread of the outbreak. Trump announced he reached the decision after consulting with the White House task force leading the federal response and the governors of the three states. He said he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government.” Read more here.

MARCH 28 8:07 p.m. — The Surfside Beach City Council has chosen to close Surfside Beach to all vehicular traffic until 11:59 p.m. on April 3.

MARCH 28 7:30 p.m. — Ten Houston police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom is hospitalized, police chief Art Acevedo said Saturday night. There are 220 HPD employees in quarantine, the chief said, and 71 others have been tested for the virus.

MARCH 28 7:25 p.m. — Fort Bend County Judge KP George issued his thoughts to Missouri City councilman Jeffrey L. Boney, who announced today he's in ICU with the coronavirus. 

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.

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