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Coronavirus updates: All tolls are waived on Harris County toll roads

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Tuesday, March 24.

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

Get the latest updates and top headlines below.


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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):

MARCH 24 10:29 p.m. — Liberty County joins the growing list of counties issuing stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of the coronavirus. County Judge Jay Knight signed an order that takes effect at 11:59 tonight and lasts through April 3. It asks all residents to remain in their homes and asks all non-essential businesses to cease operations during that time. Read the full order here.

MARCH 24 8:52 p.m. — The NHL is extending its recommendation for players and staff to self-isolate and stay away from team facilities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday confirmed the NHL has asked that players and staff extend their self-quarantine 10 days beyond the original March 27 timeline to April 6 — further pushing back the earliest team facilities can reopen. Read more here.

MARCH 24 7:39 p.m. — Los Angeles county is reporting the nation's first child to die from coronavirus-related complications. In just the one county, there are 662 confirmed cases and 11 deaths as of Tuesday March 24, according to the health department.

“Each loss we experience in LA County is tragic, and we are sending our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones who've had to endure this tragedy,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Los Angeles County Public Health Director. Read more here.

MARCH 24 7:15 p.m. — Delaware's governor on Tuesday ordered the postponement of the state's presidential primary as the number of new coronavirus cases in the state rose to more than 100.

Democratic Gov. John Carney on Tuesday ordered that the scheduled April 28 primary be pushed back to June 2. 

Carney also expanded the definition of "sick or physically disabled" as justification for being allowed to cast an absentee ballot to include those who do not have symptoms of the virus but are abiding by public health guidelines by exercising self-quarantine or social distancing. Read more.

MARCH 24 6:27 p.m. — Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect at 11:59 tonight through April 3. Read the full order here.

MARCH 24 6:27 p.m. — The International Festival is canceling its 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic.  "As we along with the rest of the world grapple with the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it became abundantly clear that this is the right decision for us all," officials said in a statement. The International Festival Executive Committee said it's already planning to make its 2021 festival bigger and better.

MARCH 24 6:16 p.m. — Lone Star College is reporting one of its students has tested positive for the coronavirus. The school reports the student, who wasn't identified, contracted the virus while traveling out of state for spring break. The student hasn't been on college property since March 6.

All Lone Star College facilities are closed until April 6 to employees and April 13 to students.

MARCH 24 6:08 p.m. — CHI Texas Division is no longer allowing visitors to its hospital. Exceptions will be made for end-of-life, pediatric, NICU, labor and delivery, and patients who need language services. Any other exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis. No children under 18 will be allowed in any facilities.

CHI facilities include:

CHI St. Luke’s Health (serving the Greater Houston community)

  • Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health—Lakeside Hospital
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health—Springwoods Village Hospital
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health—The Vintage Hospital
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health—The Woodlands Hospital
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health—Sugar Land Hospital
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health—Patients Medical Center

CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial (serving the communities in Lufkin, Livingston, and San Augustine)

  • CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial Lufkin
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial San Augustine
  • CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial Livingston

CHI St. Joseph Health (serving the Brazos Valley community)

  • CHI St. Joseph Health Regional Hospital
  • CHI St. Joseph Health Grimes Hospital
  • CHI St. Joseph Health Madison Hospital
  • CHI St. Joseph Health Burleson Hospital
  • CHI St. Joseph Health College Station Hospital

MARCH 24 5:52 p.m. — The Texas Department of State Health Services said its accelerating the way it reports positive cases across the state in an effort to provide more timely information. The state agency will now include all cases reported by local health departments; before, it would validate each case before adding it to its online count.

“We want to make sure the public and local leaders have the best possible information in one place as they make decisions about COVID-19,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “This new method allows us to share case counts faster.”

MARCH 24 5:40 p.m. — An employee at an ICE processing center in Conroe has tested positive for COVID-19. Geo Group, which runs the Montgomery Processing Center, said in a statement the employee is in self-quarantine at home and is recovering. The center has asked three other employees to self-quarantine. One detainee at the facility is also in isolation. There are currently 833 people being held in the facility.

MARCH 24 5:29 p.m. — Harris County is reporting 25 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county's total to 79. The county reports 12 of those patients have recovered. More details here.

MARCH 24 5:18 p.m. — Less than an hour after Fort Bend County Judge KP George issued a "Stay Home to Save Lives" order, the county is reporting four more positive cases, bringing its total to 46.

MARCH 24 5:18 p.m. — All tolls are waived on Harris County toll roads while the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order is in effect through April 3.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority said it will not charge tolls for anyone who has to travel through the county during the order. That includes toll roads such as the Beltway, Tomball Tollway, the Katy Freeway managed lanes, Westpark Tollway and Hardy Toll Road.

The order doesn’t apply to the Grand Parkway, which is managed by the state of Texas.

MARCH 24 4:52 p.m. — Brazoria County has announced nine new positive cases and one person who has recovered. The positive cases are:

  • Pearland woman between ages 40-50. Her case isn't travel related, and she's in isolation at home.
  • Woman from Rosharon between the ages of 40-50. She's at home in isolation. Her case wasn't travel related.
  • Woman from Angleton between 30-40. Her case isn't travel related. She's isolating at home.
  • Woman between 55-65 from Angleton. She's isolating at home. Her case isn't travel related.
  • Woman between 35-45 from Pearland. She's isolating at home. Her case isn't travel related.
  • Woman between 35-45 from Pearland. She's isolating at home. It's unclear how she contracted the virus.
  • Woman between 15-25 from Pearland. She's isolating at home. It's unclear how she contracted the virus.
  • Woman between 70-80 from Manvel. She's isolating at home. It's unclear how she contracted the virus.
  • Man between 20-30 from Pearland. He's isolating at home. It's unclear how she contracted the virus.

MARCH 24 4:49 p.m. An employee at the Montgomery Processing Center has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee has been self-quarantining at home since March 18 and has shown signs of improved health. Individuals in contact with this employee have been asked to self-quarantine at home

MARCH 24 4:40 p.m. — Fort Bend Couty has issued a ‘Stay Home to Save Lives’ order. This will go into place at midnight and last through 11:59 p.m. on April 3. More details on the order here.

MARCH 24 3:47 p.m. — Texas has its first inmate who’s tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said a 37-year-old man incarcerated at the Lychner State Jail in Atascocita was taken to the hospital and tested after experiencing a cough and shortness of breath—two symptoms of the virus.

After evaluation at Memorial Hermann in Houston, the man was transferred to the Hospital Galveston Unit, where he tested positive. He’s been there for the past three days in medical isolation.

“TDCJ is saddened to learn of this positive case in an offender, but the agency is well prepared to handle this challenge,” said Bryan Collier, TDCJ’s executive director.

The man was transferred to the state jail from the Harris County Jail on Feb. 27 after his conviction on two drug possession charges.

So far, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said no inmates in the county’s jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

MARCH 24 3:38 p.m. The Houston Health Department announced 31 new positive COVID-19  cases, bringing the total to 55. The one-day spike is a result of a batch of reports received by the department from commercial laboratories. 

MARCH 24 3:27 p.m.   The Dow surged to 2,000 points Tuesday, its biggest-ever point gain, as Congress moved closer to passing a coronavirus aid package. Read more here.

MARCH 24 3:12 p.m. Montgomery County reports four more cases of coronavirus bringing the county's total to 23.

MARCH 24 2:30 p.m.   During a press conference, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced 715 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19. Eleven people have died from the virus. About 11,000 people in the state have been tested. 

He issued two executive orders. 

One, which was already implemented, requires that surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary be postponed.

Hospitals across Texas must submit daily reports on hospital bed capacity to the state, the second executive order outlined. All health providers must also submit daily reports of COVID-19 tests. Read more here.

MARCH 24 1:32 p.m. Wharton County reports two additional coronavirus cases bringing the county's total to three. Click here for a breakdown of the cases by county.

MARCH 24 12:59 p.m. — Houston rapper Slim Thug announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus in a video he posted to Instagram Tuesday. Read more here.

MARCH 24 12:02 p.m. —  Montgomery County will not be under a “stay at home” or “shelter in place” order at this time, said County Judge Mark Keough.

“Our current orders have been in effect for five days now, and the public has been complying for the most part.  We have performed compliance checks on businesses who should be closed or restricted and so far everyone has been doing their part.  I cannot stress enough the importance for everyone to do their part by taking personal responsibility for their actions and follow the CDC guidelines for hand hygiene and social distancing.” said. Keough.

MARCH 24 11:59 a.m. — Brazoria County reported one positive coronavirus case bringing the county's total to 19.

MARCH 24 11:50 a.m. — Effective at 5 p.m. today, the Houston SPCA will temporarily close its adoption center to the public, but essential services including animal cruelty investigations, 24-hour injured animal rescue ambulance & wildlife rescue will continue during the Stay Home/Work Safe order.

MARCH 24 11:20 a.m. — From FBISD: "Fort Bend ISD is supporting the community in a time of uncertainty by ensuring children have access to healthy meals. Starting Wednesday, March 25, Fort Bend ISD’s Grab and Go meals will expand to 12 additional campuses. These meals are at no cost to anyone 18 and under and to students with disabilities without regards to age. Children do not need to be enrolled in Fort Bend ISD to get free breakfast and lunch, but all children will need to be present in order to pick up the meals." Read the details here.

MARCH 24 10:40 a.m. — Congressional and White House officials say they expect to reach a deal Tuesday on a nearly $2 trillion measure to ease the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average likes the news, it is currently up by 1,600 points. View more national/world updates here.

MARCH 24 10:27 a.m. — From the City of Houston: A Houston firefighter has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently self-quarantined at home. The firefighter began to have symptoms within 24 hours after his shift on March 17th.  Follow-up testing was positive for COVID-19. This employee was not under current self-monitoring or quarantine with the HFD. Twelve other firefighters who had contact with this individual at the station have been instructed to self-quarantine." 3 others are awaiting results. Read more here.

MARCH 24 10:20 a.m. — Many essential workers, including healthcare professionals and first responders, are struggling with childcare issues, especially with all area schools closed. The YMCA of Greater Houston has transitioned some of their locations into “Essential Personnel Child Care Sites,” offering childcare services to all essential workers, members or non-members. Read more here.

MARCH 24 10 a.m. — India has announced a nationwide lockdown for all of its citizens, more than one billion people, the largest population to face such an order yet in the fight against COVID-19. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decreed a 21-day lockdown across the nation “to save India” from the coronavirus pandemic. In a television address, Modi said that if India isn't able to manage the next 21 days, the country could be set back by 21 years.

MARCH 24 8:30 a.m. — Harris County has officially issued a "Stay Home Work Safe order" for all communities and cities in the county, including Houston. Read more here and get the details.

RELATED: Houston, Harris County issue 'Stay home, Work safe order'

RELATED: Houston to 'Stay home, work safe' | So what is an essential business or job?

MARCH 24 8:15 a.m. — "Stay home, work safe" | Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will join Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and other local health leaders for a COVID-19 related announcement this morning at 8:15 a.m. Watch live here and on KHOU 11. The Houston Chronicle reports both Harris County and the City of Houston will announce a stay-at-home order, ordering people to stay home except for essential business, first responders, medical care, grocery store visits, etc. We will learn more later this morning. These stay-at-home orders generally allow people to still go outside and run necessary errands, but they put a ban on any kind of social gatherings. Dallas and San Antonio are also staying at home under similar orders, and Austin's mayor is expected to announce an order today. Galveston issued a similar order on Monday that will take effect Tuesday night. Read more about Galveston's order here.

MARCH 24 7:35 a.m. — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed “100%” to his proposal of postponing the Tokyo Olympics for about one year until 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Bach had previously said the IOC would make an announcement about postponing the 2020 Olympics in the next four weeks. Read more here.

MARCH 24 6:55 a.m. — World news update from the AP: A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization says case counts and deaths globally from the new coronavirus are expected to increase “considerably” when global figures are published later Tuesday. Dr. Margaret Harris, a WHO spokeswoman, said overnight reporting showed 85% of the new cases were being reported in Europe and the United States. View more national/world updates here.

MARCH 24 6:27 a.m. — An uplifting update out of Washington state this morning: A 90-year-old Life Care Center resident who battled coronavirus (COVID-19) has made a full recovery, according to her family. Geneva Wood’s final test for coronavirus came back negative, showing Wood is “officially ‘coronavirus free,’” according to Kate Neidigh, who is Wood’s granddaughter-in-law. View the full story here.

MARCH 24 6:08 a.m. — From the AP: South Africa's coronavirus cases have leapt again to 554. It's the most of any country in Africa. Its 57 million people are rushing to prepare for a three-week lockdown that begins Thursday. Across Africa, 43 of its 54 countries now have cases, with the total at 1,788. Thirteen countries have reported 58 deaths.  View more national/world updates here.

MARCH 24 5:59 a.m. — From the AP: The Vatican is under pressure to let more of its employees work from home after several offices remained open even after Italy shut down all nonessential industry in a bid to contain the coronavirus. Vatican employees in three different offices expressed alarm Tuesday that superiors had adopted different policies about working from home, with no uniformity among them. View more national/world updates here.

MARCH 24 4:30 a.m. — National news from the AP: Top congressional and White House officials negotiating the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package say they expect to reach a deal Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer say they spoke by phone with President Donald Trump as they met late into Monday night at the Capitol.  View more national/world updates here.

MARCH 23 9 p.m.  For the protection of the community and to lead by example the City of Pearland has made the decision to close all city facilities to public access effective Tuesday, March 24th through Sunday, April 12th to continue City operations in electronic and forms other than in-person. The move helps add a layer of safety for City staff while also inhibiting the spread of COVID-19. Operations and services will continue as normal, and City employees will still be available to help with a variety of existing and long-standing means, everything from phone to email to online filings.

MARCH 23 8:45 p.m. — More than 20,000 calls have come into the Houston Health Department coronavirus call center where staff have been working tirelessly to answer residents' questions and screen people for drive-thru testing. Read more here.

MARCH 23 8:23 p.m. — All city facilities in Pearland will be closed to the public March 24 - April 12 as a precaution. Residents will still be handle any government-related business online or over the phone.

MARCH 23 8:00 p.m. — President Donald Trump signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.

Read older blog updates 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.

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