HOUSTON — We are continuing to track the latest headlines and updates regarding the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide topped 600,000 on Saturday as new cases stacked up quickly in Europe and the United States and officials dug in for a long fight against the pandemic.
The U.S. leads the world in reported infections — with more than 104,000 cases.
Get the latest updates and top headlines below.
Today's top headlines
- City of Houston reports 163 new coronavirus cases; and woman in her 70s with other health issues has died
- VERIFY: No, the House of Representatives did not slip a pay raise into the stimulus bill.
- Will you get a stimulus check if you receive Social Security or disability, or didn’t file a tax return?
- Hundreds of thousands of masks seized from auction house in SE Houston
- Most visitors now banned at Texas Medical Center hospitals
- UTMB Galveston gets $1 million donation to aid with COVID-19 response
- These Houston-area counties have issued stay-at-home orders
Here are the latest updates from around the Houston area and the world (all times are Central/Houston time):
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.
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 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.
"A long time community leader, member of my transition team, and advocate for Missouri City residents, I am wishing him a full and speedy recovery," George tweeted.
MARCH 28 5:50 p.m. — Chambers County reports two more COVID-19 positive cases. One is a man between 65-75 from mid Chambers County. The other is a woman between 20-30 from west Chambers County. Here's a map of all cases in the greater Houston area.
MARCH 28 5:39 p.m. — The Galveston-Texas City Pilots donated over 1,000 respirators today to support Galveston County first responders. County Judge Mark Henry posted photos on his Facebook page as the respirators were unloaded this afternoon. Henry said the donation "will help protect our first responders when responding to incidents in the county." Galveston County has a total of 60 COVID-19 cases as of this afternoon.
MARCH 28 5:01 p.m. — Missouri City councilman Jeffrey L. Boney said he’s tested positive for coronavirus. The councilman posted on a community Facebook page that he’s currently in ICU “working with some of the top infections disease doctors, and they are working diligently to ensure I get completely healed and back home to my family.”
Boney said he tested positive Friday after experiencing symptoms recently.
“I want to be extremely clear with you…I am in great spirits and I plan to overcome this challenge,” he wrote. “But, please know that this is a very serious epidemic and anyone is susceptible. I am encouraging everyone to do what has been suggested by so many medical professionals all over the world: wash your hands, practice social distancing, self-quarantine, don’t ignore ANY symptoms.
“It is time for ALL of us to not only know this pandemic is real and affecting lives, it is also time for us to take seriously all of the things that we have been asked to do by our local leaders.”
Boney said he’s fighting with the support of his family and friends.
MARCH 28 4:34 p.m. — Galveston County is reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 60 cases. Health officials also report that a man in his 40s has recovered, making that five total recoveries in the county.
MARCH 28 3:50 p.m. — Harris County is reporting 53 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 213 cases. These cases don't include any within the city of Houston, which earlier Saturday reported 163 new cases. Harris County said 24 of its patients have recovered.
MARCH 28 3:50 p.m. — A Brazos County man in his 80s who was in Hospice care has died from the coronavirus. County officials said today that there are 40 COVID-19 cases in the county, six people who are hospitalized.
MARCH 28 3:17 p.m. — Gov. Greg Abbott is waiving some regulations associated with advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) whose licenses are inactive. For APRNs whose licenses have been inactive more than two years but fewer than four, can have it reactivated without paying a fee, completing continuing education credits or completing current practice requirements. Those whose licenses have been inactive for more than four years won't have to pay a fee or complete continuing education.
"Our frontline health care workers play a critical role in Texas' response to COVID-19, and we are working to reduce barriers for former nurses who are ready and willing to serve in our communities," Abbott said.
MARCH 28 3:00 p.m. — Montgomery County is reporting 16 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's total to 63. There have been 368 negative results in the county and there are 169 pending tests.
MARCH 28 2:55 p.m. — There are now 83 Houston firefighters in quarantine and one who's tested positive for COVID-19, Chief Sam Pena said. Pena is urging anyone who calls 911 to tell dispatch if anyone in the home is experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Meanwhile, Houston police chief Art Acevedo said a Houston police officer who tested positive for the virus is improving. The police department now has seven officers who have tested positive.
MARCH 28 1:46 p.m. — Houston Health Department has identified the second individual to die by COVID-19 virus as a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions. She passed away at a local hospital March 27.
“Our city unfortunately will likely see more deaths as this pandemic touches the lives of more people in our community," Dr. David Persse said. "We urge people to follow the Stay at Home, Work Safe order to lower the number of deaths and illnesses as much as possible.”
The department also confirmed 163 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 232 for Houston. Officials said the jump in cases is a result of a batch of reports received by the department from area medical providers. Read more here.
MARCH 28 1:32 p.m. — The Houston Health Department has reported its second death in the city of Houston due to coronavirus. We are waiting to hear more details about the individual who died. That information is expected to be released at 3 p.m.
During a press conference Saturday, a representative from the Houston Police Department said seven officers have tested positive for the coronavirus.
MARCH 28 1:13 p.m. — San Jacinto County reported its first coronavirus case. The individual is quarantined at this time.
MARCH 28 12:59 p.m. — President Donald Trump said he has spoken with some governors and is considering some type of an enforceable quarantine to prevent people in New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut from traveling. Read more here.
MARCH 28 12:35 p.m. — Help is available for restaurant workers who have been laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tap here for more details about the Restaurant Workers Relief Fund organized by former Top Chef contestant Edward Lee.
MARCH 28 11:42 a.m. — The Brazoria County Health Department reported nine new COVID-19 cases bringing the county's total cases to 61. There are a total of five individuals who have fully recovered and have been released from home isolation.
MARCH 28 10:28 a.m. — Memorial City Mall is hosting three vital donation drives Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. There are four ways you can help: Donate blood; donate medical supplies; donate non-perishable food and water for kids' meals; or donate a $20 gift card from an area restaurant that will be given to a healthcare worker. More details here.
MARCH 28 9:35 a.m. — A 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship is being rushed back into service to provide medical help to New York City, now the epicenter of the nation's outbreak. Read more here.
MARCH 28 9:16 a.m. — Texas Health and Human Services announced SNAP and Medicaid benefit renewals currently due will automatically be renewed so existing clients can maintain coverage during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Renewing the SNAP and Medicaid applications automatically means that those who were up for renewal do not have to call or complete their renewal to receive continuous coverage. SNAP and Medicaid benefits are extended until further notice.
MARCH 28 7:29 a.m. — The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office is distributing disinfectant from 8 a.m. to noon today. You can go to 1521 Eugene Heimann Circle to pick up free bottles. Read more here.
March 27 10:42 p.m. — The owner of a southeast Houston auction house where county officials seized 750,000 masks that were set to go to auction tells reporter Grace White that it was all a misunderstanding. Read the full story here.
March 27 9:47 p.m. — The Houston Fire Department has sent 71 firefighters to quarantine. Of those, 17 were unable to do so at home, so they're being housed in a hotel rented by HFD. Earlier Friday, Fire Chief Sam Pena said a Houston firefighter tested positive for COVID-19.
March 27 9:43 p.m. — If you're a homeowner or renter and you're concerned with how you're going to pay for housing, there's government grants that can help. The stimulus package passed by Congress Friday includes a 120-day moratorium on evictions by landlords with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, HUD, Freddie Mac, the rural housing voucher program, or the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.
For renters, there are ways to get help from the government through grants. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs receives “emergency solutions grants” which can help people who are homeless or at-risk of being homeless. The TDHCA often redistributes those grants to city and/or county agencies. Read more here.
March 27 7:47 p.m. — Some Houston athletes are stepping up to help the heroes on the front line in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, along with laid off workers who are suffering because of it. Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and his foundation donated $500,000 in medical equipment to the City of Houston, and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson made two big donations Friday to provide meals for hundreds of Houstonians on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
March 27 7:45 p.m. — The city of Galveston has issued three new orders and extended emergency orders through 5 p.m. on April 3. The new orders include:
- Preventing any short-term rentals throughout the city.
- Prohibiting RV parks from leasing spaces for fewer than 30 days.
- Ordering all hotels and bed-and-breakfast businesses to close. Guests currently staying either one must check out by 10 a.m. Saturday.
March 27 5:45 p.m. — We were there as around 750,000 masks and other supplies that had been up for auction were seized in southeast Houston. Most of the masks are in poor condition, but Harris County plans to buy the masks that are usable.
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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