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Coronavirus updates: Texas City Food King employee tests positive for COVID-19

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

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

President Donald Trump gave governors a road map Thursday for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

The 3-phase plan suggests some areas could see a resumption in normal commerce and social gatherings after a month of evaluating the impact of easing restrictions.

Find this story and a timeline of today's biggest headlines below.

Today's top headlines

Stimulus payment tracker & FAQ | How you can get tested for COVID-19 | Local COVID-19 cases | Coronavirus symptoms | COVID-19 FAQ

Latest updates

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

April 17 10:00 p.m. — A Texas City Food King employee tested positive for coronavirus.

The supermarket said the employee last worked on April 14.

April 17 9:45 p.m. — A Houston retirement community resident died after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Buckingham made the announcement on Thursday.

April 17 9:00 p.m. — Fort Bend County Judge KP George is acknowledging higher appraisal values.

He said he will do everything he can to provide tax relief to residents.

Here's George's full statement:

"As a taxpayer and longtime small business owner, the gravity of taxing and appraisal issues could not be clearer to me. I want to reach out to you immediately to tell you that I know you are very concerned about the significantly higher appraisal values issued by the Fort Bend Central Appraisal District (FBCAD). While the FBCAD operates independently from Fort Bend County under Texas law, as your County Judge, I will do everything in my power to alleviate the financial burdens property owners are facing. I will take the following actions immediately:

  1. Assemble a team of stakeholders who can exhaust all local, state, and federal options to provide tax relief for our residents. We will work with and encourage ALL taxing jurisdictions within Fort Bend County to support this goal.
  2. Spearhead a Commissioner’s Court resolution that implores our state elected officials to change the relevant laws to allow for emergency relief during this type of disaster.
  3. Launch an Economic Recovery Task Force. This committee of big and small business leaders, Chambers of Commerce, and Economic Development Councils will develop a road map to safely and strategically open up sections of our economy. Relying on expert advice from our medical and healthcare personnel, we will continue to take all possible action to revitalize the local economy without compromising our residents’ wellbeing. Our small businesses have been the backbone of Fort Bend County since its founding. We will pursue every available option, and we will aggressively seek federal and state funding whenever possible.
  4. Provide a Taxpayer survey over the next few days. The data from this survey will be a critical tool in understanding and addressing the complex issues Fort Bend taxpayers are experiencing. Your responses will serve as a key piece to inform our decision-making.
  5. Sign up for Community Notifications. We will be using this tool to inform and update our community on major changes and issues related to COVID-19 including our efforts for taxpayer relief. You can sign up here: https://www.fortbendcountytx.gov/your-county/covid-19-alerts. Please share with your friends and family.

"I am working around the clock to release COVID-19 facts accurately and quickly to the public for prevention and treatment to save lives. However, just as importantly, I am committed to alleviating the economic and financial impact of the pandemic so that jobs and economic activity can recover as quickly as possible.

I always say that the best thing about Fort Bend are the incredible people and businesses that call it home. In times of adversity and struggle, we as Texans come together to take care of our neighbors and community. We are Fort Bend Strong."

April 17 8:53 p.m. — Despite repeated attempts, Chambers County officials said they’ve been unable to secure the necessary testing supplies or personal protection equipment needed to help combat the novel coronavirus locally. Read more here.

April 17 7:58 p.m. — Following in the lead of Austin and Dallas County, San Antonio is now mandating that all residents 10 years of age and older wear a cloth face covering in public setting, as part of the latest efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Read more here.

April 17 7:43 p.m. — Texas lawmakers are debating whether residents fearful of catching the coronavirus should be allowed to vote by mail. Texas AG Ken Paxton argues 'being fearful of illness' isn't covered in the election code, but a state judge is looking to temporarily expand that provision. Read more here.

April 17 7:30 p.m. — President Donald Trump gave governors a road map Thursday for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re starting our life again,” Trump said during his daily press briefing. “We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again.” Read more here.

April 17 7:18 p.m. — Broncos’ star linebacker Von Miller has tested positive for COVID-19.

"It’s true," Miller said in a phone call with 9NEWS. "I’ve just been here in the crib and I started to get a little cough. You know I have asthma and I started getting a little cough a couple days ago. My girlfriend she told me when I was asleep she said my cough it didn’t sound normal." Read more here.

April 17 6:47 p.m. — The first coronavirus-related death has been reported in Calhoun County, the health department confirmed. 

No information was shared about the individual, other than they passed away at an acute care hospital outside the county.

April 17 5:55 p.m. — Next week, Houston ISD is opening 25 new food distribution sites to help thousands of district children and their families in need. 

The sites will open beginning Monday, April 20.

Each one is expected to provide 500 food bags a day. Find service hours and locations here.

April 17 5:37 p.m. — The Galveston County Health District is reporting its fourteenth coronavirus-related death. The individual is a man between 71-80 years old with pre-existing medical problems. He passed away April 12.

As of Thursday, a total 421 people have tested positive for the virus. Meanwhile, the county reports at least 157 people have recovered.

April 16 5:35 p.m. — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirms 158 employees and 327 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus.

April 16 4:55 p.m. — The number of Brazoria County coronavirus cases has reached 285 after the health department confirmed 13 new people have tested positive.

RELATED: Map: Keeping track of Houston-area coronavirus cases

April 16 3:48 p.m. — The number of Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees diagnosed with coronavirus has reached 113, with 98 of the positive test results being among those who work in the jail.

Five of these employees are currently in the hospital. Read more here.

April 16 3:48 p.m. — A second Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office employee has tested positive for coronavirus. The department said the other employee has been cleared to return to work after testing negative twice.

April 16 3:32 p.m. — The city of Kemah has laid off several staff members in wake of the coronavirus pandemic including two officers and one police department staff member.

Kemah Mayor Terri Gale cited reduced sales and beverage tax revues, as well as "a lack of financial reserves maintained by the previous administration for emergency situations" the reason for the decision.

"The budget cut decisions were made in a City Council meeting that occurred last night. There will be weekly budget workshops and/or Council meetings to continue to monitor our budget and cash positions for further actions that might be needed," Gale said in a statement. Read more here.

April 16 3:31 p.m. — Houston METRO reports a total 11 employees and two contractors have contracted the coronavirus. On Thursday, officials confirmed a yellow cab contractor who drove for METROLift and a bus driver have tested positive.

The bus driver worked April 1-3, 6-7 and 13. During that time, they drove the 2 Bellaire, 4 Beechnut, 152 Harwin Express and 153 Harwin Express routes. They also drove the Kingsland/Addicks/NWTC/TMC Park & Ride and TMC Shuttle.

The cab driver last worked March 27.

METRO is working with public health officials so they can identify and notify passengers, and any employees who may have been in close contact with the two.

April 16 3:24 p.m. — The Houston Restaurant Association and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have launched a campaign encouraging residents to order pickup or delivery from their favorite eateries on Thursdays. 

It's called "Take Us to Your Table."  

The restaurant industry employs more than 300,000 people locally but is struggling to keep employees.

April 16 3:15 p.m. — Three new coronavirus-related deaths have been reported, bringing the city death toll to 29. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the latest cases were identified through matching information with death certificates. These individuals include a woman in her 80s who passed away April 1; a man in his 80s who died March 31; and a man in his 60s who died at home on March 31.

All three had underlying health conditions, Turner said.

As of Thursday, at least 2,456 residents have tested positive for coronavirus. Read more here.

APRIL 16 3:14 p.m. — Montgomery County Public Health officials confirm a total 350 residents have contracted the coronavirus that's 19 new cases since yesterday. So far, the county has reported 6 deaths and 99 recoveries.

APRIL 16 2:55 p.m. — Houston Food Bank and Houston ISD have organized a mass food distribution event to help working families who are unable to visit the district-sponsored food sites during the weekdays. It'll take place Saturday from 4-7 p.m. in the NRG Stadium parking lot.

The site is expected to distribute 3,000 food bags— or 90,000 pounds of food— in three hours, HISD officials said. Read more here.

APRIL 16 2:14 p.m. — Nineteen residents in Waller County have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to new numbers shared by Judge Trey Duhon.

APRIL 16 2:05 p.m. — The Fort Bend County Coronavirus Task Force is hosting a virtual town hall meeting Friday from 2 p.m. - 3 p.m. on Facebook. 

Judge KP George started the task force to focus on mental health challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ben Taub Hospital Chief of Psychiatry Dr. Asim Shah and the judge will be answering the public's questions.

An invite to the event is accessible here. The town hall will also be streamed from George's Facebook page, the county said.

APRIL 16 1 p.m. — Beginning Saturday, Dallas County residents are required to wear cloth coverings when visiting essential businesses or riding public transportation. 

Health officials confirmed, as of Thursday, at least 2,066 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and the death toll has reached 50 people in Dallas County.

Read more here.

APRIL 16 11:31 a.m. — 2 Walgreens properties will serve as COVID-19 testing sites starting tomorrow. Judge Lina Hidalgo held a press conference this morning that you can watch below. She provided new COVID-19 numbers for our community, indicating there were 84 new cases in Harris County outside of Houston and two new deaths.

Hidalgo said the people who are dying each day have been seniors -- grandmothers and grandfathers, and the stakes in the fight against the coronavirus are "life and death." She said that thanks to everyone's efforts so far, the Houston and Harris County area are faring better, but we aren't out of the woods yet as admission rates continue to climb at our hospitals.

RELATED: Where you can get tested for coronavirus in the Houston area

APRIL 16 11 a.m. — Small business lending program on hold after reaching lending limit. AP reports | Lawmakers have been haggling over whether to extend the program, or whether to add provisions that among other things would help minority businesses. Read more here.

APRIL 16 10:34 a.m. — More health workers may be needed: Before stay-at-home orders are lifted, the nation’s public health agencies want to be ready to douse any new sparks of coronavirus infection — a task they say could require tens of thousands more investigators. Many of those extra workers would help with so-called contract tracing, the critically important process of calling people who test positive, tracking down their contacts and getting them into quarantine. The exact number of workers needed is a subject of debate. But some agencies are so desperate they are considering recruiting librarians and Peace Corps volunteers to join the effort. (AP) Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 16 10:24 a.m. — Military medical crews begin caring for coronavirus patients: Soldiers with the Connecticut National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve have begun caring for COVID-19 patients at Stamford Hospital as part of a military effort to support medical staff across the country during the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Thursday. The soldiers are working in a recently reopened building, which had been slated for demolition, on the campus of the 305-bed hospital, said Capt. David Pytlik, a spokesman for the Connecticut National Guard. The medical crews include 85 Army reservists and nine state guardsmen, he said. The Army has deployed about 15 medical units to help with patient care nationwide, including in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. (AP) Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 16 10 a.m. — Calif. nurses suspended for refusing to do COVID-19 work without N95 masks, union says | As COVID-19 cases soared in March, the U.S. was hit with a critical shortage of medical supplies including N95s. Get the full story here.

APRIL 16 9:47 a.m. — Update from Fort Bend County's health officials: "Today, we are reporting 29 new cases of COVID-19, 8 recoveries, and 1 additional death."

APRIL 16 9:03 a.m. — We learned overnight of more COVID-19 trouble in the country's meat processing industry: Tyson Foods confirmed that two of its workers at the Columbus Junction, Iowa pork processing plant have died. The Louisa County plant has been shut down since the week of April 6 when positive cases were first reported. Read more here.

APRIL 16 7:30 a.m. — The new labor numbers are out: 5.2 million more seek unemployment aid as US layoffs continue to spread |  Nearly 12 million people are now receiving unemployment checks. Read more here.

APRIL 16 5:54 a.m. — China denies allegations about origin of virus | China is refuting allegations that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated in a laboratory near the city of Wuhan where contagious samples were being stored. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cited the head of the World Health Organization and other unidentified medical experts as saying there was no evidence that transmission began from the lab and there was “no scientific basis” for such claims. China has also strongly denied claims it delayed reporting on the virus outbreak in Wuhan late last year and underreported case numbers, worsening the impact on the U.S. and other countries. The virus is widely believed to have originated with bats and have passed via another animal species to humans at a wildlife and seafood market in Wuhan, although a firm determination has yet to be made. Allegations about a leak of the virus from the lab have been made in the U.S. media without direct evidence, and President Donald Trump has vowed to suspend funding for the World Health Organization, partly because of what he claims is its pro-China bias. Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 16 5:51 a.m. — China says no plans to limit export of anti-virus supplies, AP reports | China is promising not to restrict exports of medical goods needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic amid global tension over scarce supplies of masks and ventilators. China, the biggest producer of surgical masks and other products, announced last week it would inspect exports to make sure they meet quality standards following Western complaints that some test kits and other products were faulty. Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 16 5:30 a.m. — The head of the World Health Organization’s European office is hailing a show of support, including some “commitments” from around the world, for the U.N. health agency after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a halt to funding for it. Amid an increasingly fraught financial situation for the WHO as it battles the coronavirus outbreak, Dr. Hans Kluge said: “We have been overwhelmed by the support of European countries.” In an online briefing, the WHO’s regional director for Europe credited the United States for its historic support for the agency. The U.S. is WHO’s top donor, contributing between $400 million to $500 million annually in recent years. Trump on Tuesday ordered a temporary halt to U.S. funding pending a review of its alleged missteps in managing and responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. (AP) Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 16 4:25 a.m. — New Trump guidelines Thursday aim to ease some social distancing restrictions | President Donald Trump said he's prepared to announce new guidelines allowing some states to quickly ease up on social distancing even as business leaders told him they need more coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment before people can safely go back to work. Read more here.

APRIL 16 1:45 a.m. — Rams center first NFL player to reveal he has COVID-19 | Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen says he tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks ago. Allen is the first active NFL player to acknowledge testing positive during the coronavirus pandemic. The third-year pro is not hospitalized and is “feeling good,” according to a statement issued by the Rams on Wednesday night only after Allen spoke to Fox Sports about his positive test. Allen became the team's starting center last season. He played in nine games before missing the rest of the year with a knee injury. Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 16 12 a.m. — FDA approves low-cost ventilator | The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a low-cost ventilator developed by the University of Minnesota and aimed at helping COVID-19 patients breathe. The FDA authorized use of the compact device, known as the Coventor, that was quickly developed and designed by a team of university researchers, a medical school resident and an engineer. The developers hope the Coventor will be used in clinical settings where traditional ventilators are unavailable. Read more national/world updates here.

Credit: University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota researchers developed and designed the Coventor as an alternative for clinical settings with a significant surge in patients or with few to no ventilators.

APRIL 15 11 p.m. — New Mexico joins US pilot program on contact tracing | New Mexico's governor says the state has accepted an invitation from the White House to participate in a pilot program to improve and expand contact tracing for coronavirus infections in efforts to better isolate outbreaks. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the she accepted an invitation to participate in the pilot program during a conversation Wednesday with the White House, and that it was unclear whether other states would be involved. New Mexico has consistently been among the top states in testing per capita for COVID-19 infections, while aggressively tracing new infections and developing a customized forecast model in cooperation with two national laboratories in the state. Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 5:58 p.m. — Galveston County is reporting 2 deaths due to COVID-19: A man age 81 to 90 who had preexisting medical conditions and another man age 71 to 80 who also had preexisting medical conditions.

The county is also reporting 9 new COVID-19 cases and 14 new recoveries.

APRIL 15 5:48 p.m. — Wharton County is reporting one new COVID-19 case, bringing the county's total to 32.

APRIL 15 5:46 p.m. — While it appears the stay-at-home orders and the social distancing taking place across Harris County are working in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made one thing very clear: There’s still a long road ahead.

Speaking at his daily COVID-19 news conference Wednesday, Turner said he spoke with officials at the Texas Medical Center who told him that it appears today the curve could be flattening. Read more here.

APRIL 15 5:11 p.m. — Chambers County reports 33 total confirmed cases and 15 recoveries. Walker County also reports 41 total cases and 7 recoveries.

APRIL 15 4:40 p.m. — The Brazoria County Health Department reports 13 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 272.

Additionally, Colorado County is reporting 7 new cases and 3 recoveries, and San Jacinto County reported 8 new cases.

APRIL 15 4:37 p.m. — The Texas Department of Criminal Justice reports an inmate with preexisting medical conditions has died after battling COVID-19.

TDCJ said on April 9, 60-year-old offender Johnny Davis was transported from the Telford Unit in New Boston to a local hospital for treatment where he received a positive test for the virus. On April 11, Davis was transferred from Texarkana to a hospital in Galveston.

TDCJ said Davis died Tuesday. He was serving a 10-year sentence for obstruction/retaliation out of Hunt County that began in October 2016.

48 offenders and 13 employees at the Telford Unit have tested positive for COVID-19. Overall, 138 TDCJ employees, staff or contractors and 284 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

APRIL 15 4:20 p.m. —  After more than five weeks in the hospital, a Patton Village police officer is finally home.

Doctor and nurses from CHI St. Luke’s in Montgomery County lined up to applaud as he walked out of the hospital.

The unidentified officer was the first positive COVID-19 patient in Montgomery County. Read more.

APRIL 15 4:00 p.m. — There are now 100 Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees who have contracted the novel coronavirus. Of those, 85 work in the Harris County Jail.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 68 inmates at the Harris County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 with another 47 in quarantine with symptoms.

Another 292 sheriff’s employees are in quarantine after possible exposure to the virus. Five are hospitalized.

There have been 134 employees previously in quarantine who have returned to work.

APRIL 15 3:30 p.m. — J.J. Watt announced the J.J. Watt Charity Classic, his annual charity softball game, is canceled for this year. The even was originally scheduled for June 6 at Minute Maid Park.

In his video, Watt said those who purchased tickets will receive refunds within 10 business days. Read more information here.

APRIL 15 3:25 p.m. — The City of Houston said three more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the city's total to 26. All three men had other health issues. Two were black between ages 80-90 and 60-70. The third was white, age 50-60. There have been 2,331 confirmed cases in Houston and 233 people have recovered. Local health experts believe the Houston area will peak in late April if everyone continues to practice social distancing. 

"When we hit the peak, this isn't game over. This is halftime," Houston health authority David Persse said. 

RELATED: Map: Keeping track of Houston-area coronavirus cases

APRIL 15 2:29 p.m. — Liberty County is reporting its first COVID-19 death: a woman between 80-90 years old. The county has three new confirmed cases, all from south Liberty County, bringing its total to 23.

APRIL 15 2:02 p.m. — Federal health officials are coming under increasing pressure to start publicly tracking coronavirus infections and deaths in nursing homes amid criticism they have not been transparent enough in responding to an explosion of outbreaks. Public health experts say the lack of transparency has been a major blindspot, and that publicizing outbreaks could help officials see whether safety measures are working and identify recurring issues that are fueling the spread.  Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, The Associated Press has been keeping its own tally. The latest count shows more than 4,400 deaths. Read more.

APRIL 15 12:51 p.m. — If you have jury duty in Harris County District Courts between now and May 31, you're off the hook. Jury duty through the end of May has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prospective jurors who have received a summons don’t need to appear, nor reschedule. The jury staff of the Harris County District Clerk’s Office is working remotely and can be reached via email at: Jury@hcdistrictclerk.com.

APRIL 15 12:01 p.m. — On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will announce a plan to eventually reopen the Texas economy, the governor's office has confirmed to KVUE's Bryce Newberry in Austin. Abbott previously told us the state is working with the White House on the process and any reopening would have to be gradual. The expected executive order will discuss "how we're going to go about this process of opening up businesses, and that must include the appropriate medical strategies to make sure that we are not going to be increasing the spread of the coronavirus," Abbott told KVUE.

APRIL 15 11:43 a.m. — World news: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada's lockdown will last “many more weeks” and warned Canadians if the economy is reopened too soon all the sacrifices they are making now might be for nothing as the country could see another peak in coronavirus cases. Trudeau says Canada is still “a number of weeks away” from being able to start to reopen and urged Canadians to be patient. He says once there is some reopening there is going to be a need for rapid testing on a wide scale and extensive contact tracing for those who test positive. He says once Canada is past the first wave government needs to have the capacity to stamp out any future outbreaks. Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 1:22 p.m. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said state residents will be required to wear face coverings when they are out and coming in close contact with other people. The new mandate will require a mask or face covering on busy streets, public transit or any situation where people cannot maintain six feet of social distancing. The mandate takes effect Friday.  Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged a cautious and deliberative approach to reviving the economy.  

APRIL 15 11 a.m. — Fort Bend County's coronavirus testing site is now accepting people without symptoms, but you still have to call ahead. Get the details here.

APRIL 15 10:25 a.m. — A wonderful update from Rice University: "@RiceAthletics staff members assembled care packages for health care workers in the neighboring @TXMedCenter . After learning that the university was set to provide temporary housing for TMC personnel, they decided to make care packages for those workers as well."

APRIL 15 10 a.m. — Sam's Club announced this week that they are launching Hero Hours to aid first responders and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting April 19, Hero Hours are every Sunday from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. No membership is needed. Read more here.

APRIL 15 9:31 a.m. — Getting a 'Payment Status Not Available' from the new IRS stimulus check tracker? You're not alone: Many on social media have posted that they're seeing the message after they input their information. Read more here. | Stimulus payment tracker & FAQ

APRIL 15 9 a.m. — We learned yesterday there are dozens of coronavirus cases tied to a Tyson meat plant in Washington state. Read more here. The report comes just days after a pork processing plant in South Dakota was forced to close after hundreds of workers there tested positive.

APRIL 15 9 a.m. — Update from Fort Bend County: "Today, we are reporting 50 new cases of COVID-19, 5 new recoveries, and 1 additional death.You can now view case count by zip code, jurisdiction, or precinct on the Response Hub ➡️ http://www.fbchealth.org .#StayHomeFortBend🏡 #StayHomeSaveLives"

APRIL 15 8:54 a.m. — Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm struggling to adapt after restaurants close, demand decreases | Want some crawfish? Let your friends know - especially those in the Beaumont area. Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm in Hamshire is taking a major hit. Read more here.

APRIL 15 8:50 a.m. — Trouble sleeping and weird dreams common amid pandemic | Many of us are having a hard time falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and dreaming about really strange stuff. Read/watch the full report here.

APRIL 15 8:20 a.m. — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday confirmed she and other top officials are taking a 20% pay cut for six months in acknowledgment of the community's sacrifices in dealing with the new coronavirus. Read more here. | Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 8:16 a.m. — With commerce frozen, retail sales plunge unprecedented 8.7% | U.S. retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March, a record drop as the viral outbreak closed down thousands of stores and shoppers stayed home. Sales fell sharply across many categories: Auto sales fell 25.6%, while clothing store sales collapsed, dropping 50.5%. U.S. consumer confidence has plunged and the vast majority of Americans are hunkered down at home under shelter in place orders. Grocery store sales did jump by nearly 26% as Americans hoarded food and consumer items. A category that mostly includes online sales rose 3.1%.  Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 6:30 a.m. — The IRS this morning launched its website that will allow Americans to track the status of the economic stimulus payment Congress approved as relief during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 80 million Americans should expect to have received their stimulus payments in their bank accounts Wednesday, according to the Treasury Department. A "large majority" of eligible Americans can expect the payment within the next two weeks, the department said. Stimulus payments: everything you need to know | Read more here and get links to the IRS website

APRIL 15 6:21 a.m. — Nations around the world are reacting with alarm after President Donald Trump announced a halt to the sizable funding the United States sends to the World Health Organization. Health experts warned the move could jeopardize global efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic. The European Union on Wednesday said Trump has “no reason” to freeze WHO funding at this critical stage and called for measures to promote unity instead of division. Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, pushed back at Trump’s announcement., saying on Twitter that “placing blame doesn’t help." (AP)  Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 5:30 a.m. — In case you missed it: 39 Texas City nursing home residents successfully complete hydroxychloroquine treatment for COVID-19  | Residents completed a five-day treatment of hydroxychloroquine and their doctor said none have experienced side effects. Read more here.

APRIL 15 4:50 a.m. — Military sees no quick exit from 'new world' of coronavirus: The U.S. military is bracing for a months-long struggle against the coronavirus. It is looking for novel ways to maintain a defensive crouch that protects the health of troops without breaking their morale. Unlike talk in the Trump administration of possibly reopening the country as early as May, military leaders are suggesting a best-case scenario of taking steps toward a return to normal activity this summer. Even that is uncertain, and for now the main focus is on adjusting as the pandemic’s threat evolves. Officials have frozen most forces in place overseas, stopped troops and their families from moving to new assignments and cut back access to the Pentagon. (AP) Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 1:40 a.m. — Reports: Trump's name will appear on coronavirus stimulus checks | In what is being called an unprecedented move, the stimulus checks many Americans will receive due to the economic effects of the new coronavirus pandemic will include President Donald Trump's name. That's according to reports by the Washington Post, New York Times and Bloomberg News. Read more here.

APRIL 15 12 a.m. — The latest numbers: The United States has more than 600,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University. As of midnight ET Wednesday morning, the U.S. had 609,240 confirmed cases with 26,033 deaths and 48,625 recoveries. Nearly 3.1 million tests have been conducted in the U.S. Worldwide, there are nearly 2 million confirmed cases with more than 126,000 deaths and 486,000 recoveries. Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 12 a.m. — A new Gallup poll finds 71% of Americans plan to wait to see what happens after social contact restrictions are lifted before deciding whether to return to their old habits. Another 10 percent said they will continue to limit contact with others and daily activities indefinitely. People in cities and suburbs were more likely than people in rural areas to adopt the "wait to see" attitude. Democrats and independents were also more likely than Republicans to go with that level of caution. Regardless, a majority of every major demographic group said they would not immediately jump back into their old ways.  Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 14 11 p.m. — Social distancing may need to continue to 2022, Harvard study finds | Without a significant amount of the population immune to the virus, we could have to go through this off-and-on, the study suggests. Read more here.

APRIL 14 11 p.m. — You could get a $2,000 per month stimulus check under proposed bill Two House Democrats behind the proposal say the one-time, $1,200 check on its way to Americans isn't going to be enough as unemployment skyrockets. Read more here.

APRIL 14 10:26 p.m. — What happened at a Galveston County nursing home over the last week was one of the first big tests of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients in Texas. Fifty-six residents at this senior facility in Galveston County contracted the novel coronavirus. Dr. Robin Armstrong said 39 of them gave him permission to treat them with hydroxychloroquine pills. Read more about the treatment here.

APRIL 14 9:50 p.m. — Single mother with child says she was denied entry to Connecticut Walmart | One mother says she and her son were wearing face masks when they were told by a manager that it’s “state law” for only one person to be allowed in at a time. Read more here.

APRIL 14 9:37 p.m. — What are you supposed to do with your pets if you get sick with COVID-19? The Harris County Office of Emergency Management has some tips:

  • Have a family member in your household care for them until you get better
  • Avoid contact with your pet. That means no petting, snuggling, being licked or sharing food
  • If you have to be around your pet, but sure to wash your hands before touching them.

APRIL 14 9:04 p.m. — H-E-B has updated its list of product limits. The list, which was updated on April 13, shows food and non-food items that currently have purchase limits in place. The limits were put in place "in an effort to make sure all customers have access to products they need." This was prompted by shoppers who began panic-buying amid the coronavirus pandemic. See the full list here

Read older 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.  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.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.

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