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.
Today's top headlines
- Doctor: Here’s the safe way to unload your groceries amid COVID-19 pandemic
- Here's how Houston police are dealing with businesses that violate local orders
- 750,000 medical masks sit in Houston warehouse due to price-gouging allegations
- Who will get stimulus checks and when? Here's what you need to know
- How to get paid sick leave or paid time off to stay home with your kids for two weeks
Here are the latest updates from around the Houston area and the world (all times are Central/Houston time):
MARCH 26 8:59 p.m. — Two residents at a retirement community in The Woodlands have tested positive for COVID-19.
MARCH 26 8:59 p.m. — The city of Alvin has issued a stay-at-home order. The order mirrors what's already in place for Brazoria County, but city officials said it "supersedes all previous Emergency Declaration Orders issued" by the city council. The order also limits the number of people allowed in a funeral home to a maximum of 10 or fewer.
MARCH 26 8:54 p.m. — As Louisiana and New Orleans grapple with an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, local officials are criticizing the federal government for not providing more information ahead of Mardi Gras.
As of 8:54 p.m. Thursday night, the state's latest virus numbers include: 2,305 total cases, 83 deaths, 676 in hospital for treatment and 239 in need of a ventilator, according to KHOU's sister station WWL-TV.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told CNN Thursday afternoon that if she had more information from the federal government, she would have pulled the plug on carnival season.
“When it's not taken seriously at the federal level it's very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions,” Cantrell said. “In hindsight, if we were given proper direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras and I would have been the leader to cancel it.”
MARCH 26 7:20 p.m. — Scarface, the legendary Houston rapper, announced today that he’s tested positive for the coronavirus. He made the announcement on Willie D Live’s YouTube channel Thursday afternoon.
“This whole three weeks has been an ordeal I’ve been to the point where I feel like I was going to die, bro,” he said, reppin’ a Houston Astros hat.
He said he took tests after his first test was lost. He said he got a call around 11 p.m. Wednesday and was told he tested positive for the virus.
MARCH 26 5:58 p.m. — Chambers County has added a new amendment to an executive order permitting only essential businesses to remain open amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Only one adult per household will be allowed to enter "essential retail business," which are defined as grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, liquor stores and any other business necessary for people to live and work from home.
The new policy doesn't apply to adults who have a medical or physical need and require assistance or children in situations where there is no one else to watch over them. Read the amendment here.
MARCH 26 5:58 p.m. — Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, has gone into self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. She was tested for the coronavirus today after experiencing flu-like symptoms with a 101-degree fever. Fletcher said in a news release this afternoon she will continue to work from home until she receives those test results.
“Representing Texas’ Seventh Congressional District and making sure our community has the resources it needs to combat coronavirus together is my highest priority. I will continue to work from home, as I have been, advocating for the needs of our community and working to solve problems with my colleagues in Congress and our partners here at home,” she said in a statement.
MARCH 26 5:50 p.m. —The United States now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. According to a running count by Johns Hopkins University, the number of people infected in the U.S. topped 82,000 on Thursday. That's just ahead of the 81,000 cases in China and 80,000 in Italy.
Italy has the most confirmed deaths of any country with more than 8,000. More than 1,000 people have died in the U.S.
MARCH 26 5:15 p.m. — The Houston Health Department has reported its first death linked to COVID-19. Officials said the individual was a woman between 60 and 70 years old with several underlying health conditions. She passed away at a hospital March 24, but the department received test results today confirming coronavirus was the cause.
The department has launched an investigation to identify potential contacts exposed to the virus. They will provide close them guidance about the virus and monitor them for symptoms. Read more here.
MARCH 26 5:03 p.m. — A sixth Harris County sheriff's deputy has tested positive for COVID-19. The most recent case is a male deputy in his late 20s. He's currently in quarantine at home. The sheriff's office said the deputy works in the operations side of the Harris County Jail’s 1200 Baker Street building, where he has limited contact with inmates.
MARCH 26 4:49 p.m. — A Harris County Precinct 4 constable deputy has tested positive for COVID-19 since he started showing symptoms and was instructed to go into quarantine at home. The constable's office said the deputy is a middle-aged man who may have been exposed to the virus by a Harris County sheriff's deputy who tested positive. He is being monitored by a doctor, officials said.
MARCH 26 4:15 p.m. — Galveston County Health District reported 13 new people have tested positive, bringing the county total up to 40.
The following information was released about the patients:
- A female in her 70s who had contact with a known positive Galveston County COVID-19 case. She is self-quarantined.
- A male in his 40s with no recent travel or contact with a known positive COVID-19 case. This is believed to be community spread. He is self-quarantined.
- A female in her 60s who had contact with a known positive Galveston County COVID-19 case. She is self-quarantined.
- A male in his 60s who had contact with a known positive Galveston County COVID-19 case. He is self-quarantined.
- A female in her 40s who had contact with a known positive Galveston County COVID-19 case. She is self-quarantined.
- A female age 10-20 who had contact with a known positive Galveston County COVID-19 case. She is self-quarantined.
- A female in her 40s with recent international travel. She is self-quarantined.
- A female in her 70s with no recent travel or contact with a known positive COVID-19 case. This is believed to be community spread. She is hospitalized.
- A female in her 40s with recent domestic travel. She is self-quarantined.
- A female in her 30s with recent international travel. She is self-quarantined.
- A male in his 50s with no recent travel or contact with a known positive COVID-19 case. This is believed to be community spread. He is self-quarantined.
So far, it's the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases the health district has reported in one day.
MARCH 26 3:54 p.m. — Good news out of Brazoria County, where health officials report a total four people have recovered after being diagnosed with COVID-19. On Thursday, officials said a Rosharon man in 40s, a Pearland man in his 40s and a Angleton man in his 20s have been released from isolation.
MARCH 26 3:42 p.m. — The Montgomery County Public Health District has confirmed at least 10 more people have tested positive for COVID-19. The total for the county is now 41. The following information was released about the individuals tested.
- Woman, 60-69, from Spring, under investigation
- Man, 40-49, from Porter, under investigation
- Man, 40-49, from Pinehurst, under investigation
- Woman, 40-49, from Montgomery, community spread
- Woman, 40-49, from Montgomery, community spread
- Man, 30-39, from Conroe, under investigation
- Man, 50-59, from Spring, under investigation
- Man, 60-69, from Conroe, travel related
- Man, 40-49, from Montgomery, travel related
- Man, 40-49, from Spring, under investigation
MARCH 26 3:18 p.m. — Houston Community College has been given the greenlight to produce protective shields using the college's 3-D printers for medical professionals working with coronavirus patients, Harris County Judge Lina Hildalgo said. The school is working in partnership with non-profit TXRX Labs: Makerspace, and together, they're expected to start producing more than 30,000 a day.
MARCH 26 3:18 p.m. — At least 135 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Harris County Judge Lina Hildago said.
MARCH 26 3:18 p.m. — The Galveston Fire Department is awaiting COVID-19 test results for at least 26 crew members, and so far, one employee has tested positive.
The city of Galveston said the employees who have been tested are in isolation at home. Officials said the testing of these individuals has not impacted the department’s ability to be fully operational. Read more here.
MARCH 26 3:14 p.m. — University of Houston-Victoria has postponed commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 15. The graduations will be rescheduled for the summer or fall once local, state and federal restrictions are lifted. Updates will be posted here.
MARCH 26 3:09 p.m. — A Lone Star College employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee became symptomatic March 22 and was tested the same day.
The employee was on the LSC-CyFair campus March 18. College officials said only select employees and no students were allowed on the campus during that time.
MARCH 26 2:30 p.m. — Houston Public Health reports two more individuals have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the city's total up to 68. No information was shared about these individuals besides they're being monitored and officials is speaking to those who may have had contact with them. Go to map of Houston-area coronavirus cases.
MARCH 26 2:30 p.m. — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued his latest executive order to protect residents from coronavirus. This time, it's an order requiring air travelers coming into Texas from the New York City and New Orleans areas to go into a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, as well as fill out paperwork documenting their visit. The policy also applies to people flying in from New Jersey or Connecticut airports.
Abbott said the process will be managed and enforced by troopers with the Texas Department of Transportation. Those who violate the order could face a fine and/or jail time. Read more here.
The governor also shared the most recent numbers regarding coronavirus testing across the state.
- At least 21,000 test have been administered statewide
- Less than 10% of people (an estimated 1,424 individuals) have tested positive for the virus
- 18 people have died statewide
- Coronavirus cases have been reported from at least 90 Texas counties
The state continues to recruit more health care professionals to help at hospitals, clinics and testing centers and to collect protective medical gears needed to treat coronavirus patients, the governor said.
MARCH 26 1:58 p.m. — The Harris County Juvenile Detention Center reports one of its youths has tested positive for COVID-19. He is currently undergoing medical treatment and the department is reaching out to the parents of other juveniles he may have come into contact with.
MARCH 26 1:45 p.m. — A 17-year-old patient in New Orleans has died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, according to Louisiana public health officials. Officials did not share whether the teen had any pre-existing medical conditions. Read more here.
MARCH 26 1:40 p.m. — U.S. government officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread as President Donald Trump aims to start easing nationwide guidelines meant to slowdown the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.
MARCH 26 12:16 p.m. — You're working from home. The kids are out of school. And temperatures are already hovering around 90 degrees. That's a recipe for skyrocketing electric bills. Reliant offers these energy efficiency tips to help save some money. Read more here.
MARCH 26 12:03 p.m. — Health insurance providers are activating emergency plans to ensure that Americans have access to the prevention, testing, and treatment needed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus strain COVID-19. For more information, tap here.
MARCH 26 11:52 a.m. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she expects the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief bill will pass the House on Friday with "strong bipartisan support. Pelosi said the plan “takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people." The measure is set for House passage on Friday and President Donald Trump's immediate signature. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.
MARCH 26 11:44 a.m. — To assist west Houston hospitals and healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19, MetroNational, owners and operators of Memorial City, says it will host a week-long medical supply drive at Memorial City Mall beginning this Saturday, March 28.
MARCH 26 11:03 a.m. — "Hi Dad." The Omaha World-Herald Bureau reports that Nebraska's first coronavirus patient is off her ventilator and has spoken her first words since March 5, when she was placed in the hospital. Her father says just three weeks ago they didn't know if she was going to make it or not. The 36-year-old woman has suffered from lifelong respiratory problems and may have gotten the virus during a trip to London with her father. Read the full story here.
MARCH 26 10:35 a.m. — Sorry, folks. Add Comicpalooza to the list of favorite Houston events being canceled due to the coronavirus crisis. It was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend. Read more here.
MARCH 26 10:20 a.m. — Good news for anyone still on the road these days, bad news for Houston's oil business. From AAA - " The statewide gas price average in Texas is $1.80 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel, according to the AAA Texas Weekend Gas Watch. That price is 11 cents less than this day last week and is 62 cents less per gallon compared to this day last year. Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed in Texas, drivers in Midland are paying the most on average at $2.00 while drivers in Sherman/Denison are paying the least at $1.50 per gallon. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $2.07, which is 13 cents less compared to this day last week and 58 cents less than the price per gallon at this same time last year. As the price of crude oil drops to levels not seen since the early 2000s, gasoline prices are following suit. "
MARCH 26 10:15 a.m. — McDonald's late Wednesday announced it is temporarily halting its all-day breakfast menu to simplify its operations, according to USA TODAY. The fast-food company says the move was made to make things simpler for its crews during the pandemic. Read more national/world updates here.
MARCH 26 10:11 a.m. — The WNBA has announced its draft will be a virtual event this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The draft will be held on April 17 as originally scheduled but will be broadcast without players, fans or media in attendance. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert says the league is still looking at different scenarios for the start of the regular season, but notes it could begin before the NBA resumes play. Read more national/world updates here.
MARCH 26 9:40 a.m. — "Governor Greg Abbott today announced his request for access to interest-free federal loans (known as Title XII funds) to pay unemployment claims and the accelerated release of funds from the Texas account of the federal Unemployment Trust Fund." - Bill Bishop, KHOU
MARCH 26 8:40 a.m. — How to safely unpack your groceries during the outbreak: A doctor who works at Spectrum Health created a video to show how to properly unpack your groceries amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more & watch the video here.
MARCH 26 7:59 a.m. — Here's how Houston police are dealing with businesses that violate local orders: Houston and Harris County have mandated that certain businesses close for a period of time during the coronavirus pandemic. The directive to officers under the city of Houston's order is geared towards bars and night clubs that violate the order to close and restaurants that allow dining in. It said officers should go by the following enforcement procedure. Read more here.
MARCH 26 7:35 a.m. — US jobless claims soar to record 3.3 million as layoffs jump: Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week - more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982 - amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus. The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is doing to the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs. Read more here.
MARCH 26 6:20 a.m. — Last night Polk County also announced a "stay at home order" for its residents. Like other orders, it says people should only be leaving home for "essential business." This is the eighth Houston-area county to announce such an order. Read more about Polk's County's order here. | View the list of Houston-area shelter-in-place orders.
MARCH 26 5:48 a.m. — The OakBend Medical Group is launching the first coronavirus testing site in Fort Bend County Thursday morning, but it's not free. Read more here.
MARCH 26 4:22 a.m. — U.S. Department of Labor figures to be released Thursday are expected to shatter the old record for the greatest number of new unemployment claims filed in a single week. There are more suddenly jobless Americans than during the Great Recession. Some economists project that the U.S. could see around 3 million new unemployment insurance claims when figures are released for the week of March 15-21. Read more national/world updates here.
MARCH 26 4:10 a.m. — $2 trillion coronavirus deal... Who will get stimulus checks and when? Here's what you need to know: Most adults would get a one-time direct payment of $1,200. But it may take longer than a couple weeks to get your money. The Associated Press has been working through the text of the 883-page bill and Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington have been sharing information. Read the full report here.
MARCH 26 2 a.m. — Russian government officials announced the halting of all international flights starting from Friday. An exception will be made for flights bringing Russians home from abroad, according to a statement published Thursday on the cabinet’s website. Read more national/world updates here.
MARCH 26 1 a.m. — Leaders of the world's most powerful economies will convene virtually on Thursday to try and coordinate a response to the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has shuttered businesses and forced well over 1.5 billion people into home isolation. Read more national/world updates here.
MARCH 25 11:10 p.m. — US coronavirus deaths pass 1,000.... New York State alone accounted for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City. Read more here.
MARCH 25 10:50 p.m. The Senate on Wednesday night passed an unparalleled $2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic. The vote was 96-0. The bill now heads to the House, which is not likely to vote until Friday at the earliest. Read more here.
MARCH 25 10:36 p.m. — It is one of the biggest moments in a family’s life, but now some women in New York are having to deliver their babies without a partner present. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mt. Sinai Health System and New York-Presbyterian have both barred all visitors from the delivery room. Could hospitals in the Houston area make a similar decision? Watch/read Lauren Talarico's full report here.
MARCH 25 10:15 p.m. — As Texas Medical Center hospital workers and first responders are dealing with a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, there are 750,000 medical-grade masks sitting in a Houston warehouse in limbo. Read more here.
MARCH 25 9:40 p.m. — Workers in several Amazon warehouses have tested positive for coronavirus, including the Katy facility west of Houston. Read more here.
MARCH 25 9:24 p.m. Chambers County confirmed another positive COVID-19 case, a 40- to 50-year-old woman who lives in the western part of the county. Officials said she is isolated at home, and her case is not travel-related.
MARCH 25 9:23 p.m. Another Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the agency’s total number of confirmed cases among staff to five.
Officials said the most recent case is a female deputy in her late 20s who last reported for duty on Friday, March 20. She is quarantined at home.
MARCH 25 8:41 p.m. Houston ISD has canceled its food distribution program for the remainder of the week.
Superintendent Grenita Lathan said the cancellation will remain in effect as the district re-evaluates its process for delivering food to students and families.
"This is a difficult decision to make, but the safety of the community, staff, and volunteers is our top priority. We are proud that in the past two weeks we have provided meals for thousands of Houston families when they need it most," Lathan said.
MARCH 25 7:17 p.m. A Texas Department of Criminal Justice unit staff member at the Holliday Unit in Huntsville has tested positive for COVID-19.
TDCJ officials said the 38-year-old is not a correctional officer, but did have possible contact with others. They said the employee left work early on March 19 after not feeling well, went to a doctor on March 23 and was tested.
Officials said the employee is in self-quarantine and is in good condition. They are asking any staff who was in close contact with the employee to self-quarantine for 14 days. Any inmate found to have been in close contact with the staff member will be medically restricted, officials said.
A contact investigation is also being conducted after an inmate reportedly at the Dallas County Jail. In that case, a 48-year-old inmate who was feeling ill was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Intake from Dallas County has been temporarily suspended until the investigation is complete.
MARCH 25 6:11 p.m. Fort Bend County is opening its first COVID-19 testing site.
Effective Thursday, March 26, the county will conduct COVID-19 testing if the patient meets the following criteria:
- Initial criteria for the COVID-19 testing will require a telehealth visit instituted by calling (281) 238-7870
- The county's medical staff will schedule a visit via telehealth
- The patient will be screened during the telehealth visit for criteria that suggests a possible positive COVID-19
Criteria for COVID-19 testing:
Patients must have symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and/or have one of the following risk factors:
- Older than 65 years of age
- Have serious underlying health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease/asthma, HIV, immunocompromised)
- Healthcare workers with suspected exposure
COVID-19 testing will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the numbers of tests limited. All tests must have an order from the telehealth visit. For more information, click here.
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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