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Coronavirus updates: 2 Harris Co. Sheriff's deputies test positive for COVID-19

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Friday, March 21.

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

Today's top headlines:

List: Testing locations | List: local COVID-19 cases | How to file for unemployment in TX | Treating yourself at home | Grocery store hours | Coronavirus symptoms | FAQ

Latest updates:

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

MARCH 21 8:09 a.m. — The Houston SPCA will be providing pet food to local communities in need as COVID-19 continues to spread its negative impact in Houston. They will join Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale’s community food distribution at Gallery Furniture’s North Freeway beginning Saturday, March 21 at 1 p.m.   

The Houston SPCA’s Chief Medical Director and veterinarian, Dr. Dev, along with Chief Animal Cruelty Investigator, Adam Reynolds, will be going live on Facebook with "Mattress Mack" to talk about pet safety, pet health and COVID-19 during a special Facebook Live Event at Gallery Furniture on facebook.com/houstonspca. 

In addition, the Houston SPCA is currently accepting pet food donations from the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily using curbside bins outside the adoption center located at 7007 Old Katy Road, Houston.  For additional information, the public should call 713-869-7722 or email info@houstonspca.org 

MARCH 21 7:08 a.m. — Spain has recorded almost 5,000 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours as it climbed into third place in the global ranking of infections behind China and Italy.

Health authorities said Saturday that virus infections have reached 24,926, up from 19,980 the day before. Total deaths were 1,326, up from 1,002 on Friday. Over 1,600 patients are in intensive care units that authorities admit are at their limits. Madrid is the hardest-hit region with almost 9,000 infections.

MARCH 21 6:20 a.m. — The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office will be distributing disinfectant from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. The address is 1521 Eugene Hermann Circle in Richmond. Print and complete the attached form to help speed the process.

MARCH 21 5:50 a.m. — Hospitals across the country are asking people to sew them heavy-duty masks to help during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more.

MARCH 21 5:20 a.m. — Iran announces 123 more virus deaths, bringing toll to 1,556 amid 20,610 confirmed cases.

MARCH 20 10:27 p.m. — The city of Rosenberg announced its closing the following facilities to the public through April 3: city hall, municipal court, fire administration office, city hall annex and the animal shelter. Click here for more information.

MARCH 20 10:15 p.m. — United Memorial Medical Center reports as of 8:45 p.m. its testing labs have returned 105 results, seven of which have tested positive for COVID-19. Several hundred other tests are undergoing microbiological testing.

MARCH 20 8:56 p.m. — Harris County Sheriff's Office confirms two of its deputies tested positive for coronavirus.

Officials said both deputies, who did not work in the same location, are now quarantined at home where their symptoms are being monitored.

They said one of the deputies is a male in his late 60s who recently traveled to New York and has not reported for duty since returning from his trip. The man last reported for duty on Wednesday, March 11.

Officials said the other case is a woman in her late 20s who last reported for duty on Monday, March 16. Read more.

MARCH 20 8:46 p.m. — Montgomery County confirmed two additional coronavirus cases, bringing the county's total number to 12.

County officials said one case is a man in his 90s and a resident of southwest Montgomery County who is currently hospitalized with no recent travel history. The other case is a man in his 50s who is a resident of southwest Montgomery County. His case is still under investigation.

MARCH 20 8:33 p.m. — The Texas runoff primary election has been postponed until July 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Friday announcing the election originally slated for May 26 would now be moved to July 14, the same day as the special election for Texas State Senate District 14. Read more here.

MARCH 20 8:13 p.m. — The White House says a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus.

Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller said Friday that the staff member, who is not being identified, did not have “close contact” to either the vice president or President Donald Trump.

Miller said contact tracing, or contacting everyone the individual has been in contact with, is being conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Miller says Pence’s office was notified Friday evening of the positive test result.

“‪This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus. Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines,” the vice president's press secretary said.

MARCH 20 8:04 p.m. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning people about unauthorized, fake coronavirus test kits. Federal officials say they're also monitoring the market for products claiming to help treat COVID-19.

The FDA said on Friday that it's learned of some products being marketed as in-home coronavirus test kits which claim to diagnose, prevent or treat the illness caused by the new virus spreading worldwide. The federal agency says it hasn't OK'd any test that people can buy to test themselves at home. Read more here.

MARCH 20 6:51 p.m. — Mayor Sylvester Turner has a very specific message for everyone: the city is not shutting down.

The mayor called a news conference late Friday afternoon to dispel rumors circulating on social media that the city was going on lockdown. The mayor said those rumors were just that—rumors.

“There’s no lockdown, the city is not shutting down,” Turner said. “There are only three people in the state of Texas who can do that: the mayor, county judge or governor.” Read more here.

MARCH 20 6:33 p.m. — Harris County confirmed three new cases of coronavirus, bringing the county's total to 36. The new cases are:

  • A 50- to 60-year-old woman, northeast Harris County resident, result of community spread
  • A 20- to 30-year-old woman, southwest Harris County resident, travel-related
  • A 40- to 50-year-old man, southeast Harris County resident, investigation pending

MARCH 20 5:34 p.m. — The U.S. Census Bureau is delaying the deadline for counting everyone in the U.S. by two weeks because of the spreading novel coronavirus. 

The 2020 census had been scheduled to stop at the end of July, but the deadline has now been extended to mid-August, said Tim Olson, an associate director for field operations at the bureau. 

Most U.S. residents started being able to respond to the 2020 census last week when the bureau's website went live and people started receiving notices to participate in the mail. As of Friday, 18.6 million households had answered the questionnaire, primarily online, said Al Fontenot, the bureau's associate director for decennial programs. Read more here.

MARCH 20 5:21 p.m. — The Houston Humane Society is in need of pet food donations after more than 200 families with pets lined up outside its shelter Thursday in hopes of getting free pet food. HHS said volunteers handed out a total of 5,000 pounds in food despite the pantry being closed due to inclement weather. Read more here. 

MARCH 20 5:13 p.m. — Studio Movie Grill is closing all its theaters nationwide— that includes three locations in Houston area — until further notice in an effort to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

SMG said the company will refund all tickets pre-purchased and suspend billing customers on all subscription plans. Normal billing cycle will resume when the SMG circuit is fully re-opened.

MARCH 20 5:05 p.m. — METRO Houston is taking additional steps to protect its passengers. Beginning March 23, the public transit agency is suspending fares for all buses, light rail trains, Park & Ride vehicles and METROLift.

Expect for those with disabilities, riders must enter all METRO vehicles through the rear doors. On buses and rails cars, the agency has placed to 'reserved signs' on certain seats to promote social distancing. This effort has cut seating availability on the buses in half. Read about other changes here.

MARCH 20 4:41 p.m. — As of Friday, more than 100 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Greater Houston area. Health officials said most of the individuals diagnosed are recovering at home. The spike in confirmed cases could be a reflection of the recent bump in COVID-19 test being administered. Click here for an up-to-date list of local coronavirus cases.

MARCH 20 3:05 p.m. — Lakewood Church and Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is hosting an emergency blood drive next week. 

An appointment must be scheduled before arrival. Visit LakewoodChurch.com for more information on scheduling.

Mobile blood donation buses will be stationed at Lakewood Church March 23 through March 27. Click here for more information.

Due to the large number of blood drive event cancellations throughout the nation amid the COVID-19 crisis, the American Red Cross reports U.S. hospitals are experiencing a severe shortage in blood donations.

MARCH 20 2:45 p.m. — Texas Children's Hospital and all associated facilities (including the Pavilion for Women, Texas Children's Urgent Care clinics, etc.) have changed their visitation policy. Patients will now only be allowed ONE adult visitor. Read more here.

MARCH 20 1:49 p.m. — The World Health Organization has launched a health alert feature on the popular private messaging app WhatsApp. Users will be able to have questions answered about the virus as well as get COVID-19 updates from the organization. Find more info here.

MARCH 20 1:46 p.m. — American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to the coronavirus outbreak and is asking all healthy individuals to donate blood, according to the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. If interested, you can make an appointment to donate at redcrossblog.org/give. 

MARCH 20 1:37 p.m. — MFE Food is Love has offered to pay recently laid off or furloughed hospitality workers up to 40 hours per week to volunteer at the Houston Food Bank during the government-ordered shutdown of restaurants and bars. The Houston non-profit is compensating volunteers at a rate of $7.25 per hour.

MARCH 20 1:34 p.m.  Space Center Houston has extended its closure to the general public until April 12. Ticketholders for public, private and education programs scheduled during our closure will be provided with the options of rescheduling for a date after the center reopens or receiving a refund.

MARCH 20 1:22 p.m. — The city of Alvin has closed multiple public facilities including the city hall building, Public Services Facility building and senior center. The closures will run from March 23 - April 2.

MARCH 20 1:15 p.m. — Houston ISD is launching is at-home learning program March 23, and for the first week, parents are being asked to log on with their children to make sure they're familiar with the program before courses begin March 30. Administrators are also asking parent who do not have internet or computer access to fill out a survey. Find more details here.

MARCH 20 1 p.m. —  The Houston testing site set up on Friday is only for healthcare workers and public safety workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. 

Testing will then be expanded to those 65 and over who are showing symptoms and have a temperature of 99.6 and up.  It will expand to others showing symptoms after that.  Anyone who shows up at any testing site must be pre-screened and authorized. 

Mayor Turner also said the city of Houston is NOT shutting down, despite social media rumors.

Houston Public Health is expected to open three additional sites in coming days. These locations will be for people pre-identified as high-risk through online or phone-based screenings. 

Mayor Sylvester Turner also said the city of Houston is NOT shutting down, despite social media rumors. 

FEMA has approved four new sites for the area including two sites in Houston and two in Harris County. No information was given as to when they will open. Other additional sites should also be operational next week. 

Houston METRO is also taking additional measures to protect riders. For the time being, They will not collect fares and riders will be asked to enter from the rear of the bus to minimize social interaction.

MARCH 20 12:45 p.m. — HBU graduation ceremonies which had been scheduled for May have been postponed. May graduates can participate in graduation in August.

MARCH 20 12:27 p.m. — COVID-19 has ground some businesses to a halt. However, others are hiring like crazy as they try to keep up with customer demand. Kroger, H-E-B, Walmart, Fiesta and Randall’s are all hiring. Read more here.

MARCH 20 11:43 a.m. — H-E-B, in partnership with Favor Delivery, will launch a simple, low-cost solution that gives seniors access to their very own personal shopper by phone, allowing them to get essential food and supplies delivered to them, while remaining in the comfort and safety of their home. Beginning on Friday, March 20, seniors across Texas, age 60 and older, will be able to place orders with Favor using a curated list of products available from H-E-B. Read more.

MARCH 20 11:14 a.m. — President Trump says the U.S. and Mexico will close border to non-essential travel amid the coronavirus. Trump also invokes the Defense Production Act to get critical medical supplies. The U.S. is also waiving school standardized test requirements. Read more.

MARCH 20 11:06 a.m. — Brazoria County Health Department has identified its 5th case of COVID-19.  The individual is male, between the ages of 40-50, and resides in the Rosharon area. The individual is not hospitalized and is recovering at a private residence. More here.

MARCH 20 10:42 a.m. — If you're a small business owner impacted by coronavirus, there will likely be SBA loans available but you'll need to take action to help the state of Texas help you. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has designated COVID-19 as a qualifying event for the provision of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for businesses and private non-profits in affected communities. Read more.

MARCH 20 10:30 a.m. — New York governor Andrew Cuomo has called for 100% workforce reduction, except for essential services, in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Essential services include: shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions. Read more. 

MARCH 20 10:10 a.m. — Brazoria County has released a list a COVID-19 testing sites in the county.

Here is a list of COVID-19 Testing Facilities in Brazoria County. REMEMBER you must call ahead and meet the CDC criteria for testing...

MARCH 20 9:20 a.m. — At President Donald Trump’s direction, Tax Day is moving from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties. Read more:

MARCH 20 8:55 a.m. — The Scripps National Spelling Bee won’t be held as scheduled this year because of the coronavirus. Scripps informed The Associated Press of its decision Friday morning, citing recommendations against large gatherings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ongoing state of emergency in Maryland. Read more.

MARCH 20 8:45 a.m. — Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street Friday at the end of another turbulent week. The Dow and S&P 500 are each up more than 1%. The gains, if they hold, would mark the first back-to-back advance in more than five weeks. Following several punishing drops, major indexes are still on track for heavy weekly losses for the second week in a row. Read more.

MARCH 20 8:40 a.m. — Members of President Donald Trump’s economic team convene Friday on Capitol Hill to launch negotiations with Senate Republicans and Democrats racing to draft a $1 trillion-plus economic rescue package amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s the biggest effort yet to shore up households and the U.S. economy as the pandemic and its nationwide shutdown hurtles the country toward a likely recession.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republican opening offer to pump $1,200 direct checks to taxpayers, $300 billion for small businesses to keep idled workers on payroll and $208 billion in loans to airlines and other industries.

MARCH 20 8:25 a.m. — Defense Secretary Mark Esper says more than 4,000 National Guard reservists have been deployed in 31 states to help battle the coronavirus. Esper told Fox News that the Army Corps of Engineers were in New York three days ago working to help identify sites, such as college dorms or hotels, that it could renovate for hospital beds. Esper says the military also is preparing Army units to assemble field hospitals.

Esper, who has spoken with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, says the Comfort hospital ship will be in New York. He says the Mercy hospital ship will be deployed early next week on the West Coast.

He adds 67 U.S. service members are infected with coronavirus and that 1,500 Americans are quarantined on four U.S. bases in an effort to lighten the burden on the nation's civilian medical facilities. 

MARCH 20 8:20 a.m. — As a thank you to its hourly store, manufacturing, warehouse and transportation partners, H-E-B has announced it will offer a $2 per hour 'Texas Proud Pay,' stipend, effective through April 12.

The grocery chain said the additional pay is its way of recognizing "their hard work and thank them for their commitment as they help serve our customers & communities. Texans rely on H-E-B and we rely on our great Partners." Read more.

MARCH 20 8:05 a.m. — Friday will be a big day for coronavirus testing in Houston. The city is opening its first drive-thru location and will start by testing first responders and health care workers. However, there are other places offering testing, like Next Level Urgent Care. Read more here.

MARCH 20 7:19 a.m. — China has exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease, a startling admission of error by the ruling Communist Party that generally bodes no challenges to its authority. Read more.

MARCH 20 6:30 a.m. — Walmart on Thursday announced they're hiring for 150,000 positions through the end of May.  Those positions include store associates and workers in distribution and fulfillment centers. They'll be temporary positions at first, but many will lead to full-time roles. Read more.

MARCH 20 6:20 a.m. — Austin-based digital health company Everlywell announced on Wednesday at-home testing for COVID-19 will become available to its customers on March 23.

According to a press release from the company, the test can be requested online by people with symptoms of the coronavirus. The samples can be collected at home and be shipped to a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-approved testing center. Read more here.

MARCH 20 5:58 a.m. — The U.S. has warned Americans to avoid all international travel and told citizens abroad to return now or face an "indefinite" absence. California's governor is asking all 40 million residents to stay home to try to slow a pandemic toll that on Friday surpassed 10,000 people worldwide. Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, offered a ray of hope with no new infections reported for a second day in a row and only 39 cases reported nationwide. Globally, governments are trying to balance the need to lock down residents with the need to keep food, medicine and other essentials flowing.  

MARCH 20 5:18 a.m. — Members of President Donald Trump's economic team will convene on Capitol Hill to launch negotiations with Senate Republicans and Democrats racing to draft a $1 trillion-plus economic rescue package amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has unveiled a sweeping economic rescue plan to pump $1,200 checks directly to taxpayers, $300 billion for small businesses to keep idled workers on payroll and $208 billion in loans to industries.

MARCH 20 4:13 a.m. — Pre-market trading on Wall Street showed the three major indices were in line for a strong opening on hopes government and central bank action can shield the world economy from a looming recession caused by the coronavirus.

As of 4:15 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones futures were up 863 points (4.34%). The S&P 500 was up 98 points (4.1%) and the Nasdaq was up 355.5 points (4.89%). Read more.

MARCH 20 4:09 a.m. — Mexico's Foreign Relations Minister says he has held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about travel restrictions at the border "that won't paralyze economic activity, and leave the border open to commerce and workers."

Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday he would give more details tomorrow.

Pompeo wrote in his Twitter account that he and Ebrard “have been working closely on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

MARCH 20 4:01 a.m. — The Los Angeles Lakers announced two players tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician," a statement posted on Twitter said. "All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine and shelter at home guidelines, closely monitor their health, consult with their personal physicians and maintain constant communication with the team."

The announcement was made after four Brooklyn Nets players testing positive for COVID-19. Lakers players were exposed to the other players during a game on March 10.

The total number of known coronavirus cases within the NBA doubled to 14 on Thursday

MARCH 19 9:55 p.m. — St. Angela Merici Parish in Missouri City posted to Facebook Thursday, making parishioners aware that a married couple who attended the 8 a.m. Mass March 8 reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.

Father John Cahoon said the couple was seated in the seventh row from the front of the church on the left side, and the husband collapsed during the Mass before he was helped out of the church. Cahoon said several people helped him, and EMS treated him for dehydration. Cahoon said he was asymptomatic at the time.

Cahoon said the church has already notified all but one those individuals who came to the man’s aid and asks anyone with that person’s contact information to get in touch with the parish office at (281) 778-0400.

Cahoon is asking anyone seated in that specific area of the church on March 8 to review all CDC recommendations and contact your health provider.

MARCH 19 9:45 p.m. — In a day of dizzying developments, governors across the U.S. sounded a perilous alarm about the rapid spread of the new coronavirus and warned of dire consequences for their health care systems.

The governor of California issued a statewide stay-at-home order, Pennsylvania's governor ordered more than 150 types of businesses to close, the governor of Texas closed schools for more than 5 million students and the Louisiana governor delivered a grim assessment of his state to President Donald Trump. Read more here.

MARCH 19 9:36 p.m. — Two employees with the Texas Department of Public Safety tested positive for COVID-19. One of the employees is from the Belton recruiting office. Their last day in the office was March 16. The other was from a Carrollton driver license office. Their last day in the office was March 13.

"Public safety is our number one concern, and the department will work in conjunction with public health authorities to provide any additional information necessary to notify the public of these positive cases," DPS officials said in a news release.

MARCH 19 9:10 p.m. — All beach park amenities in Galveston are closed until further notice, the city announced today. That includes East Beach, Stewart Beach, Seawall Urban Park, Dellanera RV Park and Seawolf Park.

"We're asking the public to postpone their next visit to the island until the curve has been flattened," city officials said. "Galveston,w e will miss you, but we look forward to welcoming you back soon."

MARCH 19 8:53 p.m. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state. In an address Thursday night, Newson said the virus could impact 56% of Californians, with a 20% hospitalization rate. Those numbers could translate to roughly 19,543 people, which is beyond the capacity of the health care system. More details here.

MARCH 19 8:13 p.m. — Montgomery County has confirmed its ninth coronavirus case. The patient is a man in his 50s who has been hospitalized in critical condition, the Montgomery County Public Health District said. He's a resident from the southwest side of the county. 

Officials said his travel history is still under investigation. No other information about the man has been released.

MARCH 19 8:13 p.m. — Texas Southern University has decided to do only online classes until the end of the Spring semester in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus on its campus. Officials said no decision has been made yet regarding the summer semesters.

MARCH 19 8:03 p.m. — The Galveston County Fair and Rodeo as well as all associated events have been canceled, according to the fair website. It was scheduled to take place April 17 - 25. Click here for list of canceled/postponed major events. 

MARCH 19 7:34 p.m. — Lone Star College has canceled all graduation ceremonies for the Spring 2020 semester that were scheduled to take place May 6 - 9. In the meantime, the administration is looking at other ways to commemorate the students.

LSC campuses and other facilities remain closed until April 13 with online classes resuming March 23. 

Administrators are also discussing which class will move to online and which ones will be in-person. They're expected to make a final decision by April 10. 

MARCH 19 7:23 p.m. — The Los Angeles Lakers announced two of its players tested positive for the coronavirus. The team didn't name the players, but said in a statement both are "asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team's physicians."

The team said health officials recommended the team get tested after four players for the Brooklyn Nets tested positive. The Lakers played the Nets on March 10.

MARCH 19 6:54 p.m. — Fort Bend County reports four of its residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered.

"We are all in this together. Remember to wash your hands, stay home if you're sick, clean and disinfect. And be kind to on another. We are a community and we will get through this together," the county's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management tweeted Thursday evening. 

MARCH 19 6:54 p.m. — The city of Seabrook announced its closing all its public facilities to the public beginning Friday, including city hall, the animal shelter and municipal court. The lobby at the Seabrook Police Department will remain open. All essential services will remain, such as police, fire and EMS.

MARCH 19 6:53 p.m. — Harris County released details of five new positive cases. They include:

  • A woman between 40-50 who lives in northwest Harris County. She was in contact with someone else who tested positive.
  • A 40-50-year-old man who lives in northwest Harris County. He has a recent travel history.
  • A woman between 40-50 who lives in southeast Harris County. She has a recent travel history.
  • A woman from northwest Harris County between the ages of 60-70. She has a recent travel history.
  • A woman between 20-30 who lives in northwest Harris County, who has a travel history.

"Harris County now has multiple cases without travel history and we do not now the source of transmission. This implies COVID-19 is spreading in our community," health officials said. "Community spread makes it harder to identify and contain the virus since anyone can become infected."

MARCH 19 5:55 p.m. — Montgomery County officials confirm the county's 8th positive COVID-19 case.

They said the woman, who is in her 40s, resides in southeast Montgomery County, recently traveled to Germany and is in isolation in her home.

MARCH 19 5:51 p.m. — HELPFUL GUIDE: Target, Whole Foods, Dollar General and other stores in the Houston area are offering senior shopping hours to help older at-risk residents. Find a full list of those stores here.

MARCH 19 5:40 p.m. — The University of Houston will continue to conduct classes online only throughout the rest of the 2020 Spring semester. Remote classes are set to begin March 23. Administrators said campus computer labs will remain open and resources for off-campus wi-fi are available from UIT. 

MARCH 19 4:53 p.m. — UPDATE: The Houston Port Authority is expected to reopen two terminals Friday morning after an ILA worker tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is currently in the hospital, but an investigation determined the likelihood he exposed others to the virus is fairly low. Those who made contact with him during the two days he was at the port have been self-quarantined. Read more here.

MARCH 19 3:58 p.m.  New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Payton would be the first person in the NFL known to have tested positive. Read more here.

MARCH 19 2:53 p.m. — Harris County Public Health has reported the first coronavirus-related death of a Harris County resident. The patient is a man between 80 to 90 years old who was living at a nursing home on the northwest side of the county, outside Houston city limits. Officials said the man passed away Wednesday, and that he had underlying health conditions. Read more here.

MARCH 19 2:25 p.m. —  The U.S. State Department has issued a Global Health Level 4 'Do Not Travel' advisory instructing all U.S. citizens to avoid international travel. The advisory also states those already abroad should return to the United States immediately or prepare to have their international travel plans disrupted. Read more here.

MARCH 19 2:14 p.m. — Houston ISD and the Houston Food Bank will not be handing out free meals at its 39 distribution sites Friday due to inclement weather, and as a recourse, these sites will have extended hours of operation throughout the week of March 23. Read more here.

MARCH 19 1:26 p.m. — Harris County district courts have suspended jury service until the end of next month. Jurors who have received a summons for dates between today and April 30 do not need to appear in court and do not need to reschedule.

MARCH 19 1:16 p.m. — Italy has become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing China by registering 3,405 dead. Overall, Italy has recorded 41,035 infections, more than half of the world’s positive cases.

As of Thursday, China has reported 3,249 dead, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus map.

MARCH 19 12:22 p.m. — Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order that bans: Gatherings of 10 or more people; inside dining at all restaurants, bars and clubs; Drive-throughs, pick-up orders and deliveries are allowed; No visitors at nursing homes or long-term care facilities. 

Order effective Friday, March 20 through April 3.

MARCH 19 11:30 a.m. — The spread of coronavirus across the U.S. has taken a particularly hard toll on one New Jersey family.  According to the New York Times, a New Jersey mother and two of her children died within days of each other after becoming infected with COVID-19. Grace Fusco, 73, died Wednesday night just hours after her son, Carmine Fusco, died from the virus and five days after her daughter, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, died, according to a relative who spoke to the New York Times. Three other children remain hospitalized in critical condition. Read more here.

MARCH 19 10:49 a.m. — President Donald Trump just announced that a common malaria drug, Chloroquine, also used for arthritis has shown "very, very encouraging early results" in treating those with COVID-19. He says the FDA is fast-tracking it so the drug will be available "almost immediately."  Trump says the drug has been around a long time, so it reduces the chance of death or other negative side effects. He described the treatment as a possible "game changer" in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. The FDA's Stephen Hahn warned, however, there are still trials to be done and he does not want to give any "false hope." Read more about the drug here. | Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 19: 10:18 a.m. — Checks for American families: The first federal checks to families could be $3,000 for a family of four under the White House proposal to unleash $1 trillion to shore up households and the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here.

MARCH 19 9:48 a.m. — Harris County's Justice of the Peace will announce today they will not be conducting eviction hearings through at least the month of March. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says this is another way to make sure people can keep their distance and stay home as much as possible. Could be extended into April, the judge says.

Judge Hidalgo also says the county is still waiting on federal materials to increase the county's coronavirus testing capacity.

MARCH 19: 9:47 a.m. — Harris County's Dr. Shah confirms an additional case this morning. 19 total cases in Harris Co., separate from the 10 within the City of Houston. 40-50 yr old male, no history of travel, no history of exposure to novel coronavirus. Hospitalized. Lives in NW Harris County. View list of local cases here.

MARCH 19 9:30 a.m. — There are now 280 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus across Louisiana, with eight people dead from the disease COVID-19 since it was first identified in the state on Monday, March 9. Read more updates from Louisiana here.

MARCH 19 9:20 a.m. — National news: Stocks opened lower this morning with the Dow down about 300 points as of 9 a.m. 20 minutes later it was up by 20 points. We are streaming the Dow average ticker live on this page.

MARCH 19: 9:08 a.m. — National news: Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk pledged on Twitter that his companies will make ventilators, if there is a shortage at hospitals because of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.

MARCH 19 8:50 a.m. — A day after the city took the drastic step of closing bars, tourist attractions and restaurant dining rooms, Galveston officials began talking about whether to close beach access points in response to growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Read more here from Galveston County Daily News.

MARCH 19 8:17 a.m. — National news from the Associated Press: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged last week by 70,000, indicating that the impact of the coronavirus was starting to be felt in rising layoffs in the job market. Read more here.

MARCH 19 8:11 a.m. — The U.S. military says it is pausing the movement of any new troops into Afghanistan and is quarantining 1,500 troops who recently arrived in order to protect them from the coronavirus. Troops already in the country may have their deployments extended so missions can continue.  

MARCH 19 8 a.m. — The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro was illuminated on Wednesday with the flags and maps of countries and continents affected by the new coronavirus. 

MARCH 19 7:34 a.m. — To help fight the spread of coronavirus, testing sites are popping up around the Houston area. We're keeping a list of those sites here.

MARCH 19 7:08 a.m. — Restaurants, bars risk being fined, jail time if they refuse to comply with social distancing order. Read more here.

MARCH 19: 6:50 a.m. — The Olympic flame is set to arrive in Japan from Greece even as the opening of the Tokyo Games is in doubt.  The coronavirus outbreak forced a bare-bones version of the usual elaborate ceremony in the stadium where the first modern Olympics were staged in 1896. The 80,000-seat marble stadium was empty apart from a handful of officials and participants.

MARCH 19 6:15 a.m. — Free testing for the coronavirus will begin this morning at a medical center on W. Tidwell, according to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Only people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 should go. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and a fever.  Get the details here.

MARCH 19 6:09 a.m. — Please stop flushing those wipes down the toilet:  “Wipes bind with fats, oils and grease and can wreak havoc on smaller wastewater treatment facilities, clog local sewer systems and harm your home’s plumbing." Read more here.

MARCH 19 5:56 a.m. — The City of Kemah has filed a declaration of disaster because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration bans "mass gatherings" as defined by the CDC. It's not yet clear if this means the Kemah Boardwalk, which was open as of Wednesday, will be forced to close. Santa Fe has also issued a disaster declaration. Read the declaration here.

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MARCH 19 4:51 a.m. — After another day of big losses on Wednesday, Thursday morning's premarket trading looks to be flat right now with the possibility of the Dow opening slightly lower.

MARCH 19 4:20 a.m. — World news: Wuhan reports no new cases of infection: China's health ministry says the virus epicenter of Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province have reported no new cases. The ministry said Thursday that results over the past 24 hours showed 34 new cases, all detected in people arriving from abroad. Eight new deaths were reported, all in Wuhan. Wuhan at the peak reported thousands of new cases of coronavirus infection daily, overwhelming its health care system. Read more national/world updates.

MARCH 19 4:14 a.m. — World news: Indonesia has halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and begun quarantining them and checking their health to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The move came as it reported six more deaths to 25 and its biggest daily jump of 82 cases to bring the total to 309. Read more national/world updates.

MARCH 19 4 a.m. — Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on the country's large elderly population, its overwhelmed health care system and the delayed imposition of complete lockdown measures across the epicenter, Lombardy. Italy registered 2,978 deaths on Wednesday after another 475 people died. Read more national/world updates.

MARCH 19 2:10 a.m. — World news: Israel's Netanyahu accused of exploiting virus crisis... Amid a wave of sweeping travel, quarantine and public gathering restrictions that have put Israel in near shutdown mode, Netanyahu has managed to postpone his own pending criminal trial, authorize unprecedented electronic surveillance of Israeli citizens and block parliament from pressing ahead with legislation aimed at pushing him from office. Netanyahu says he has the nation's best interest in mind and he is only working to save lives. 

MARCH 18 10:23 p.m. — The Port of Houston closed two terminals today after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus. More details.

MARCH 18 8:21 p.m. — In more news from Gov. Greg Abbott's office, the Texas governor announced driver license offices across the state are temporarily closing. The governor has waived expiration dates for licenses during the coronavirus pandemic, but said he encourages Texans to check to see if they're eligible to renew online.

MARCH 18 8:21 p.m. — Gov. Greg Abbott issued a waiver Wednesday to allow restaurants in Texas to deliver beer, wine and mixed drinks while their dining rooms are closed due to the coronavirus. Additionally, the governor passed a buy-back waiver, which allows distributors and manufactures to purchase inventory from Texas establishments affected by cancellations and closures due to the coronavirus. Read more here.

MARCH 18: 7:52 p.m. — Walmart is changing its hours and offering special shopping hours for seniors who need to stock up on supplies. The national chain will now open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. each day to allow its staff the chance to restock the store. Every Tuesday, starting March 24 through April 28, Walmart will host an hour-long shopping event an hour before the store opens dedicated solely for people age 60 and older. Store pharmacies and vision centers will be open during this time, too. Stores across the U.S. will also be limiting purchases for cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, paper products, milk, eggs and water.

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Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus are 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. 

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Stay up to date on coronavirus

How coronavirus is spread

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, hot 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.