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Coronavirus updates: 5 more cases reported each in Houston, Harris County Wednesday

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Wednesday, March 18.

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

>> THIS BLOG HAS BEEN ARCHIVED, READ NEWER POSTS HERE

Latest updates:

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

>> THIS BLOG HAS BEEN ARCHIVED, READ NEWER POSTS HERE

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.

The closure won't affect drivers seeking an initial commercial driver license, or CDL, the governor announced. Offices will still be open by appointment only for CDL testing and to issue initial licenses. To make an appointment, email cdlappointments@dps.texas.gov.

"Our commercial drivers are essential to the consistent flow of goods throughout the state, and we will continue to ensure those seeking an initial CDL can do so," Abbott said. "Closing driver license offices to those not seeking an initial CDL is another step the state is taking to encourage social distancing in our communities."

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.

MARCH 18: 7:18 p.m. — A Manvel man tested positive for the coronavirus, marking Brazoria County's fourth case. The man is between 55-65 years old and is stable condition in the hospital, county officials report.

MARCH 18: 5:20 p.m. -- Harris County Public Health has 5 new cases of COVID-19, which brings the total to 18 positive cases. These new cases do not include those within the City of Houston.

Three of these five additional new cases appear to be community spread.

HCPH’s 5 new cases:

  • A 30-40-year-old woman, who lives in the Northeast quadrant of Harris County- (Known contact with a positive COVID-19 individual)
  • A 30-40-year-old man, who lives in the Northwest quadrant of Harris County- (Still under investigation)
  • An 80-90-year-old man, who lives in the Northwest quadrant of Harris County- (Community spread)
  • A 20-30-year-old man, who lives in the Northwest quadrant of Harris County- (Community spread)
  • A 40-50-year-old woman, who lives in the Southwest quadrant of Harris County- (Community spread)

MARCH 18: 4:35 p.m. -- The Houston Health Department announced five new positive coronavirus disease (COVID -19) cases on Wednesday, bringing the city’s total to 10. 

The new cases are:

  • Male | Age 50-60 | No known travel | Hospitalized
  • Male | Age 70-80 | Travel to New York | Home Recovering
  • Male | Age 50-60 | Travel to Spain | Home Recovering
  • Female | Age 20-30 | Travel to Mexico | Hospitalized
  • Male | Age 60-70 | No known travel | Hospitalized

MARCH 18: 4:13 p.m. — Montgomery County restaurants must stop all dining-in business and all county bars must close after Judge Mark Keough signed an order this afternoon. Restaurants can still provide takeout, delivery, to-go or catering orders. Grocery, medical supply and retail stores aren't affected. The order is in effect until April 2.

Also according to the order:

  • All bars or clubs shall cease operations.
  • Gyms, movie theaters, or amusement type businesses shall cease operations.
  • Any event sponsored or permitted by a political subdivision in Montgomery County shall cease.
  • Events greater than 10 persons at all publicly held facilities across Montgomery County shall cease.
  • Any event greater than 10 persons held at private facilities is urged to cancel.
  • Nursing homes and senior living centers should limit visitation of the public within their facilities.
  • Retail stores, private businesses, clubs or civic organizations and religious organizations to include churches, synagogues, mosques or other places of worship are urged to comply with the CDC guidelines related to 10 persons gathering in any one place or at one time.

MARCH 18: 3:56 p.m. — The city of La Marque announced its ordering all bars, restaurants and entertainment venues within the city limits to close tonight. Bars have until 4 to close and entertainment venues must close by 11. Restaurants can still offer delivery, takeout or drive-through services. The order could last up to 30 days or longer, city officials said.

MARCH 18: 3:39 p.m. — Texas Southern University announced its canceling its graduation. The university reports that graduates will be allowed to participate in a later ceremony. More details will be provided by the university soon.

MARCH 18: 3:23 p.m. — There are four more positive cases of coronavirus across the Greater Houston area.

  • Galveston County has reported two more. A man in his 50s who had recently traveled within the United States, and a woman in her 40s who has also traveled in the U.S. Both are self-quarantined in their homes.
  • Brazoria County reported its third case. A woman between the ages of 50-60 who lives in Pearland. County officials said her case is traveled related, but didn't specify where.
  • Grimes County reported its first case of COVID-19. A man in his 50s. County officials aren't sure whether his case is travel related.

More details

MARCH 18: 2:53 p.m. — Effective at 7 p.m. tonight, three major Houston shopping centers are shutting down due to concerns over coronavirus.  The ownership group Simon announced they're closing down the Houston Galleria, Houston Premium Outlets in Cypress and Katy Mills Mall.  It will go through March 29.  Details

MARCH 18: 12:59 p.m. — Montgomery County reports its seventh case of coronavirus. This is a woman in her 60s who lives in the northwest portion of the county. County officials report she has not recent travel history and no known contact with any other patients. She's in isolation in her home. 

"In Montgomery county, and in the rest of the nation, testing supplies are limited," county officials said. "Because the supply of testing materials is not keeping up with demand, healthcare providers as a whole cannot test everyone, even those who are symptomatic. Therefore, it is very likely that people in the community have COVID-19 who have not been tested."

Click here for the full list of coronavirus cases in the Greater Houston area.

March 18: 1:48 p.m. 

Houstonians now having three more options for coronavirus screening and testing.

Legacy Community Health opened three locations on Wednesday. 

"The screening is free, but testing for those who need it, is on a sliding fee scale," Legacy spokesperson Jessica Michan said.

Here are the locations:

  • Legacy Fifth Ward, 3811 Lyons Ave.
  • Legacy Montrose, 1415 California St.
  • Legacy Southwest, 6441 High Star Dr

Read more here

MARCH 18: 12:59 p.m. — Fort Bend County reports two more cases:

  • A woman in her 70s, with a history of international travel. She is experiencing mild symptoms and is in isolation at home.
  • A man in his 60s, the investigation is ongoing. He is hospitalized and in stable condition

This brings the total number of Fort Bend County cases to 12. Keep track of local cases here.

MARCH 18: 12:04 p.m. — Stocks trading halted for the fourth time in a month. Read more here.

MARCH 18: 11:54 a.m. — Harris County Public Health Department reports two more cases:

  • A 60-70 year-old man, who lives in the Northeast quadrant of Harris County.
  • A 30-40 year-old man, who lives in the Southwest quadrant of Harris County.

These two additional new cases appear to be community spread. This brings the total number of cases in Harris County to 13. Keep track of local cases here.

MARCH 18: 11:28 a.m. — President Trump says he will invoke the Defense Production Act to marshal the private sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also said all HUD foreclosures and evictions will be suspended until the end of April amid fight to stop the spread of coronavirus.

VP Pence says the federal government is increasing the number of tests being performed by the thousands every day.

MARCH 18: 11:26 a.m. — From the Associated Press: A person briefed on the matter says Detroit's three automakers have agreed to close all of their factories due to worker fears about the coronavirus. Automakers are expected to release details of the closure later today. The United Auto Workers union has been pushing for factories to close because workers are fearful of coming into contact with the virus. 

MARCH 18: 11:08 a.m. — Reminder: Harris County Health COVID-19 testing sites are still being worked out.... Despite earlier reports, the locations and dates for these testing locations haven't yet been released. Read more here.

MARCH 18 10:49 a.m. — Update from the City of Pearland: "Mayor Tom Reid has issued a local City of Pearland disaster declaration effective at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18th." Mayor Reid said, “We are issuing a disaster declaration with the realization of the Coronavirus issue and the impact on the Pearland community. The declaration gives the essential functions of the City of Pearland government, upon which people rely, the latitude to focus on protecting the Pearland community and keeping things running.”

MARCH 18 10:45 a.m. — 11 new cases confirmed in Dallas County, including 5 community spread. Read more here.

MARCH 18 10:38 a.m. — Governor Greg Abbott announced today that he has directed the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to temporarily waive expiration dates for driver licenses, commercial driver icenses, and other identification forms. This action falls within the Governor’s State of Disaster Declaration and is part of the ongoing effort to reduce to spread of COVID-19. This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal driver license operations have resumed.

MARCH 18 10:20 a.m. — From Montgomery County: Health officials there "can confirm Montgomery County’s sixth positive COVID-19 case. The man, who is in his 40s, is a resident of Southwest Montgomery County. At this time, he is in isolation in his home. The man has recently traveled to California. In Montgomery County, and in the rest of the nation, testing supplies are limited. Because the supply of testing materials is not keeping up with demand, healthcare providers as a whole cannot test everyone, even those who are symptomatic. Therefore, it is very likely that people in the community have COVID-19 who have not been tested." View the list of known Houston-area cases here.

MARCH 18 10:15 a.m. — Louisiana Coronavirus update: 240 cases, 176 in New Orleans; Lakeside Mall partially closes. Read more here.

MARCH 18: 9:55 a.m. — Ohio public health officials confirm a child there has tested positive for the coronavirus, a 2-year-old. A spokesperson for Franklin County Public Health tells WBNS the toddler got it from someone else in their home, which is one of the other cases already confirmed in Franklin County. The 2-year-old is at home and not in the hospital, the spokesperson said. The condition of the toddler was not released. The Ohio Department of Health reported there were four cases in Franklin County as of Tuesday.

MARCH 18 9:45 a.m. — Wharton ISD announces it will be closed through Sunday, March 29, 2020. Boling ISD is also canceled through Sunday, March 29, 2020. "We are currently scheduled to reopen March 30, 2020," the district stated as of Wednesday morning. View the shchool closures list.

MARCH 18 9:35 a.m. — Stocks are falling sharply on Wall Street in early trading as fears spread that the coronavirus is causing a global recession. The S&P 500 and Dow are both down about 4% in early trading and have erased much of its big gain from the prior day.  The Dow is currently at 20,338 points. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 8:54 a.m. — Canada and USA agree on mutual ban on non-essential travel over the border: "We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!" President Trump just tweeted.

MARCH 18 8:40 a.m. — Honda said it will suspend production at all of its automobile plants amid the coronavirus pandemic for several days and employees will still be paid during that time, reports WBNS.

MARCH 18 8:05 a.m. — Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says it’s time for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to close bars, restaurants and gyms statewide after the appearance of additional cases of community spread – patients who contracted the coronavirus without any known close contact with someone who had it. Read more here.

MARCH 18 7:59 a.m. — President Donald Trump has sent lawmakers a $46 billion emergency funding request to help the government fight the coronavirus. It reverses cuts proposed just last month to the Centers for Disease Control, the front-line agency in fighting the battle. The request, delivered overnight Wednesday, would deliver more than $20 billion for the military and for veterans health care. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 7:50 a.m. — According to GasBuddy, gas could reach as low as 99 cents a gallon in some parts of the US as oil price war continues and demand for oil falls due to the virus outbreak. Read more.

MARCH 18 6:39 a.m. — Confirmed cases of new coronavirus top 200,000 worldwide, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. View map of cases.

Credit: Johns Hopkins
Confirmed cases of new coronavirus top 200,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University tally

MARCH 18 6:46 a.m. — Tweet from President Trump this morning: "I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the “borders” from China - against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!"

MARCH 18 6:35 a.m. — Halliburton implements mandatory furlough for 3,500 Houston employees: Due to falling oil prices caused by a price war and the economy, Halliburton is implanting a mandatory furlough for 3,500 Houston employees at its North Belt campus. Read more here.

MARCH 18 6:25 a.m. — Target and Whole Foods are among the latest grocers to change their hours, opening earlier exclusively to the older - the most vulnerable - so those shoppers can get the items they need. View the grocery store hours list here.

MARCH 18 6 a.m. — The governor of Kansas announced late Tuesday that the state's schools would be closed for the rest of the academic year.

MARCH 18 4:50 a.m. — Wall Street futures are down 4% this morning, about 800 points on the Dow. Premarket trading has been halted. Read more here.

MARCH 18 4:30 a.m. — Facebook hiding your posts about the coronavirus? You're not the only one. Read more here.

MARCH 18 2:32 a.m. — On a lighter note: With Italy in lockdown in response to the coronavirus, Venice canals are now virtually clear of boats, leaving the water transparent enough that fish could be seen. Read more here.

MARCH 18 12 a.m. — A Canadian government official said late Tuesday that Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 12 a.m. — Russian authorities are closing all of the country's schools for three weeks starting next Monday. Russian education officials said Wednesday it would be an extended spring break with the opportunity to continue studies remotely. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 12 a.m. — World's top economic leaders plan to meet: The leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies are trying to organize a virtual meeting next week to discuss a coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia, which currently leads the G-20 presidency, said it is communicating with countries to convene the virtual meeting of leaders. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 12 a.m. — The Trump administration is considering a plan to turn back all people who cross the border illegally from Mexico because of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 12 a.m. — California's governor says few if any of the state's schools will reopen before summer break. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 18 12 a.m. — Hawaii's governor is encouraging travelers to postpone their island vacations for at least the next 30 days as the state tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

MARCH 17 9:46 p.m. — A Matagorda County woman between the ages of 50-55 has tested positive for the coronavirus, county officials announced tonight. It's the third reported case in the county. The woman had recently traveled to Washington state, an area where the COVID-19 outbreak has infected over 1,000 people. Officials said once she had symptoms, she "immediately went home to self-quarantine" and remained there since Friday. She's cooperating with state health officials. On Sunday, a man in his 90s from Matagorda County became the first person in Texas to die from the virus. View list of local cases.

MARCH 17 8:46 p.m. — Officials in North Texas are reporting the first COVID-19 related death in Tarrant County. Officials with Tarrant County Public Health said the "senior adult" was living at the Texas Masonic Retirement Home in Arlington. Officials didn't say whether it was a man or a woman, only offering that they're working to determine how the person contracted the virus and are working to find out who they came in contact with.

"On behalf of Tarrant County Public Health, I want to express our deepest sympathy to the family of this person," TCPH Director Vinny Taneja said.

MARCH 17 8:10 p.m. — Girl Scouts suspend all large in-person events.

MARCH 17 7:15 p.m. — Health officials confirmed a fifth Montgomery County resident tested positive for COVID-19. The man is in his 50s and is a resident of south Montgomery County. Officials said he recently traveled to California. He is currently in isolation at his home.

MARCH 17 6:40 p.m. — Moody Gardens is temporarily closing its attractions until March 28.

MARCH 17 6:20 p.m. — Cardinal DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, announces public Masses are canceled indefinitely. Churches will remain open for individual and private prayer.

MARCH 17 5:45 p.m. — In a news conference Tuesday, Fort Bend County health officials said the 10th person in the county tested positive for COVID-19.

In the most recent case, a woman younger than 30 with a history of international travel, experienced mild symptoms and is in isolation.

MARCH 17 4:39 p.m. — Starting tomorrow, Target will now be closing at 9 p.m. each day. And every Wednesday morning the retailer will dedicate it's first hour to vulnerable guests. Read more here.

MARCH 17 4:23 p.m. — the City of Jersey Village declares local disaster to reduce the possibility of exposure to coronavirus. 

MARCH 17 4:16 p.m. — The 2020 Houston Art Car Parade has been canceled. This will include all events associated with Houston Art Car Parade Weekend scheduled to take place April 16-19, including the Main Street Drag, the Sneak Peek at Saint Arnold Brewing Company, The Legendary Art Car Ball, The VIPit Experience, and the Houston Art Car Parade Awards Ceremony. Read more here.

MARCH 17 3:52 p.m. — Fort Bend County orders all bars, nightclubs, taverns, lounges, arcades and private clubs to close at midnight Tuesday. Limits restaurants to take-out, delivery or drive-thru services only. 

Read older posts here

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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.