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Coronavirus updates: Great news! HPD detective Ray Cervantes improving in hospital

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas for Saturday, April 18.

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

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There were more than 706,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States around 7 a.m. Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 37,000 deaths in the U.S. and 59,000 recoveries. More than 3.5 million tests have been conducted.

Worldwide, there have been 2.2 million cases, 154,000 deaths and 575,000 recoveries.

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):

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APRIL 18 9:59 p.m. — Great news from Houston police chief Art Acevedo! The chief said detective Ramon "Ray" Cervantes, who's been hospitalized with COVID-19 in intensive care, opened his eyes today.

He "was able to follow stimuli and doctor's instructions," Acevedo said in a tweet. "We are so hopeful. Thank you for all your prayers and the ones yet to come."

APRIL 18 9:14 p.m. — Tito's Vodka donated 130 cases of handsanitizer to the city of Houston's essential workers. "Thank you for your geenrosity and shifting your production to help during #COVID19!" Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a Facebook post Saturday.

APRIL 18 8:39 p.m. — Dallas County health officials reported the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in one day. County health officials confirmed Saturday afternoon an additional 134 people have tested positive, bringing the county's total case count to 2,324. Five more people have also died from the virus. All the victims had been critically ill at local hospitals, officials say.

APRIL 18 7:35 p.m. — Some businesses will begin to open back up in Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott issued three executive orders on Friday. But that's not fast enough for some, as protesters gathered at the Capitol on Saturday morning, demanding all Texas businesses be reopened. At least 50 people showed up for the protest. Read more here.

APRIL 18 6:59 p.m. — Houston ISD is still looking at graduation options, interim superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan told KHOU today. 

"Of course a virtual graduation, but then, maybe, a late summer graduation where we can hold our traditional ceremonies. Everything will be contingent upon whatever the orders are in place for our city and our county," Lathan said.

APRIL 18 6:55 p.m. — Doctors at smaller practices say they're not getting enough PPE during coronavirus pandemic. Friday, while announcing his efforts to re-open Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said, “we have a steady supply of PPE, like facemasks.”  That doesn’t add up with what many Texas medical professionals have been telling KHOU 11. Read more here.

APRIL 18 5:45 p.m. — Governors eager to rescue their economies and feeling heat from President Donald Trump are moving to ease restrictions meant to control the spread of the coronavirus. They're acting even as new hot spots emerge and experts warn that moving too fast could prove disastrous.  

APRIL 18 4:58 p.m. — Galveston County Health District is reporting one new death, a man age 81 to 90 years old who had preexisting medical conditions who died Wednesday.

The county also reported 12 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's total to 450 and 2 additional recoveries, bringing the total to 193.

APRIL 18 4:41 p.m. — All Harris County public COVID-19 testing sites are closed due to weather. Health officials encourage those who had appointments today to come back on Sunday.

APRIL 18 4:09 p.m. — Harris County's public COVID-19 testing site in Katy is closed due to bad weather. The site will reopen tomorrow. Health officials said if you had an appointment today to come back Sunday.

APRIL 18 4:06 p.m. — Brazoria County is reporting two new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's total to 304.

APRIL 18 3:12 p.m. — Montgomery County Health Officials report seven new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 377.

APRIL 18 2:33 p.m. — Houston health officials are reporting 121 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the city's total to 2,691. There are no new coronavirus-related deaths in the city today.

APRIL 18 11:43 a.m. — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the U.S. and Canada have agreed to keep the border closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days.

Trudeau says it will keep people on both sides of the border safe amid the pandemic. U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S.-Canada border will be among the first borders to open. Nearly 200,000 people normally cross the border daily.

April 18 8:52 a.m. — Fort Bend County health officials are reporting 60 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the area's total to 755. 

April 18 7:22 a.m. — A group of thirteen countries including Britain, Brazil, Italy and Germany is calling for global cooperation to lessen the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement, the group said it is committed to “work with all countries to coordinate on public health, travel, trade, economic and financial measures in order to minimize disruptions and recover stronger.”

The countries emphasized the need to maintain "air, land and marine transportation links” to ensure the continued flow of goods, including medical equipment and aid, and the return home of travelers

APRIL 18 7:20 a.m. Spain has reached 20,000 deaths for the coronavirus pandemic and total infections increased to more than 190,000.

Spain health authorities reported 565 deaths in the last 24 hours. Only the United States and Italy have more deaths. 

APRIL 17 10:37 p.m. — As the number of COVID-19 deaths grow, KHOU 11 Investigates uncovered 75% of Greater Houston facilities didn't follow federal law to prevent and slow the spread of disease. See a map of infection control violations at nursing homes in Greater Houston.

APRIL 17 10:26 p.m. — Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale and Tilman Fertitta are among the business leaders advising Gov. Abbott on reopening Texas. McIngvale told KHOU 11 he supports wearing masks, enforcing social distancing in retail stores and taking employee temperatures before the start of every shift. “The thing we need most is customers, but the priority is safety of course,” he said. Read more here.

APRIL 17 10:09 p.m. — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner attended the virtual prom of local high school seniors tonight. In a video shared by his office, Turner told a group, “I just want them to know we are with them and just want to make their last year as a senior—or if they’re going as a junior—just want to still make it a memorable year.”

Credit: Mayor's office
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner popped in the virtual prom of local seniors on April 17, 2020.

APRIL 17 8:38 p.m. — To combat a $40 million deficit, the University of Texas Medical Branch is cutting its budget and asking employees to reduce their workload.

In a message sent to UTMB on Friday, President Ben G. Raimer asked employees to take one day off of work each week for the next eight weeks, said he’s eliminating all incentive payments and that the university is continuing its hiring freeze.

The university has also created a COVID-19 operations fund “that will be used to help close our budget gap.” Raimer said he’s asking faculty to donate a portion of their salary to the fund and others are welcome to donate, too.

“Even with help from the federal government and other sources, we must take immediate action for ourselves to sustain our mission,” Raimer said in a note to employees. “While these strategies will not close the entire gap, they will be a huge help in that effort.”

APRIL 17 8:13 p.m. — If you're looking for a heartwarming story this Friday night, meet Glen Dorow, who's using his trumpet to unite his Cypress neighborhood on the bank of a lake every Friday at sunset. Read his story.

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.