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Coronavirus updates: More than 20,000 calls made to Houston Health Dept. helpline

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas, and the world for Monday, March 23.

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

Judge Lina Hidalgo says despite overnight speculation, no shelter-in-place has been issued at this time. Get more info in the "latest updates" below.

This blog has been archived, view latest updates here


Latest updates

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

– For the protection of the community and to lead by example the City of Pearland has made the decision to close all city facilities to public access effective Tuesday, March 24th through Sunday, April 12th to continue City operations in electronic and forms other than in-person. The move helps add a layer of safety for City staff while also inhibiting the spread of COVID-19.

Operations and services will continue as normal, and City employees will still be available to help with a variety of existing and long-standing means, everything from phone to email to online filings.

MARCH 23 8:45 p.m. — More than 20,000 calls have come into the Houston Health Department coronavirus call center where staff have been working tirelessly to answer residents' questions and screen people for drive-thru testing. Read more here.

MARCH 23 8:23 p.m. — All city facilities in Pearland will be closed to the public March 24 - April 12 as a precaution. Residents will still be handle any government-related business online or over the phone.

MARCH 23 8:00 p.m. — President Donald Trump signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.

MARCH 23 7:45 p.m. — Galveston County has issued a stay-at-home order for all residents beginning Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m. It will remain in effect until April 3. The order doesn't apply to those engaging in essential activities such as governmental functions, healthcare work or operating essential businesses. Read more here.

MARCH 23 6:51 p.m. — San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has issued what he calls a “stay home, work safe” order for residents. It begins at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and will last through at least April 9. Read more here.

MARCH 23 6:42 p.m. — The Houston Police Department has confirmed three of its officers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Chief Art Acevedo said all three are recovering while in self-isolation at home. He said the exposure was job-related.

HPD says at least 190 employees— both officers and civilians— are in self-isolation and being monitored for symptoms. Most are travel-related based on CDC guidelines. More and more are returning to work each day, HPD officials said.  

MARCH 23 6:40 p.m. — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued executive orders, postponing the May 26 election runoffs until July in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The elections are now scheduled for July 14, with early voting taking place July 6-10. Read more here.

MARCH 23 5:48 p.m. — President Donald Trump says the deadline for having a "REAL ID" will be postponed amid closures across the United States in response to the coronavirus. That new deadline has yet to be released. Read more here.

MARCH 23 5:34 p.m. — Thirteen new coronavirus cases have been reported in Fort Bend County. The total for the county is now 42. No information was shared about the individuals who tested positive.

MARCH 23 5:17 p.m.  Brazoria County is reporting two more people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the area up to 18. 

One person is a man in his 60s who lives in Rosharon. His case is not travel related. He is currently at home recovering in self-isolation.

The other person is a man in his 30s who lives in Angleton. He is in stable condition. 

View a full map of COVID-19 cases in the Houston area.

MARCH 23 4:28 p.m. — A curfew has been issued for Chamber County residents beginning, Tuesday, March 24 and will be in effect from 10 p.m. - 6 a.m. daily. The curfew is in effect 24/7 for residents under 18 years old. Read more here.

MARCH 23 4:15 p.m. — A girl younger than 10 years out of Galveston County old tested positive for coronavirus, health officials confirmed. She is currently self-quarantined.  

This brings the county's total cases to 18.

MARCH 23 4:10 p.m.   Austin Mayor Steve Adler said a shelter-in-place order for Austin and Travis County will be issued Tuesday, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Read more here.

MARCH 23 3:41 p.m. — Texas Southern University confirms a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is symptomatic and is currently hospitalized receiving treatment.

MARCH 23 3:35 p.m. — Harris County and Montgomery County announce more coronavirus cases. The total for Harris County is now 54 and the total for Montgomery County is now 19. Click here to see a breakdown of confirmed cases in Houston and all surrounding counties. 

MARCH 23 3:07 p.m. — The Houston Health Department announces one new case bringing the City of Houston's total to 24. The health department also announced two people have recovered from the coronavirus --  a man and woman in the 60 to 70 age range.

The cases are considered recovered because each tested negative twice more than 24 hours apart.

MARCH 23 2:32 p.m. — The Matagorda County Emergency Operation Center announced two new cases within the county. This brings the total number of cases in Matagorda County to 6. Click here to see a breakdown of confirmed cases in each county.

MARCH 23 2:05 p.m.  The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) confirmed an employee of Management and Training Corporation (MTC) tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is a substance abuse counselor.

On March 17, he attended a training session with other MTC employees. He also had cell side counseling visits with a limited number of restricted housing offenders at the Jester 1 Unit in Richmond, TX.

The employee went home early that day and saw a doctor who issued him a clear to work note. The employee returned to work on Saturday.

The employee did not know he had been tested for COVID-19, but received a call from his doctor Sunday afternoon with results of a positive test and an order to self-quarantine.   

No one in contact with the counselor is symptomatic at this time. All employees who had contact with the counselor are not at work and are in self-quarantine. Offenders who had limited contact with the counselor are all restrictive housing offenders who had limited contact through hard cell doors with the counselor.   

MARCH 23 1:40 p.m.  —  In a 49 to 46 vote, the U.S. Senate failed to advance a third phase of the coronavirus economic aid bill package for a second time.

The Senate has refused to advance the coronavirus rescue package for the first time on Sunday in a procedural vote with Democrats, rejecting a draft from Republicans and pushing for more aid for workers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday urged senators to “signal to the public that we're ready to get this job done.” He wanted passage by Monday. But Democrats have resisted, arguing the nearly $1.4 trillion measure needs to bolster aid and put limits on how businesses can use the emergency dollars.

 MARCH 23 12:46 p.m. The Asian Chamber of Commerce is donating $42,000 worth of medical supplies to the City of Houston in response to the emergency call for personal protective equipment.

The following items are being donated:

  • 10,000 Masks
  • 40 Gallon of Sanitizers
  • 800 Isolation Gowns
  • 270 Goggles
  • 500 Facial Shields
  • 250 Boot Covers
  • 3600 Gloves

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will accept the donation at 1 p.m. He will also provide the latest updates on the city's response to COVID-19. You can watch live here

MARCH 23 12:34 p.m. — Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams spoke with the "TODAY" show Monday morning and reiterated the need for the public to stay home and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

“I want America to understand this week, it's going to get bad,” he said. 

Adams said despite warnings, people are still flocking to beaches and national attractions. The crowds were mostly young people, according to Adams. He warned that young people could still contract the disease and require hospitalization.

 MARCH 23 11:57 a.m. — MD Anderson Cancer Center confirms a member of its research staff tested positive for COVID-19. This individual worked in one of MD Anderson’s research labs. The employee didn't have any contact with patients and is not involved in any clinical care activities, according to the hospital. All employees exposed to this individual have been contacted and are undergoing monitoring and self-quarantine. The individual is being cared for by another health care institution in Houston.

MARCH 23 11:03 a.m. — "Galveston County Health District (GCHD) announces five additional positive COVID-19 cases in Galveston County residents. This brings the county’s case total to 17." Also.."The Brazoria County Health Department is reporting two new cases this morning, that brings the total cases to 16 in Brazoria County."  Map: Local COVID-19 cases

MARCH 23 10:46 a.m. — Astronaut Scott Kelly shares tips on how to handle self isolation:  Scott Kelly spent nearly a year in space, so he knows quite a lot about what it's like to be in isolation. Read more here.

MARCH 23 9:48 a.m. — Despite overnight speculation, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she will not issue a "shelter-in-place" or "stay-at-home" order at this time. Hidalgo also said, if one is issued, the term "shelter in place" is not the correct term to be used for the Houston-area community. That term, she said, is typically reserved for hurricanes, plant explosions, active shooter drills, etc.

She said local officials, from both the county and the City of Houston, continue to evaluate the needs of the Houston area and may provide an update later in the day Monday with "next steps" for our community. Hidalgo said the county is "working to assess who's still out there, who's essential, who's not essential" while "being proactive but also deliberate." She said it may be that that county will eventually issue a stay-at-home order or something of that nature.

On Sunday, the Dallas County judge announced a shelter-in-place for residents there that is in effect until at least April 3. Read more on that here.

At this morning's press conference the judge also announced a new online screening tool to help with testing for COVID-19. Read more here.

Hidalgo said two county drive-through sites for COVID-19 testing are now open to the community at large for symptomatic people. The federal supplies have arrived to make that happen. Each site will be able to do up to 250 tests per day, per site. View a list of Houston-area testing locations here.

Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health said there are over 50 cases in Harris County and about half of the cases are community spread. He said everyone should continue to "stay at home and limit interaction with others."

Watch this morning's press conference here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DpjvuQcMH8 

MARCH 23 9:10 a.m. — CVS has announced it will be awarding bonuses to employees, launching new benefits and hiring 50,000 new employees in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Bonuses will range from $150 to $500. The positions open will be full-time, part-time and temporary. The roles include stores associates, prescription delivery drivers, ,distribution center employees and member/customer service professionals.

MARCH 23 9:08 a.m. — Stocks fall on Wall Street as virus relief bill stalls Wall Street is falling in early trading after a bill to provide emergency help to the economy stalled in Congress. The Dow is down about 250 points right now. Read more here.

MARCH 23 9 a.m. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joints other states to announce a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with an exemption for certain workers, a government official told The Associated Press on Monday. The order, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, will allow “essential" employees necessary to sustain and protect life to continue going to work, said a high-ranking administration official who had direct knowledge of the measure. View list of where you can get tested here.

MARCH 23 7:50 a.m. — U.S. stock futures are making a dramatic swing higher after the Federal Reserve announced it will lend to small and large businesses and local governments as well as extend its bond buying programs. The Dow futures swung nearly 1,000 points and as of 8:30 a.m. were up 422 points. Futures for the S&P 500 showed a gain of 50 points. Read more here.

MARCH 23 7:20 a.m. — From Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee: Testing will continue this week, starting Monday, March 23rd from 8:00 am - 8:00 pm at United Memorial Medical Center at 510 W Tidwell Rd. First come, first serve. This will be drive-through coronavirus testing and the persons in each car seeking a test will go through an initial assessment. View list of where you can get tested here.

MARCH 23 7:13 a.m. — H-E-B updates purchasing limits for products | Here's what you need to know: read more/view the list.

MARCH 23 7:05 a.m. — VERIFY: A false claim, making the rounds on Facebook as a screenshot, states that COVID-19 refers to China in some way. Read the VERIFY report here.

MARCH 23 6:40 a.m. — Nation News: The second death from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico is a tourist from the United States. The Health Department says the victim is a 73-year-old man who was vacationing in the U.S. territory with his wife and had other health problems. The island has 31 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 69 pending test results. Police have detained and cited more than 200 people for violating a two-week curfew imposed last week. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 23 5:48 a.m. — World news - China slams US for 'scapegoating' over virus: China's foreign ministry says the U.S. is "completely wasting the precious time" Beijing had won in attacking the global coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing Monday that the U.S. has attempted to “discredit others and look for a scapegoat to shift its responsibilities.” He added that the U.S. should “stop politicizing the epidemic, stop stigmatizing and defaming China and other countries.” China's health ministry says Wuhan has now gone five consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed around the country. At the same time, China is stepping up measures to prevent the virus from being brought back from overseas, requiring international flights into Beijing to first stop at airports outside the capital for inspection. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 23 5:25 a.m.  — At least eight Houston firefighters are under mandated quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association confirmed Sunday. Read more here.

MARCH 23 5 a.m. — New Zealand prepares four-week lockdown: Office workers are hauling computers and plants to their cars and shoppers are stripping shelves bare of coffee, flour and toilet paper before New Zealand starts a four-week lockdown. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 23 4 a.m. — Canada, Australia announcements push likelihood for Olympics postponement to 2021:  The Tokyo Olympics are going to happen — but almost surely in 2021 rather than in four months as planned. This seems clear after the International Olympic Committee said it was considering a postponement. Major Olympic nations like Canada and Australia are adding pressure by making it clear they will not go if the games are staged this year. Read more national/world updates here.

MARCH 22 8:00 p.m. — A curfew was enacted in Walker County from 11:59 p.m. until 5 a.m. starting Monday, March 23. According to the order, residents "shall remain in or on personal property and avoid traveling on any public road or highway during this period of curfew."   Here are the details

MARCH 22 5:55 p.m. — A COVID-19 patient in the Houston-area has been identified as a Fort Bend ISD warehouse employee who has been hospitalized since his diagnosis, according to the district. The warehouse has been closed until further notice. Read more here.

MARCH 22 5:55 p.m. — Harris County officials announce a press conference for 9:30 a.m. Monday to address community-wide COVID-19 testing and an update to the county's response. KHOU 11 will stream it live on its website and app.

MARCH 22 5:40 p.m. — Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a "shelter-in-place" order at a press conference Sunday.

The order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday night and will stay in effect until 11:59 p.m. on April 3. The order comes hours after Gov. Greg Abbott said he would not implement a statewide "shelter-in-place" order, but would instead leave it up to local authorities to make that decision.

In the order, residents are ordered to "stay safe, stay at home" by staying in their places of residence. Residences include hotels, motels, shared rentals and similar facilities. Read more here.

MARCH 22 5:26 p.m. — Walker County confirms its positive case, a man in his early 20s. Officials said the man was tested outside of the county, and the source of the infection is under investigation. He is experiencing mild symptoms and is isolated at home.

MARCH 22 5:18 p.m. — San Antonio has reported its first coronavirus-related death. The individual was a woman in her 80s with underlying health issues, city officials confirmed.

MARCH 22 5:11 p.m. — There are several reports Sunday evening that former Hollywood producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, here in Western New York.

Weinstein is at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, where KHOU 11 sister station WGRZ 2 On Your Side has heard from several people close to the facility that he was one of two inmates who tested positive. Read more here.

MARCH 22 5:05 p.m. —The Texas Department of Health and Human Services has reported statistics that reflect a dramatic increase in coronavirus tests being administered since the opening of new, including drive-thru, testing centers in Texas. 

On March 20, an estimated 2,300 individuals had been tested. That number jumped to an estimated 6,400 test by the following day, and as of March 22, an estimated 8,700 test have been taken.

Gov. Greg Abbott said state health officials are reporting less than 10 percent of those tests came back positive. 

As of now, six coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed by the state.

MARCH 22 4:03 p.m. — Galveston County confirms another positive case: a woman in her 40s who recently traveled internationally and had contact with a positive COVID-19 patient. She is self-quarantined. 

MARCH 22 3:50 p.m. — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed the National Guard has been deployed to Texas and other states to help local hospitals address challenges such as screening vehicles at drive-thru testing sites or setting up new facilities.

View 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.

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.

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.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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

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