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Coronavirus updates: 21 COVID-19 cases linked to two Park Manor nursing homes in Montgomery County

Here is a look at the latest COVID-19 headlines from around Houston, Texas for Thursday, April 23.

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

Get the latest updates and top headlines below.

Today's top headlines

Latest updates

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

APRIL 23 7:15 p.m. — The Montgomery County Public Health District has linked 21 coronavirus cases to two Park Manor nursing homes in the area.

Officials said these cases include the COVID-related death of a man in his 80s, which was confirmed earlier today.

Since the first positive case was identified at Park Manor of Conroe, management has had every resident and employee tested for coronavirus. 

Fifteen Conroe residents and two employees have tested positive, including one resident who is hospitalized.

At Park Manor of The Woodlands, three residents and one employee have tested positive. 

Officials said one of the residents is the man who passed away and the remaining two remain in the hospital.

APRIL 23 6:53 p.m. — The Lee College Board of Regents has approved using a portion of its federal stimulus funds to waive student tuition and other fees for the current spring and upcoming summer semesters. Lee Cares is one of several initiatives the college has started to help students who've been displaced or otherwise dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here.  

APRIL 23 6:10 p.m. — Mattress Mack wants to help Houstonians stay safe and healthy so he's giving away 10,000 free masks on Friday, April 24 from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Gallery Furniture North Freeway store. Houstonians can drive up in their car and Gallery Furniture will safely distribute the masks. Masks will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says the city has 200,000 masks to give away. More details here.

APRIL 23 6:10 p.m. — Montgomery County will have a mobile COVID-19 testing site on Monday, April 27 from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. Tests will be conducted by appointment only. To register, visit www.txcovidtest.org or call (512) 883-2400.

APRIL 23 5:05 p.m. — Public beaches in Galveston will partially reopen Monday but only for pedestrians and people exercising -- and only for a few hours a day.

The Galveston City Council voted Thursday to open public beaches in the morning from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. More details here.

APRIL 23 3:33 p.m. —  Six Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

The number of Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees diagnosed with coronavirus has reached 167, including 151 who work in the jail.

As of Thursday, 116 inmates in the Harris County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. 

APRIL 23 3:20 p.m. — Mayor Sylvester Turner said the City of Houston marked its fourth straight day with no COVID-19 deaths. The city reported 71 new cases. 

Unfortunately, Harris County has two new deaths, bringing its total to 48. The county has 48 new cases outside of Houston.

APRIL 23 2:10 p.m. — There's encouraging news about the Houston area's battle against the coronavirus. Dr. Marc Boom, the President/CEO of @MethodistHosp, says the number of patients admitted with #COVID19 has been decreasing for 10 days. Cases are down 25% from the peak. Read more

RELATED: Angels in blue: Methodist nurses become family for patients dying from COVID-19

APRIL 23 1:35 p.m. — The Houston Independent School District will continue to provide free meals for families the week of April 27 with another 25 food distribution sites throughout the district. 

HISD Nutrition Services staff will pack enough food bags to distribute up to 500 bags — or 15,000 pounds of food — per day at each site. List of new sites here.

APRIL 23 1:05 p.m. —  A regional Muslim chaplain for TDCJ has died from the coronavirus. Chaplain Akbar Shabazz, 70, died at Methodist Hospital in The Woodlands after a weeklong fight with COVID-19.

Shabazz began his more than 40 years of service as a TDCJ volunteer and joined the agency as an employee in September 1977. 

He coordinated Taleem classes, Jum’ah services and led the coordination of yearly Ramadan observances.

APRIL 23 11:58 a.m. — Federal Grill owner Matt Brice plans to open one of his restaurant's dining rooms to customers Saturday evening, despite Harris County's "Stay Home, Work Safe."

Only the Hedwig Village location on the Katy Freeway will open for dinner, Brice told CultureMap. He said the mayor of Hedwig Village is OK with the plan. More details here.

APRIL 23 11:40 a.m. — Five Houston-area malls, including the Galleria, offering 'retail to go' starting Friday | Several malls in the Houston area that shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic are preparing to offer 'retail to go' options once restrictions are lifted Friday. Brookfield Properties, which owns several locations including the Galleria and Katy Mills Mall, said they will update their website on Friday with information on which retailers are participating at each location. Read more here.

APRIL 23 11:05 a.m. — Rest in peace: Sen. Elizabeth Warren's oldest brother dies of coronavirus | Donald Reed Herring, Senator Elizabeth Warren's oldest borther, died from the coronavirus. Read more here.

POLL: What if restrictions were lifted now?

What would Americans actually do if restrictions were lifted right now? Would anyone show up to public places or would they be too worried about health risks? That could be the most important factor in the economy, CBS NEWS reports.

Only 13% say they would definitely return to public places over the next few weeks if restrictions were lifted right now, regardless of what else happened with the outbreak, a CBS NEWS poll shows. Almost half — 48% — say they would not return to public places until they were confident the outbreak was over. Another 39% are "maybes": they'd return depending on whether they saw the outbreak getting better.  Read the full report and see more numbers here.

APRIL 23 10:41 a.m. — 10 guests at a restaurant in China got COVID-19. Why researchers are blaming the A/C unit. | Researchers in China believe air conditioning inside a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, may have played a part in spreading COVID-19 from one person, who wasn't feeling sick, to nine others. Read more here.

APRIL 23 10:30 a.m. — WHO: Almost half of the virus deaths in Europe in nursing homes | The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office said up to half of coronavirus deaths across the region have been in nursing homes, calling it an “unimaginable tragedy.” In a press briefing on Thursday, WHO Europe director Dr. Hans Kluge said a “deeply concerning picture” was emerging of the impact of COVID-19 on long-term homes for the elderly, where care has “often been notoriously neglected.” Kluge said health workers in such facilities were often overworked and underpaid and called for them to be given more protective gear and support, describing them as the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic. Get more national/world updates here.

APRIL 23 10 a.m. — Update from Fort Bend County: "Today, we are reporting 19 new cases of #COVID19. We are sad to report two additional deaths, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 70s, both with underlying health conditions. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of these individuals."

RELATED: Map: Keeping track of Houston-area coronavirus cases

APRIL 23 9:60 a.m. — 26 million have sought US jobless aid since virus hit | More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down, the government said Thursday. Roughly 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors. About one in six American workers have now lost their jobs since mid-March, by far the worst string of layoffs on record. Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%. Read more here.

APRIL 23 7 a.m. — South Korea plans tests for virus research | South Korean health authorities are planning to soon begin antibody tests to learn how widespread the coronavirus infection is within the population. They are also researching how long people maintain immunity after recovering from COVID-19. Kwon Joon-wook, a senior official from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday officials are considering a variety of options, such as testing groups of people in the worst-hit city of Daegu and nearby areas or obtaining blood samples from military conscripts. Get more national/world updates here.

APRIL 23 5:42 a.m. — The Trump administration is barring most international students and all students who entered the U.S. illegally from receiving emergency college grants approved by Congress as part of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. Read more here.

APRIL 23 5 a.m. — The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Americans should be prepared for a second wave of the coronavirus in the winter. On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Redfield told The Washington Post that the United States could see a flu epidemic and coronavirus epidemic at the same time, which could be more dire. He claimed two respiratory outbreaks would strain the country's healthcare system. Read more here.

APRIL 23 4:35 a.m. — World shares mixed after Wall Street rally as oil prices recover | World shares are mixed this morning after Wall Street rallied and oil prices recovered slightly from their recent plunge. Benchmark crude added $1.03 to $14.81 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price of a barrel of U.S. oil to be delivered in June jumped 19% to settle at $13.78 on Wednesday.  Read more here.

APRIL 23 4:27 a.m. — Legal battles loom as businesses hit by virus sue insurers | A once-bustling Chicago bar and grill tucked below a Michigan Avenue overpass famously inspired a “Saturday Night Live” skit starring John Belushi and Bill Murray. But the money the Billy Goat Tavern is losing during the coronavirus outbreak is no joke. The tavern and millions of other shuttered businesses nationwide have turned to their insurers to help recoup their losses following state-mandated closures, which combined may exceed $300 billion a month. But insurers have widely rejected the claims, so the Billy Goat has joined a growing line of businesses including barbershops and casinos suing insurers to force them to pay. Get more national/world updates here.

APRIL 23 3:31 a.m. — VA medical facilities struggle to cope with coronavirus | The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling with shortages of workers at its health care facilities as it cares for veterans infected with the novel coronavirus. Read more here.

APRIL 23 3 a.m. — The latest numbers: There were more than 842,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States around 3 a.m. Central Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 46,000 deaths in the U.S., with 76,000 recoveries. Over 4.4 million tests have been conducted nationwide. Worldwide, there have been  2.63 million cases and more than 183,000 deaths. Get more national/world updates here.

APRIL 23 3 a.m. — South Korea plans tests for virus research | South Korean health authorities are planning to soon begin antibody tests to learn how widespread the coronavirus infection is within the population. They are also researching how long people maintain immunity after recovering from COVID-19. Kwon Joon-wook, a senior official from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday officials are considering a variety of options, such as testing groups of people in the worst-hit city of Daegu and nearby areas or obtaining blood samples from military conscripts. He says such tests would be crucial in understanding how the virus spreads and preparing for another surge in infections, which he says could happen in the autumn or winter when cold temperatures move more people indoors. Get more national/world updates here.

APRIL 22 12 a.m. — 14 more on cruise ship off Japan test positive |  Japanese officials said Thursday that 14 more crew members on an Italian-operated cruise ship docked in southern Japan have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total of the on-board outbreak to 48. The Costa Atlantica has been docked in Nagasaki since late January for repairs and maintenance by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry. The ship has 623 crew members, including a Japanese translator, and no passengers. One of the infected crew members has since become seriously ill and was sent to a hospital, where he is currently on a ventilator, Nagasaki officials said. Get more national/world updates here.

APRIL 22 10:15 p.m. — Risking a possible fine and jail time, Dallas salon owner says she will reopen on Friday | "We're about to lose everything and we haven't gotten any help, so I had to make a decision," owner Shelley Luther said. Get the full story here.

APRIL 22 9:06 p.m. — A world-renowned infectious disease expert at Baylor College of Medicine says he thinks we will see another spike in coronavirus cases later this year.

Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and the Co-director at Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, took to Twitter to make the prediction.

He said it in a reply to a video in which the mayor of Las Vegas was talking about reopening casinos. In the video, Mayor Carolyn Goodman seemingly shirks the responsibility of safely reopening the public places. She says the responsibility lies with the individual companies.

Hotez said it's a situation he's seeing a lot of lately: "No one (is) taking ownership." Read more here.

APRIL 22 6:45 p.m. — Galveston County Health District is reporting 1 death, a woman age 81 to 90 years old with preexisting medical conditions. Officials said she died on April 14.

Officials are also reporting 12 new cases, bringing the county's total number to 491. There are also 11 new recoveries, 227 total for the county.

APRIL 22 5:05 p.m. — The Houston Police Officers Union has reached out to the Texas attorney general to ask if Judge Lina Hidalgo's face covering order is legal. HPOU President Joe Gamaldi called the order "draconian" and advised HPD officers to use "DISCRETION, DISCRETION, DISCRETION." 

View older updates here

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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.