HARRIS COUNTY – Faced with the reality of mounting cases of the infectious and potentially lethal Coronavirus known as COVID-19, local leaders have issued an order to “Stay Home Work Safe” which amounts to a shelter in place directive.
At a joint news conference last Tuesday morning, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for all but essential members of the public to stay at home, not to travel and not to congregate in groups. Businesses were advised to have their employees work at home. The order is set to last ten days, until Friday April 3rd.
As of last Friday, there were 464 virus cases in the greater Houston area that had tested positive. These include Houston 69 with 1 death, Harris County 135 including 1 death, Brazoria County 39, Brazos County 31, Fort Bend County 86, Galveston County 40, Matagorda County 9 including 1 death, Montgomery County 41, Chambers County 2, Liberty County 2, Grimes County 2, Wharton County 3, and Walker County 2.
Statewide in Texas there are 1,731 cases with 23 deaths. Nationally in the U.S. there are 100,390 cases and 1,543 deaths. Worldwide the cases number 587,958 with 26,909 deaths
The Order allowed the public to travel for necessities such as food and fuel, and allowed workers in 16 essential categories to continue to work. These include: Healthcare, Law Enforcement and Public Safety, Food and Agriculture, Electricity or Utility workers, Petroleum, Natural and Propane gas workers, Water and Wastewater workers, Transportation and logistics, including auto repair and postal service, Public Works, Communications and Media including newspapers, Government and Education, Critical manufacturing, Hazardous materials, Financial services including banks, Chemical workers, and Defense industries.
• United Memorial Med Ctr. private site at 510 w. Tidwell, as seen above is free, and does not require pre-screening.
People tested at the community based testing site are provided instructions on how to obtain their test results. Positive cases will continue to be reported by local health departments.
Harris County and the City of Houston have announced that they have opened three drive-thru testing sites for Coronavirus tests, and plan to open several more in the next week. For all the public sites, pre-screening is required, and then those that qualify due to Coronavirus symptoms, or because they are in a high risk category, will be given an ID number and an appointment at one of the locations, that remain unidentified to the general public.
• City of Houston, at Butler Stadium, call 832-393-4220 for pre-screening. Also free. At both sites, only those with symptoms will be tested.
• Harris County has one site open in East Harris County, in the Baytown area. Prescreening is done at readyharris.com or by calling 832-927-7575.
• Harris County plans to open a second site in the Katy area this week.
HOUSTON, TX – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chair of the Congressional Coronavirus Task Force, hosted a press conference to urge residents with symptoms of the coronavirus to take advantage of no charge testing. The President just signed the Congressional bill that provides for no charge testing, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee announced drive thru testing at no charge at United Memorial Medical Center located at 510 West Tidwell, Houston, TX 77091.
No charge to the persons being tested.
Testing periods are: Monday – Friday: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM.
Testing is limited to those persons with symptoms. Drive to the Test Site for screening and the test swab.
The Aldine Independent School District Superintendent Dr. LaTonya M. Goffney is taking proactive measures against the coronavirus/COVID-19 to minimize risk to students, employees, and families relating to the spread of the coronavirus.
There are increasing cases of coronavirus confirmed in Harris and surrounding counties. The school district confirmed that these cases do not include students or employees of the school system.
“However, considering the virus is now confirmed in our county, we are taking additional steps to minimize risk to our students and staff,” Goffney said. “Our school district is following the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance for schools. This includes making sure that our emergency operation plans are reviewed and up-to-date and that there is routine environmental cleaning. AISD uses cleaning products that have been verified by the manufacturer to kill viruses. Out of an abundance of caution, we are developing a plan to limit ‘non-essential’ school activities and travel to lessen the risk of exposure. We have set a date to reopen schools after the Easter/spring holiday in April, but we are evaluating the situation daily.
The legislation signed last Wednesday evening provides paid sick and family leave for some for U.S. workers impacted by the illness, expands unemployment assistance, includes nutrition assistance and increases resources for testing. Efforts are already underway to put together a third, larger relief measure that could total $1 trillion.
Deadline for Tax Filing extended to July 15th
Following President Donald J. Trump’s emergency declaration pursuant to the Stafford Act, the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS issued guidance allowing all individual and other non-corporate tax filers to defer up to $1 million of federal income tax (including self-employment tax) payments due on April 15, 2020, until July 15, 2020, without penalties or interest.
SBA to Provide Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
On March 19, 2020, Governor Abbott announced several executive orders in response to COVID-19. These orders got into effect on March 20, 2020 and will end at midnight on April 3rd. They include the following regulations:
– Every person in Texas is to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people.
– No dining in at restaurants, bars, or food courts. Take out, drive-thru and delivery options will be allowed.
– Gyms are to remain closed.
– Schools are to remain closed, but online or alternative learning options may be used.
– No visitations at nursing homes, retirement centers, or long-term care facilities unless it is to provide critical care assistance.
THIS IS NOT A SHELTER IN PLACE ORDER. You can still go to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, parks, and banks. Essential government services and critical infrastructure still operational, and domestic travel allowed.
UPDATED – March 14, 2020 – Health Officials confirmed the fifth case of coronavirus in the City of Houston, and another in Montgomery County, making a total of 27 in the Houston areas. Officials said that the recorded 5 cases in Houston, 6 cases in Harris County, 9 cases in Fort Bend County, 2 cases in Brazoria County, 1 in Galveston County, and 4 in Montgomery County. (NOTE: This number will change as days go by.)
HOUSTON – With 27 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases reported in the Houston and Harris County areas, the city and the county are on high alert. Most of the cases can be traced to either a vacation cruise on the Nile River in Egypt, or attendance at the Houston Rodeo cook-off. However, several cases have not been identified with these causes, and are being investigated.
Actions have been taken to prevent the virus spread, such as closures of the Rodeo, schools and colleges, athletic events, and entertainment. The scope of closures is unprecedented in modern times.
A call center has been opened to answer questions from the public. Houstonians can call the center at 832-393- 4220 to speak to Health department staff and obtain information about the disease or get their questions answered.
The call center will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will return voice messages left after hours the following day on a first call, first served basis.
Federal action is expected next week, with test centers and financial relief for those unable to work.
Last Thursday, Mayor Turner updated the public on the city of Houston’s response to containing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 at a press conference.
The mayor’s office has received questions about whether the city is going to shut down through the end of March. ”That is not true. For the month of March, we are rescheduling or canceling events that are produced, sponsored, and permitted by the city of Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The status of our grocery stores and retailers remains strong and while it is always good to buy supplies or groceries that can last for a week or two, there is no reason for you to overdo it.”
Harris County Health Officials recommend the following steps for people at higher risk. These steps are recommended until March 31, 2020 or until otherwise noted.
GUIDANCE FOR PEOPLE AT HIGHER RISK FOR SEVERE COVID-19 ILLNESS
People at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others. (more…)
UPDATED – March 6, 2020 – Health Officials confirmed the second case of coronavirus in the City of Houston, making a total of 8 in Fort Bend, Houston and Harris County areas. (NOTE: This number may change as days go by.)
The female patient, in the 60 to 70 age range, is part of the same group of travelers to Egypt associated with recent cases announced in Fort Bend County and Harris County. She is currently hospitalized and stable.
HOUSTON, Texas – March 5, 2020 – Harris County Public Health (HCPH) confirmed last Thursday four more cases of Coronavirus, all in Harris County or Houston. The new cases involved four people in their 60s who were exposed to the virus during a trip to Egypt last month. The 70- year-old from Fort Bend took the same trip and this case was confirmed last Wednesday by a Houston laboratory. Four of the five patients with coronavirus are hospitalized in stable condition and the fifth is self-quarantined at home with mild symptoms, health officials stated.
Judge Lina Hidalgo mentioned at a press conference last Thursday that there is no evidence yet of any community spread of the coronavirus.
“All the cases in the Houston area have international travel in common and we’ve been actively monitoring these individuals since they were identified as being at-risk,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “I encourage Houstonians to limit international travel for the time being and heed the advice of public health officials about healthy hygiene habits. If you are feeling sick, stay at home. But do not be paralyzed by fear.”
The health department has launched an investigation to identify any potential contacts exposed to the virus. The department will provide close contacts guidance about the virus and monitor them for the development of symptoms.
“We expect to see more cases in coming days as we receive test results,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The fifth “patient knew to monitor for symptoms and quickly sought medical care when he started feeling ill” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “His quick action and the response of the public health system signifies that the potential for public exposure in Houston is minimal.”
People who recently returned to the United States from a coronavirus outbreak area need to monitor for fever, cough and difficulty breathing for at least 14 days and seek medical care right away if they develop symptoms. Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, symptomatic people with a travel history to a coronavirus outbreak area must call ahead to tell the healthcare professionals about their recent travel and symptoms.
If they recommend testing, go as soon as possible to protect yourself and those around you. Testing is confidential. HCPH does not release information about suspected cases to encourage people to get tested and many people test negative.
If a person has not been around anyone with coronavirus or has not visited an ongoing coronavirus outbreak area, they are not at risk.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
– Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and 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;
WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO?
Residents should go about their daily lives, but practice every day preventative measures to avoid the spread of respiratory viruses:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning product.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%– 95% alcohol.
CDC FACEMASK RECOMMENDATIONS
CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019, to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in a close setting (at home or in a health care facility).
Call your healthcare professional if you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19.
There is no need to go the emergency room unless you have a medical emergency. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.
Stay informed by visiting Ready Harris website www.readyharris.org, Harris County Public Health website www.hcphtx.org/nCov and social media channels @readyharris @hcphtx
ORIGIN OF CORONAVIRUS
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that first emerged in China and has now spread to many countries, including the U.S. While HCPH understands our residents will be concerned, we also know that more than 80% of people who have become infected only experience mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People at higher risk for serious complications are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
The East Aldine community held a Kite Festival last Saturday, at the Town Center. Meant to set a tradition for the community, the East Aldine District promoted the event with the help of sponsors. Families, friends and neighbors first met on the BakerRipley courtyard for a Zumba performance, and then enjoyed kite making, kite flying, games, face painting, raffles, moon walks, and food from food trucks. A great tradition of fun and neighborhood that the East Aldine community can look forward to again.