Coronavirus in Houston and beyond: Cases and updates for April 15

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

We’ve learned on Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will announce a plan to eventually reopen the Texas economy. Get today’s latest updates and top 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):

APRIL 15 12:01 p.m. — On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will announce a plan to eventually reopen the Texas economy, the governor’s office has confirmed to KVUE’s Bryce Newberry in Austin. Abbott previously told us the state is working with the White House on the process and any reopening would have to be gradual. The expected executive order will discuss “how we’re going to go about this process of opening up businesses, and that must include the appropriate medical strategies to make sure that we are not going to be increasing the spread of the coronavirus,” Abbott told KVUE.

APRIL 15 11:43 a.m. — World news: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada’s lockdown will last “many more weeks” and warned Canadians if the economy is reopened too soon all the sacrifices they are making now might be for nothing as the country could see another peak in coronavirus cases. Trudeau says Canada is still “a number of weeks away” from being able to start to reopen and urged Canadians to be patient. He says once there is some reopening there is going to be a need for rapid testing on a wide scale and extensive contact tracing for those who test positive. He says once Canada is past the first wave government needs to have the capacity to stamp out any future outbreaks. Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 11 a.m. — Fort Bend County’s coronavirus testing site is now accepting people without symptoms, but you still have to call ahead. Get the details here.

APRIL 15 10:25 a.m. — A wonderful update from Rice University: “@RiceAthletics staff members assembled care packages for health care workers in the neighboring @TXMedCenter . After learning that the university was set to provide temporary housing for TMC personnel, they decided to make care packages for those workers as well.”

APRIL 15 10 a.m. — Sam’s Club announced this week that they are launching Hero Hours to aid first responders and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting April 19, Hero Hours are every Sunday from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. No membership is needed. Read more here.

APRIL 15 9:31 a.m. — Getting a ‘Payment Status Not Available’ from the new IRS stimulus check tracker? You’re not alone: Many on social media have posted that they’re seeing the message after they input their information. Read more here. | Stimulus payment tracker & FAQ

APRIL 15 9 a.m. — We learned yesterday there are dozens of coronavirus cases tied to a Tyson meat plant in Washington state. Read more here. The report comes just days after a pork processing plant in South Dakota was forced to close after hundreds of workers there tested positive.

APRIL 15 9 a.m. — Update from Fort Bend County: “Today, we are reporting 50 new cases of COVID-19, 5 new recoveries, and 1 additional death.You can now view case count by zip code, jurisdiction, or precinct on the Response Hub ➡️ .#StayHomeFortBend🏡 #StayHomeSaveLives”

APRIL 15 8:54 a.m. — Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm struggling to adapt after restaurants close, demand decreases | Want some crawfish? Let your friends know – especially those in the Beaumont area. Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm in Hamshire is taking a major hit. Read more here.

APRIL 15 8:50 a.m. — Trouble sleeping and weird dreams common amid pandemic | Many of us are having a hard time falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and dreaming about really strange stuff. Read/watch the full report here.

APRIL 15 8:20 a.m. — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday confirmed she and other top officials are taking a 20% pay cut for six months in acknowledgment of the community’s sacrifices in dealing with the new coronavirus. Read more here. | Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 8:16 a.m. — With commerce frozen, retail sales plunge unprecedented 8.7% | U.S. retail sales plummeted 8.7% in March, a record drop as the viral outbreak closed down thousands of stores and shoppers stayed home. Sales fell sharply across many categories: Auto sales fell 25.6%, while clothing store sales collapsed, dropping 50.5%. U.S. consumer confidence has plunged and the vast majority of Americans are hunkered down at home under shelter in place orders. Grocery store sales did jump by nearly 26% as Americans hoarded food and consumer items. A category that mostly includes online sales rose 3.1%.  Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 6:30 a.m. — The IRS this morning launched its website that will allow Americans to track the status of the economic stimulus payment Congress approved as relief during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 80 million Americans should expect to have received their stimulus payments in their bank accounts Wednesday, according to the Treasury Department. A “large majority” of eligible Americans can expect the payment within the next two weeks, the department said. Stimulus payments: everything you need to know | Read more here and get links to the IRS website

APRIL 15 6:21 a.m. — Nations around the world are reacting with alarm after President Donald Trump announced a halt to the sizable funding the United States sends to the World Health Organization. Health experts warned the move could jeopardize global efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic. The European Union on Wednesday said Trump has “no reason” to freeze WHO funding at this critical stage and called for measures to promote unity instead of division. Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, pushed back at Trump’s announcement., saying on Twitter that “placing blame doesn’t help.” (AP)  Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 5:30 a.m. — In case you missed it: 39 Texas City nursing home residents successfully complete hydroxychloroquine treatment for COVID-19  | Residents completed a five-day treatment of hydroxychloroquine and their doctor said none have experienced side effects. Read more here.

APRIL 15 4:50 a.m. — Military sees no quick exit from ‘new world’ of coronavirus: The U.S. military is bracing for a months-long struggle against the coronavirus. It is looking for novel ways to maintain a defensive crouch that protects the health of troops without breaking their morale. Unlike talk in the Trump administration of possibly reopening the country as early as May, military leaders are suggesting a best-case scenario of taking steps toward a return to normal activity this summer. Even that is uncertain, and for now the main focus is on adjusting as the pandemic’s threat evolves. Officials have frozen most forces in place overseas, stopped troops and their families from moving to new assignments and cut back access to the Pentagon. (AP) Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 1:40 a.m. — Reports: Trump’s name will appear on coronavirus stimulus checks | In what is being called an unprecedented move, the stimulus checks many Americans will receive due to the economic effects of the new coronavirus pandemic will include President Donald Trump’s name. That’s according to reports by the Washington Post, New York Times and Bloomberg News. Read more here.

APRIL 15 12 a.m. — The latest numbers: The United States has more than 600,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University. As of midnight ET Wednesday morning, the U.S. had 609,240 confirmed cases with 26,033 deaths and 48,625 recoveries. Nearly 3.1 million tests have been conducted in the U.S. Worldwide, there are nearly 2 million confirmed cases with more than 126,000 deaths and 486,000 recoveries. Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 15 12 a.m. — A new Gallup poll finds 71% of Americans plan to wait to see what happens after social contact restrictions are lifted before deciding whether to return to their old habits. Another 10 percent said they will continue to limit contact with others and daily activities indefinitely. People in cities and suburbs were more likely than people in rural areas to adopt the “wait to see” attitude. Democrats and independents were also more likely than Republicans to go with that level of caution. Regardless, a majority of every major demographic group said they would not immediately jump back into their old ways.  Read the latest national/world updates here.

APRIL 14 11 p.m. — Social distancing may need to continue to 2022, Harvard study finds | Without a significant amount of the population immune to the virus, we could have to go through this off-and-on, the study suggests. Read more here.

APRIL 14 11 p.m. — You could get a $2,000 per month stimulus check under proposed bill Two House Democrats behind the proposal say the one-time, $1,200 check on its way to Americans isn’t going to be enough as unemployment skyrockets. Read more here.

APRIL 14 10:26 p.m. — What happened at a Galveston County nursing home over the last week was one of the first big tests of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients in Texas. Fifty-six residents at this senior facility in Galveston County contracted the novel coronavirus. Dr. Robin Armstrong said 39 of them gave him permission to treat them with hydroxychloroquine pills. Read more about the treatment here.

APRIL 14 9:50 p.m. — Single mother with child says she was denied entry to Connecticut Walmart | One mother says she and her son were wearing face masks when they were told by a manager that it’s “state law” for only one person to be allowed in at a time. Read more here.

APRIL 14 9:37 p.m. — What are you supposed to do with your pets if you get sick with COVID-19? The Harris County Office of Emergency Management has some tips:

Have a family member in your household care for them until you get betterAvoid contact with your pet. That means no petting, snuggling, being licked or sharing foodIf you have to be around your pet, but sure to wash your hands before touching them.

APRIL 14 9:04 p.m. — H-E-B has updated its list of product limits. The list, which was updated on April 13, shows food and non-food items that currently have purchase limits in place. The limits were put in place “in an effort to make sure all customers have access to products they need.” This was prompted by shoppers who began panic-buying amid the coronavirus pandemic. See the full list here. 

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 sneezingClose personal contact, such as touching or shaking handsTouching 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 coronavirusStay home when you are sick.Eat and sleep separately from your family membersUse different utensils and dishesCover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.Follow social distancingLower your riskWash 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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