Coronavirus in Houston: Updates, cases and news for April 20

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

Some parts of Texas will begin to gradually reopen this week. Get today’s latest updates and top headlines below.

This morning’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 20 7 a.m. — Dentists, hair salons, beaches: Lockdowns ease but not in US | From reopening bookstores in Germany to beaches in Sydney and even tattoo parlors in Denmark, countries around the world are taking advantage of flattening coronavirus curves to tentatively ease lockdowns. They are hoping to edge cautiously toward whatever will pass for normal amid a devastating pandemic. China, where the pandemic started its relentless march around the globe late last year, has already been re-opening from strict lockdowns. On Monday, more nations in Europe were following suit. Still, all were trying to maintain social distancing rules in an attempt to prevent new flareups of the virus that has killed more than 165,000 people and thrown the global economy into a tailspin. (AP) Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 20 6:28 a.m. — New rule at Walmart goes into effect today: Walmart now requires all employees to wear masks, even at their corporate office. Customers are also encouraged to wear masks. Read more here.

APRIL 20 4:53 a.m. — Reminder: Houston and Harris County public coronavirus testing sites are scheduled to resume normal operations today. Both local governments closed their official testing sites yesterday due to the bad weather. Those who had codes/appointments for Sunday should use them on Monday instead. How you can get tested for COVID-19

APRIL 20 4:53 a.m. —  Spain has surpassed the 200,000 mark of coronavirus infections while recording the lowest number of new deaths in four weeks. Health ministry data shows Monday that 399 more people have succumbed to the COVID-19 disease created by the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 20,852. Spain had counted more than 400 daily deaths since March 22. The outbreak’s spread has continued at a slower pace than in previous weeks, with 4,266 new infections that is bringing the pandemic’s total tally to 200,210. (AP) Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 20 4:40 a.m. — Some parts of Texas will begin to gradually reopen this week. Gov. Greg Abbott announced a phased plan on Friday that allows for some facilities and businesses to expand operations with consideration of social distancing measures. The question is.. is Houston ready?

RELATED: Back to business: Gov. Abbott lays out dates to re-open the state

RELATED: ‘If we open now, we’ll see a big resurgence:’ Houston doctor warns

RELATED: Is Houston ready? Texas will begin reopening process on Monday


APRIL 20 4:36 a.m. — Shake Shack returning government’s $10 million small-business loan | The company said it was able to get extra funding through an “equity transaction” and decided to immediately return the $10 million paycheck protection loan. Read more here.

APRIL 20 3:50 a.m. — Shops, schools reopening in Germany, Denmark | Some shops are reopening in much of Germany as Europe’s biggest economy takes its first tentative step toward restarting public life after a four-week shutdown. Shops with a surface area of up to 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) are being allowed to reopen on Monday, along with auto showrooms, bike shops and bookshops of any size, under an agreement reached last week between the federal and state governments. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told n-tv television that big shops “draw large numbers of people into the city center, they have high customer numbers and that isn’t possible in the first step.” Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 20 3:29 a.m. — Wall Street futures drop slightly as Asian shares fall back on weak oil prices| Japan reported its exports fell nearly 12% year-on-year in March as the pandemic hammered its major markets in the U.S. and China. Read more here.

APRIL 20 2:17 a.m. — Lockdown tensions grow as people seek to resume work or play | The coronavirus is touching all levels of society and increasing tensions as governments ease restrictions that health experts warn should be done gradually to avoid a resurgence of the illness that has killed more than 165,000 people. The mounting pressure was evident in the United States. The Trump administration says parts of the nation are ready to begin a gradual return to normalcy. Yet some state leaders say woefully inadequate federal action, like a lack of testing supplies, is hindering their response to the illness. (AP) Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 20 1 a.m. — Trump, Congress near deal on small business, hospital aid | The Trump administration and Congress expect an agreement Monday on a coronavirus aid package of up to $450 billion. It would boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. President Donald Trump said Sunday the administration is “very close to a deal.” The Senate is scheduled for a pro forma session Monday, but no vote has been set. The House announced it could meet as soon as Wednesday for a vote. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he is hopeful of a deal that could pass Congress quickly and get the small business payroll program back up by midweek. Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 19 11:20 p.m. — Reports suggest many have had coronavirus with no symptoms: A flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the new coronavirus without any symptoms. That means the virus may turn out to be much less lethal than originally feared. But it also makes it tough to know who’s contagious because people who don’t feel sick can still spread the bug. New reports of silent infections have come from an aircraft carrier, pregnant women at a New York hospital, several European countries and a county in California. Experts say the numbers can’t be fully trusted because they’re based on flawed testing. But the results suggest that estimates of total infections are way off.   (AP)  Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 19 11:11 p.m. — ’Under siege’: Overwhelmed Brooklyn care home tolls 55 dead | A nursing home in an upscale section of New York City’s Brooklyn borough with 55 deaths blamed on the coronavirus has become another example of the struggle to control such outbreaks amid shortages of staff, protective equipment and testing. The CEO of the Cobble Hill Health Center says his facility quickly became overwhelmed after nearly a third of the staff went out sick and those left began wearing garbage bags because of a shortage of protective gear. He said the death toll was based on only the possibility of COVID-19 because not a single resident or staffer has been tested. (AP) Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 19 9 p.m. — Trump to use DPA to increase swab production | President Donald Trump says he will use the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for the coronavirus. Many governors have for weeks urged the White House to further evoke federal powers to increase private industry’s production of medical supplies as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus. Trump has generally been reluctant to do so. But the president said during a briefing Sunday evening that he would use the measure to increase production of swabs and that he would soon announce that production reaching 10 million per month. To emphasize the point, Trump waved a swab in front of reporters. Trump also said Vice President Mike Pence would hold a call with governors on Monday to discuss testing and send a list of lab facilities in their states. Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 19  9 p.m. — Trump administration announces new guidelines for nursing homes | The Trump administration has announced new guidelines requiring nursing homes nationwide to report to patients, their families and the federal government when they have cases of coronavirus. Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during a Sunday evening White House press briefing that the new rules will mandate that nursing homes report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the moves are aimed at increasing transparency about the spread of the virus at facilities where populations can be especially vulnerable to its effects. There have been 7,121 deaths at long-term care facilities nationwide, according to an Associated Press tally. Verma also discussed plans to allow elective surgeries to resume after being placed on hold during the pandemic. Read more national/world COVID-19 updates here.

APRIL 19 8 p.m. — How to stay motivated to workout during quarantine: It’s been a few weeks since the stay-at-home order was issued. Have you lost your motivation to work out? Get the story here


APRIL 19 5:07 p.m. — A man and woman, both between ages 61-70 and suffering from pre-existing medical conditions, have died from coronavirus. the Galveston County Health District said both passed away April 18. So far, 455 coronavirus cases have been reported in the county. Seventeen people have died from COVID-19 and 193 people have recovered.

APRIL 19 2:08 p.m. — The Houston Health Department is reporting 130 new coronavirus cases, bringing the city total to 2,821. 

Sadly, three more people—  all with underlying health problems— have also died from the virus. These individuals are a man in his 70s, one in his 90s and another man, also in his 70s.

These men all passed away on the same day, April 16, the health department said. The death toll for the city of Houston is now 34.

APRIL 19 11:29 a.m. —  Democrats close to reaching deal with GOP on coronavirus response bill | Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday his party is close to coming to an agreement with Republicans regarding a new coronavirus response bill. Schumer said Sunday on CNN that the Democrats have made “very good progress,” and the Senate leader said that he is hopeful they can “come to an agreement tonight or early tomorrow morning.” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday the GOP is close to reaching a deal with the Democrats. The bill would expand on the Small Business Administration’s loan program. Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 19 10:15 a.m. — All Harris County and City of Houston public testing sites are closed today due to poor weather conditions. Those with codes/appointments for today should use them tomorrow, Monday, April 20

Related: View latest weather alerts & forecast

City of Houston statement: “Houston’s two community based testing sites are closed today (Sunday, April 19) due to inclement weather. People with authorization codes for today should use them on Monday, April 20.”

Harris County statement: “URGENT: All of our #COVID19 testing sites are closed today due to the weather. We plan on opening back up Monday. If you had an appointment for today, please come back tomorrow.”

APRIL 19 10 a.m. — The European Center for Disease Control says the continent now has more than 1 million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from the new coronavirus. According to a tally posted on the ECDC website Sunday, Spain had the most cases in the region with 191,726, followed by Italy, Germany, Britain and France. It listed Italy as having the most deaths in Europe, with 23,227, followed by Spain, France, Britain and Belgium. According to the tally, Europe accounts for almost half the global case load and more than half the total deaths. (AP)  Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 19 9:50 a.m. — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says 150,000 coronavirus tests are now being conducted daily in the U.S. but suggested that governors and not the federal government were to blame for numbers not being higher. Pence tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, “if states around the country will activate all of the laboratories that are available in their states, we could more than double that overnight.” He said the nation has “sufficient testing today” for states to begin reopening their economies as part of the initial phases of guidelines the White House released this week. Governors from both parties have said that while they do have more labs that could increase testing in many areas, they often are unable to do so because of federal delays. (AP)  Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 19 9 a.m. — The latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University show the world has reached more than 604,000 recoveries. There have been 162,000 deaths worldwide with 2.36 million confirmed cases reported.

Here’s a look at the confirmed case numbers in the Houston area as of this morning:

Southeast Texas COVID-19 cases as of Sunday morning, April 19, 2020

KHOU 111

APRIL 19 6:50 a.m. — World news: The Italian coast guard is transferring 34 migrants from the Spanish rescue ship Aita Mari off the coast of the Sicilian capital Palermo onto a naval ship for quarantine. The new arrivals will join 146 migrants from the German-run rescue ship Alan Kurdi, who were transferred on Friday to the Rubattino. The Italian naval ship will remain a mile off the coast for the duration of the quarantine, which is being overseen by the Italian Red Cross. (AP) Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 19 5 a.m. — World news: Over a thousand virus cases on French ship | Figures from France’s military leadership show more than half the sailors aboard the country’s flagship aircraft carrier contracted the new virus as the ship traveled through the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. A navy official says 1,046 of the 1,760 people aboard the Charles de Gaulle tested positive for the virus. Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Christophe Prazuck attributed the quick spread to the “great population density aboard the ship.” Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 19 12 a.m. — Sad news from the entertainment world over the weekend: Broadway star Nick Cordero faces leg amputation due to complications while battling coronavirus | Cordero entered the intensive case unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA on March 31 and has been on a ventilator and unconscious after contracting COVID-19. Read more here.

APRIL 19 12 a.m. — World news: Spain has reported its lowest daily death total for confirmed coronavirus victims in nearly a month as the country contains a savage outbreak that has killed more than 20,000 people there. Spanish health officials said Sunday another 410 people have died in the last 24 hours. That is the lowest daily death toll since March 22. It takes the total to 20,453 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. Spain also reported 4,218 confirmed new cases, pushing the total to 195,944 — second only to the United States. Top health official Fernando Simón said the latest data gives Spain hope, adding that it shows “the rate of contagion has fallen and that we are on the correct path.” (AP) Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 19 12 a.m. — World news: Japan passes 10,000 cases of COVID-19 | Japanese health ministry said Sunday that 568 new cases of the coronavirus were reported the day before, bringing a domestic total to 10,361. A combined total including 712 others from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year came to 11,073, with 174 deaths. The number of cases is still relatively small compared to the U.S. and Europe, but that’s only as many as Japan’s limited testing has detected and actual infections are believed to be far more widespread. Read more national/world updates here.

APRIL 18 10:25 p.m. — After their wedding was postponed, family surprises couple with car parade | Their day began with brunch and then some photos of the couple. But the biggest surprise was waiting just around the corner. Read more here.


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.” Read more here

View older blog 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 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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