Houston coronavirus updates: May 2, 2020

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8:37 p.m. With COVID-19 still on the loose, is leaving your house for nonessential reasons even worth it?

Coronavirus columnist Lisa Gray asked medical and public health experts the best ways to go back out in the world. They broke it down to assessing the risk, taking precautions and keeping track of where you go and who you see.

And, please wear a face mask.

Read more of Gray’s coronavirus columns.

7:21 p.m. Houston-area business owners said they are trying hard to strike the right balance on the first weekend being open in more than a month, reports the Chronicle’s Yvette Orozco.

Manager Chase Townsend isn’t used to the extra space and quiet at the Music Factory in Pearland, which specializes in music gear. He has scaled down staffs wearing face masks who stringently wiped down surfaces and work reduced hours.

With guitars hanging from the ceiling and amplifiers lining the walls, space can be tight, Townsend said, but the 6-foot rule applies, and instruments are off-limits without permission.

“If someone wants to try out a guitar, I politely tell them to ask first,” Townsend said. “If someone wants to play a guitar, we handle the guitar, hook it up and then wipe it down afterwards.”

Read more about how Houston business is trying to rebound during the first phase of reopening in the state.

7:13 p.m. Statewide coronavirus cases increased Saturday by 1,196 positive diagnoses, according to analysis by the Chronicle. This is a 4 percent increase from Friday.

Numbers varied by county, but the total number of cases is now 31,314. This marks the fourth day this week that Texas has had more than 1,000 new cases in one day. Before this week, there had been one day with more than 1,000 news cases (April 9).

Statewide, there were 26 new deaths for a total of 866 people. There have been 205 deaths in the Houston region, up nine from Friday.

Harris County added 157 new cases for a total of 6,708 cases total.

— Jordan Rubio

6:18 p.m. Galveston County Health District today reports 15 new positive COVID-19 cases in Galveston County residents, which brings the total to 629.

There are four new recovered cases for a total of 344 recoveries, according to a news release. A woman in her 80s with preexisting medical conditions died on April 30.

Nearly 230 of Galveston County’s cases are tied to longterm care facilities and are made up of residents and employees, the release stated. Twenty-five of the 28 deaths in the county are related to those facilities.

For more case-related graphics, please visit www.gchd.org/about-us/news-and-events/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/galveston-county-confirmed-covid-19-cases

4:54 p.m. Texas hit a third straight day of more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases Saturday as the state charged into its first weekend of re-opening the economy with residents allowed to go back to malls, restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores in limited numbers, according to the Associated Press.

State health officials reported 1,293 new cases, the second-highest single-day infection rate, marking the first time the Texas has recorded more than 1,000 three days in a row.

Officials also reported 31 new deaths, the first time Texas has surpassed 30 on four consecutive days, although fatalities declined for a second consecutive day after a peak of 50 deaths on Friday.

The governor’s office has said the number of diagnosed cases is expected to increase as the state ramps up testing.

4:47 p.m. Thousands of people descended on Galveston Saturday, the day after beaches reopened since being closed more than a month amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Masks were few and far between, and there were a few larger groups that had clearly surpassed the 10-person threshold that public health experts have recommended as a way to stem the spread of the virus.

However, most beach goers appeared to be abiding by social distancing rules, as was reportedly the case one day prior.

“Everyone has been really, really reasonable and really, really friendly,” said Charlie Rightly, general manager of Flip Flops Bar and Grill. “Everybody is just happy to be outside again.”

— Robert Downen

4:43 p.m. The Dallas-based ShowBiz Cinemas theater chain, which has four locations in the Houston area, is reopening its theaters May 18.

Here’s a list of the safety and sanitary precautions the locations will be taking.

Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent orders, movie theaters are allowed to open May 1 as long as they keep admission under 25 percent of capacity. Since there are no new theatrical films to show, ShowBiz initially will be screening older films.

Houston-based Star Cinema Grill announced Friday evening that it will be opening its Baybrook Mall location on May 8. There are theater chains opening in San Antonio and Dallas, as well.

The Chronicle’s Cary Darling asked Houston movie-goers if they plan to go to a movie theater anytime soon.

Houston couple Samantha and Alexander Goodman are taking a wait-and-see approach. “We won’t be going as soon as things open back up,” Samantha said. “We will give the situation time to settle.”

Check here for new movies opening this summer, fall and next year.

4:20 p.m. Houston is the latest major city to pull the rainbow curtain down on its Pride celebration. But it’s not canceled — just postponed.

Pride Houston has postponed the annual parade and festival, with a new target of fall 2020, reports the Chronicle’s Joey Guerra. There will, however, be smaller pop-up events beginning in June and through the fall. This year’s theme is “DiverCity.”

Last year’s Pride Houston celebration drew a record crowd of almost 700,000 people to downtown Houston, the largest in the city’s history, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner.

4:15 p.m. The Montgomery County Public Health District reported five new positive coronavirus case, bringing the total to 467 active cases.

The active cases include 51 hospitalizations and 153 that have fully recovered, according to a news release. The county’s overall total for positive cases since testing started is 634.

The health district works in conjunction with the Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. For details on individual cases, visit https://mcphd-tx.org/coronavirus-covid-19/confirmed-cases/.

Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management updates a dashboard for the cases here.

4:03 p.m. Mayor Sylvester Turner announced five new coronavirus deaths in Houston at a Saturday press conference, bringing the city’s total to 65. This is a tie for the largest number of deaths reported in one day, he said.

The deaths reported include a Hispanic man in his 80s; a black man in his 70s; an Asian man in his 80s; and a black man in his 50s. Those four men had underlying health issues. Another Hispanic man in his 60s died with no pre-diagnosed medical conditions. The deaths occurred between April 5 and April 30.

“Now we are doing more testing, we would expect more people to be tested positively because we’ve always said there are more cases of community spread,” Turner said. “In the last week, the number of reported deaths has raised to the numbers we saw at the first part of this crisis.”

Since Harris County and the city are conducting more testing, the mayor expected more positive cases. But that’s no reason to stop being vigilant, he added.

Texas began reopening in phases with limited capacities at various nonessential businesses on May 1. Turner said it’s more important now than ever to stay home, social distance and wear face masks or other facial coverings.

“People are starting to behave as if the virus is gone. The virus is not gone; the virus is not under control,” he said. “It is important to recognize that if you’re not a part of these essential businesses, staying home is still important and social distancing is very important, and wearing the mask or facial coverings is still very important.”

— Julie Garcia

12:40 p.m. United Memorial Medical Center is offering free walk-up and drive-thru tests this weekend at Pilgrim Academy Elementary near Hillcroft and Richmond Avenues.

The tests are open to anyone and will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A Chronicle analysis found that Houston’s coronavirus cases are disproportionately clustered in vulnerable communities.

12:30 p.m. Chambers County will begin offering free COVID-19 tests Sunday for its symptomatic residents.

The White’s Park site is also open for anyone over 65 and healthcare workers or first responders, according to the county.

Those interested must call for an appointment time. Call 512-883-2400 or register online at TXCOVIDTEST.ORG.

7:50 a.m.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now 3,362,778 confirmed cases of coronavirus.  In the U.S., there are currently 1,104,161 cases, with a death toll climbing to 65,068 as of Saturday morning. Approximately 164,015 recoveries from COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S.

7:00 a.m.

A federal judge approved a temporary restraining order against the city of Houston, which will allow a Houston strip club to stay open as a restaurant.

Club Onyx filed the suit after being shut down in the early morning hours Friday, only hours after they opened under Governor Abbott’s Phase I plan.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the club had primarily operated as a sexually oriented business before the pandemic and was only claiming to be a restaurant so it could reopen.

“I am asking the state to quickly clarify whether the governor intended for sexually oriented businesses like Onyx to be apart of the businesses authorized to open on May 1,” Turner said. “And if not, I am also asking the state, via the Texas Attorney General, to enforce the state’s order because the city cannot afford to expend its limited resources, i.e. fire and police, to defend the state’s order that a federal judge is now questioning.”

Read the in-depth report by Houston Chronicle’s Dylan McGuinness here.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: Stay informed with accurate reporting you can trust on HoustonChronicle.com

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