HOUSTON - Two new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the greater Houston area on Thursday night, bringing the total cases up to five, three of which are presumptive.
The Houston Health Department has announced the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in the city of Houston. The case is a male in the 60 to 70 age range with a history of international travel.
Harris County confirmed an additional presumptive positive case of COVID-19. The individual is also a man between 60 and 70 years old from the unincorporated area of northwest Harris County, outside the City of Houston. He is currently hospitalized and in stable condition.
The first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Harris County on Thursday.
Harris County Public Health made the announcement Thursday afternoon, confirming the county's first two of COVID-19.
Fort Bend County Health and Human Services confirmed the first presumptive positive test result of COVID-19, coronavirus, infection in the Houston metro area on Wednesday.
The tests have been verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo confirmed in a press conference that one of the two patients is a Rice University employee. Both are at a local hospital in stable condition.
This comes just days after a small group from the university was asked to self-quarantine.
Judge Hidalgo says these cases are travel-related. It is believed the exposure to the virus was during a group trip to Egypt.
These are the second and third confirmed cases reported in the Houston metropolitan area, following the Fort Bend County presumptive positive case reported on Wednesday.
Judge Hidalgo also confirmed that the Fort Bend County patient was on the international trip with the Harris County patients.
At this time, there is no evidence of community spread. Officials have been contacting everyone who was in contact with the three patients during the trip and after the trip.
Harris County Public Health Executive Director Dr. Umair A Shah says they are not releasing the details of the investigation, therefore not sharing the number of individuals who are quarantined and/or are being tested.
Since the global outbreak began, epidemiologists from HCPH have been investigating and identifying all potential cases in Harris County, including these two individuals, any other individuals being tested, and any contacts with these individuals to determine if they need to be tested and/or quarantined for COVID-19. HCPH is experienced in these procedures and routinely investigates infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.
“Since January, we have been at an elevated level of readiness to prepare for and respond to a positive case here in Harris County,” said Dr. Shah, MD, MPH. “We will continue to take action by identifying potential contacts and monitoring them closely.”
“The best tools to fight the spread of this illness are facts, not fear,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Residents should know that we have been leaning forward to make sure our response to this illness continues to be proactive and coordinated with a wide array of local, state and federal officials. Each of our residents is a member of our public health team, and we are urging everyone to learn the facts about this virus and take simple steps to help contain the spread by visiting www.ReadyHarris.org.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that first emerged in China and has now spread to many countries, including the U.S.
More than 80% of people who have become infected only experience mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover.
People at higher risk for serious complications are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
"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."
Houston ISD released the following statement following the confirmed cases:
"The Houston Independent School District continues to closely monitor the potential impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the HISD community. The district has not experienced any active cases of COVID-19.
As Spring Break draws near, we are asking all HISD students, families, and staff to take extra precautions when traveling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel guidelines provide country-specific information at the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel website.
Staff and students returning from countries identified in the CDC’s travel warnings should notify their campus and self-quarantine at home for a period of 14 days, returning only when symptom-free. Absences for these students will be marked excused. Staff members who self-quarantine will need to follow normal absence-reporting procedures.
As a measure to ensure proper health guidelines are followed, HISD is making the following updates to perfect attendance for all students and senior student exemptions for final exams:
- Perfect attendance guidelines for the remainder of the 2019-20 school will be suspended for all students. Perfect attendance for the 2019-20 school year will be recognized through March 6, 2020.
- For high school students, attendance criteria for final exam exemptions will be suspended for Spring 2020.
Keeping our HISD community healthy is of the utmost importance so that productive instruction can continue.
For ongoing updates and information, visit HoustonISD.org/HealthAlerts."